Women and the Politics of Empowerment

By Ann Bookman; Sandra Morgen | Go to book overview
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gers of losing one's job became more salient. From the company's point of view, spending $1 million on the campaign was well worth it. For most women in the plant, this job was the best job they had ever had. They could put up with team meetings, keep their "numbers" up, and deal with the more strictly enforced absentee policy if it meant remaining in what was basically a high-paying job in a clean, new plant with good benefits and job security.

The defeat of the union cannot be blamed on the passivity of women workers, traditional Hispanic values, or the lack of women's commitment to their jobs. Instead, many women (including Hispanic women) forged strategies of resistance in attempting to fight for union representation. That an initially promising campaign turned to defeat is the result of a number of factors: the team structure in combination with the heavy-handed legal and illegal tactics of management in the context of an economically vulnerable work force. That the union did not succeed is a measure both of the company's power and of the importance that women placed on retaining their jobs in an atmosphere of considerable conflict and threat.

C. Duron, "Mexican Women and Labor Conflict in Los Angeles: The ILGWU Dressmakers' Strike of 1933", Aztlan 15, No. 1 ( 1984): 145-161; Vicki L. Ruiz, "Obreras y Madres: Labor Activism among Mexican Women and Its Impact on the Family", in Ignacio García and Raquel Rubio Goldsmith, eds., La Mexicana/Chicana, Renato Rosaldo Lecture Series Monograph, Vol. 1 ( Tucson: University of Arizona, 1985); Vicki L. Ruiz, "Working for Wages: Mexican Women in the Southwest, 1930- 80", Working Paper No. 19 ( Tucson: Southwest Institute for Research on Women, University of Arizona, 1986); L. Coyle, G. Hershatter, E. Honig, "Women at Farah: An Unfinished Story", in Magdalena Mora and Adelaida R. Del Castillo, eds., Mexican Women in the United States: Struggles Past and Present, Occasional Paper No. 2 ( Los Angeles: Chicano Studies Research Center Publications, University of California, 1980), 117-143.
P. Zavella, "The Impact of 'Sun Belt Industrialization' on Chicanas", Frontiers 8, No. 1 ( 1984): 21-28, esp. 21 and 22.
R. B. Freeman and J. L. Medoff, What Do Unions Do? ( New York: Basic Books, 1984), 227.
We have used a pseudonym for both the city and the plant; we have also changed the names of individuals whom we interviewed in order to protect their privacy.
In the 1950s and 1960s the labor force participation rate of Hispanic women was lower than that of Anglo women, but by 1970 the rate was 40 percent, only 3 percentage points behind the Anglo rate. In 1980, 42.6 percent of married Hispanic women with children under the age of six were employed, and 54.7 percent of those with children between six and eighteen held jobs.
Freeman and Medoff, What Do Unions Do?, 231.
The project was titled "Women's Work and Family Strategies in the Context of 'Sunbelt' Industrialization", NSF Grant No. BNS 8112726. In addition to Louise


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