Hegemony and Hamburger: Migration Narratives and Democratic Unionism among Mexican Meatpackers in the U.S. West

By Apostolidis, Paul | Political Research Quarterly, December 2005 | Go to article overview

Hegemony and Hamburger: Migration Narratives and Democratic Unionism among Mexican Meatpackers in the U.S. West


Apostolidis, Paul, Political Research Quarterly


This essay considers how the narrated experiences of immigrant workers in the United States could help promote organized labor's participation in a transnational movement to democratize globalization processes. I draw on interviews with immigrant meatpackers working for the Tyson Corporation, who since the late 1990s have mounted an impressive and unusual effort to democratize their workplace and union as well as to improve worker safety and dignity. Although the union has elaborated an effective discourse concerning injustice in the workplace and the need for action to remedy these problems, it has not developed any comparable interpretation of workers' migration experiences. Workers' migration narratives often reinforce the liberal assumptions guiding the union's campaigns as well as the U.S. labor movement in general. They occasionally intimate, however, how migration processes can aid in the formation of counter-hegemonic subjectivities, developing these workers' practical orientations toward resisting mistreatment both individually and in solidarity with others. Thus, creating more institutionalized spaces for workers to communicate about their migration experiences not only could help unions achieve their organizational goals-it also could help shift the political orientation of the labor movement toward a more transnational, social-democratic approach to regulating immigration and capitalist production alike.

LABOR AND CHALLENGES TO CORPORATE-LED GLOBALIZATION

Organized labor in the United States is in the midst of an epochal transformation. Several decades ago, it was already apparent that major corporations were withdrawing from participation in the postwar "compact" between labor and capital administrated by the Keynesian state primarily under the leadership of New Deal and post-New Deal Democrats. The Democratic party itself soon followed suit, leaving the labor movement bereft of progressive political leadership and mired in a losing battle to staunch ebbing union membership while accommodating intransigent demands for wage givebacks and benefit cuts. Meanwhile, the decline and off-shore relocation of manufacturing industries, the movement of more and more women into the paid labor force, and leaps in immigration rates have literally changed the face of the labor movement. In their rhetoric, at least, national labor leaders such as AFL-CIO President John Sweeney have recently acknowledged that the future of the labor movement depends on organizing and activating these new workers, rather than trying to revive antiquated strategies for cooperation with business that traded organizing and an expansive, confrontational political agenda for regular wage increases, stable benefits, and closed shops in selected industries (a partnership in which, in any case, most companies are no longer interested). Yet despite these promising signals, labor still seems largely focused on trying to hang on to its dwindling resources as an interest group rather than genuinely reinvesting itself in a new, movement-oriented praxis.

This essay considers certain aspects of contemporary factory workers' experiences in the United States that may offer prospects for labor's intensified participation in a broader democratic movement to confront the neoliberal institutions that are currently guiding the process of globalization. Despite the general conservatism, in practice, of the AFLCIO and most major unions in the United States, there have been important signs of discontent with the accommodationist approach and interest in a new kind of labor activism over the past decade among leaders and rank-and-file participants alike. Unions waged an impressive, if unsuccessful, campaign of opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), came out in force to protest the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle in 1999, and have more recently taken the highly unusual step of officially opposing an increasingly popular war promoted by the president.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Hegemony and Hamburger: Migration Narratives and Democratic Unionism among Mexican Meatpackers in the U.S. West
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.