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Advancing Immigrant Worker Rights through Labor-Community Coalition: Comparative Case Studies of the CLEAN Carwash Campaign


Since 2008, a coalition known as the CLEAN Carwash Campaign has been organizing car wash workers in Los Angeles. How did CLEAN manage the divergent interests of its coalition members and strategize? What is it about CLEAN that led the labor-community coalition to achieve gains for carwasheros when conventional wisdom dictates that low wage immigrant workers were too vulnerable to be unionized? Given the dearth of empirical research into how social movement coalitions strategize and how campaign strategies link to outcomes, this dissertation seeks to add to the understanding of social movement strategies by examining the CLEAN Carwash Campaign to answer the following three questions:

� What are the strategies used by the CLEAN Carwash Campaign?

� How are CLEAN’s strategies determined?

� How do strategies relate to outcomes?

For the dissertation research, I conducted comparative case studies of four local campaigns undertaken by the CLEAN Carwash Campaign in two distinct regions of Los Angeles—the Westside and South LA. A two-by-two case study design across two victorious and two failed cases was used to understand CLEAN’s campaign strategy development and subsequent outcomes. Findings suggest that strategy setting is influenced by a complex array of structural factors including interaction with targets, workers, and allies that shape available tactical options. Outcomes of victories and losses demonstrate the challenges for campaign leadership in pursuing choices that take advantage of target vulnerabilities, foster worker ownership and commitment in organizing, rally community and coalition support, and capitalize contextual political opportunities.

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