Connections between Indigenous Peoples’ Movements and Labour Movements 

Suzanne Mills (McMaster University) and Chris Tilly (UCLA)

Indigenous peoples’ movements have expanded dramatically in scale and impact in Latin America in recent decades (with movements in Southern Mexico and Bolivia particularly visible) but are ongoing on every continent. Critical scholarship about Indigenous struggles often focuses on control of lands, waters and resources or on subsistence economies. These themes are often viewed as unrelated to labour and worker identities.  Consequently, there has been less attention to Indigenous people as wage labourers. None-the-less, worker movements have been engaging with Indigenous peoples—and Indigenous people’s movements have engaged with labour and employment issues—in diverse and contradictory ways around the world. This session seeks to bring scholarship about labour movements into conversation with research about Indigenous workers in capitalist and subsistence economies.

For example:

  • Indigenous communities’ efforts to remedy labour market discrimination and alleviate poverty through increasing access to wage employment
  • Industrialized resource extraction (mining, lumbering, large scale monocrops), which may recruit Indigenous workforces and/or potentially pit extractive workers against Indigenous communities.
  • Overlap and mutual learning between worker and Indigenous movements (for example, interchanges between Bolivian miners and indigenous movements).
  • Explicit alliances of labour organizations with Indigenous organizations (a recent example is alliances at Standing Rock in the USA).
  • The formation of associations of Indigenous small producers as an alternative form of labour organizing (e.g. peasant organizations, Bolivian miners’ cooperatives).
  • Exclusionary union tactics and practices such as ‘job control unionism’ that maintain racialized job hierarchies

We welcome cases from a variety of global regions.

Submissions must be in by September 30.

For basic info on the Congress, see .

To submit, go to and click the “Submit an abstract” button.  You will need to create an account with ISA if you do not have one already.

Please direct any questions to:

Suzanne Mills, School of Labour Studies & Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, [email protected], or Chris Tilly, Department of Sociology, UCLA, [email protected]

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