The Anthropology of Labor Unions

The Anthropology of Labor Unions

Language: English

Pages: 240

ISBN: 160732184X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The Anthropology of Labor Unions presents ethnographic data and analysis in eight case studies from several very diverse industries. It covers a wide range of topics, from the role of women and community in strikes to the importance of place in organization, and addresses global concerns with studies from Mexico and Malawu.

Union-organized workplaces consistently afford workers higher wages and better pensions, benefits, and health coverage than their nonunion counterparts. In addition, women and minorities who belong to unions are more likely to receive higher wages and benefits than their nonunion peers. Given the economic advantages of union membership, one might expect to see higher rates of organization across industries, but labor affiliation is at an all-time low. What accounts for this discrepancy?

The contributors in this volume provide a variety of perspectives on this paradox, including discussions of approaches to and findings on the histories, cultures, and practices of organized labor. They also address substantive issues such as race, class, gender, age, generation, ethnicity, health and safety concerns, corporate co-optation of unions, and the cultural context of union-management relationships.

The first to bring together anthropological case studies of labor unions, this volume will appeal to cultural anthropologists, social scientists, sociologists, and those interested in labor studies and labor movements.

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widely as possible: “I don’t mind paying more so another American can have a living wage,” Curtis said of buying American. On the topic of the buyouts and pensions, Curtis held a consistent position: “I’m not ready to retire, to cut my salary in half” and “I don’t want to go home and sit down. . . . I’ve seen too many people in perfect health retire and die within six months.” Commenting on the airlines and steel manufacturers breaking health and pension promises, Curtis proclaimed: “The hundred

I’ve encountered a kind of knee-jerk bigotry against autoworkers among academic leftists, punctuated with terms like “dinosaurs.” Such attitudes remind me of Bertolt Brecht when he quipped during the revolt of East German workers in 1953 that “[t]he Party is not satisfied with its people, so it will replace them with a new people more supportive of its politics” (in Zizek, Labor Relations Board 2006). 4. I am focusing solely on the Ford/Visteon/ACH segment of the Big Three (“the crumbling two”

Unionized Harvard Clericals Renegotiate Working Relationships. In Working in the Service Society, ed. C. Macdonald and C. Sirianni, 291–332. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Hanson, S., and G. Pratt 1988     Reconceptualizing the Links between Home and Work in Geography. Economic Geography 64: 299–321. 1991     Job Search and the Occupational Segregation of Women. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 81(2): 229–253. 1992     Dynamic Dependencies: A Geographic Investigation

Revealing TAMA’s disregard for its agreement with the union, in 2003 TAMA’s Kamulaga said “there is no union” of tobacco workers in Malawi (Kamulaga interview with the author, February 27, 2003). TOTAWUM thus has little or no option except to participate in partnerships with TAMA as well as tobacco companies in hopes of securing a better future for tobacco farmworkers or, at the very least, to access financial resources otherwise unavailable to TOTAWUM leaders. Through the ECLT, the tobacco

could be signed, but the government and those who are interested [in seeing] that tobacco [continues to be grown here] should at least find a way to support these workers in the estates. . . . We know at this time that these workers are being mistreated, they are being exploited on these estates, but they get something from these landlords from the beginning [of the growing season] because they agree on loans—to take some things on loan on an estate, but at the end [of the season] even though

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