Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Date

2015

Abstract

This study examines the feasibility of using the unionization of sex workers as a way to combat sex trafficking in the Dominican Republic. The analysis ultimately disproves the hypothesis that unionization would be a feasible approach. The current literature challenges the dominant policies fighting sex trafficking enacted by the United States, but affirms the policy’s contributions to the cause. This paper seeks to address the targeted weaknesses of prevention and protection of victims by furthering the current literature that centers the marginalized agency of sex workers. By applying the theoretical framework of “sex work discourse,” this paper takes the approach of an enhanced single case study to analyze secondary data. Through conceptual content and relational analysis, this study uses a sex worker union in Argentina as a model to discuss the benefits and problems of unionization in the Dominican Republic. After placing sex work and trafficking into the highly racialized context of the Dominican Republic, this study recommends that future responses seeking to protect those vulnerable to sex trafficking. Future scholarship should examine approaches of providing child care, education, and a pathway to the formal economy for undocumented residents of Haitian decent. Any attempts to formally unionize would necessitate the representation of a majority of sex workers, but the highly stratified and hierarchical nature of sex work makes this collectivization nearly impossible. The attempt would have to exclude undocumented Haitian-Dominican sex workers, who are the most vulnerable to sex trafficking. There are many benefits to unionization, and the groundwork of building community networks is largely in place, however, without support of other unions and the Dominican government it is unlikely that any possible benefits would reach fruition. The focus of future work should be on the elimination of gendered and racialized worker exploitation more generally.

Comments

This paper was nominated for the Libraries Undergraduate Research Award by Babafemi Akinrinade, faculty in Western Washington University’s Fairhaven College.

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