This paper brings labour back into the literature on legal empowerment against poverty. Employing a historical lens, I outline three waves of legal movements. Each wave is distinguished by its timing, the state-level target, and the actors involved. In all three waves, legal empowerment was won, not bestowed. Labour played a significant role, fighting in each subsequent wave for an expanded identity to address exclusions. These findings reveal the false dichotomy used to distinguish workers from citizens and class from identity-based interests. They underline the significance of symbolic power of legal recognition, even in the absence of perfect implementation. Finally, they highlight contemporary workers as an overlooked, identity-based group that addresses the intersectionalities between class and ascriptive characteristics.
labour judicial activism legal empowerment informal workers social movements India