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Political Science Immigration

Essential Work, Disposable Workers

Migration, Capitalism and Class

by (author) Mostafa Henaway

foreword by Harsha Walia

Fernwood Publishing
Initial publish date
Jul 2023
Immigration, Emigration & Immigration, Emigration & Immigration
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jul 2023
    List Price

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Across the world we are witnessing daily the lethal effects of a rapid and scary hardening of borders, ignited and justified by manufactured fear and scarcity. In such conditions, highly exploitative ideas of “managed migration” are presented as reasonable and just.

And temporary worker programs, championed by countries like Canada and the US, are presented as an acceptable response to both acute labour shortages and ugly nationalist feelings. For this, all workers pay the price in the form of dwindling rights and diminished solidarity. This book is the result of decades of thinking, organizing and deep research on the global struggle for equality and freedom in and against an increasingly walled world. Through this immediate and up-close account, Henaway takes the reader on a journey across a familiar consumer landscape of corporate power — from Amazon and Dollarama to chicken farms and late night rideshares —offering a vivid analysis of the consequences of a system built to marginalize, exploit and divide people through the creation of exclusionary categories of belonging.

In Essential Work, Disposable Workers, Henaway offers a counter proposal to the global border, arguing that we reject control over freedom of movement as a means to halt a race to the bottom for all working people and instead build solidarity across struggles for decent work and justice. In this moving account of a global system of hyper-exploitation, Henaway weaves stories of struggle with his own on-the-ground experience and expansive research, to explain the workings of a global system of managed precarity that affects everyone who works, albeit unequally. Written with the unique verve and insight of a committed scholar and decades-long grassroots organizer, Essential Work, Disposable Workers offers a vivid analysis to help us grasp the cruel consequences of borders and points to an alternative future.

About the authors

Mostafa Henaway, a Canadian-born Egyptian, is a long-time community organizer at the Immigrant Workers Centre in Montreal, where he has been organizing for justice for immigrant/migrant workers for over two decades. He is also a researcher and PhD candidate at Concordia University

Mostafa Henaway's profile page


Harsha Walia is a South Asian activist and writer based in Vancouver, unceded Coast Salish Territories. She has been involved in community-based grassroots migrant justice, feminist, anti-racist, Indigenous solidarity, anti-capitalist, Palestinian liberation, and anti-imperialist movements, including No One is Illegal and Women’s Memorial March Committee. She is formally trained in law, works with women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and is the author of Undoing Border Imperialism (2013).


Harsha Walia's profile page

Excerpt: Essential Work, Disposable Workers: Migration, Capitalism and Class (by (author) Mostafa Henaway; foreword by Harsha Walia)