Document Type


Publication Title

Politics & Society



Publication Date



enforcement, immigrant, labor standards, FLSA, community


Structures of employment in low-wage industries, a diminished wage and hour inspectorate, and an unworkable immigration regime have combined to create an environment where violations of basic workplace laws are everyday occurrences. This article identifies four “logics” of detection and enforcement, arguing that there is a mismatch between the enforcement strategies of most federal and state labor inspectorates and the industries in which noncompliance continues to be a problem. In response, the authors propose augmenting labor inspectorates by giving public interest groups like unions and worker centers a formal, ongoing role in enforcement in low-wage sectors. In three case studies, the authors present evidence of an emergent system—one that harkens back to a logic proposed by the drafters of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) but never implemented—of empowering those closest to the action to work in partnership with government.

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