Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Epigraphs

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-x

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Introduction: Hope for Labor in a Neoliberal World

E. Paul Durrenberger

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pp. 3-32

In August of 2015 an international group of anthropologists along with a few sociologists convened at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, to discuss our work on the national contexts of the unions we had been working with. These included Manos Spyridakis from Greece, Gadi Nissim from Israel, Julia Soul from Argentina, Christian Zlolniski, who has worked in northern Mexico, Maria Eugenia de la O from Mexico, Staffan Löfving from Sweden, Christopher Kelley from Switzerland, Alicia Reigada from Spain, Darcy Pan, who worked in China, Alpkan Birelma from Turkey, Steven Payne, who has...

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1. Anthropologists, Activists, and the Labor Movement

Emma Braden

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pp. 33-58

“I want to know why you are doing this,” Sylvia said as she stared at me across the coffee table in our university cafe. She was referring to the local union internship I had recently accepted. It was with the same union she had worked for the year before when the food service workers at my university won a union contract. I stared nervously at her and the union organizer sitting beside her. I was trying to figure out what they wanted to hear. He was wearing a suit and tie, and she was in her barista uniform.

“Don’t just tell me what I want to hear,” she said. “Tell me what you actually...

Industry

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2. The Gift of Labor: The Town, the Union, and the Corporate State in the Demise of the Swedish Car Industry

Staffan Löfving

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pp. 61-86

The call for a comparison between national contexts of union organizing, as issued in the labor studies literature, is usually based on the assumption that differences are mere expressions of one underlying and globally encompassing transformation of the relation of state to capital, captured by the notion of neoliberalism, and not of ontological or true exceptions to the rule of labor commodification. The dismal fate of “the Swedish model” is often evoked as a case in point. In times of manpower redundancies, as mechanisms to shift labor market risks from the individual to society, labor...

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3. Trade Unions, Labor Conflict, and Contested Institutions in the Swiss Construction Industry

Christopher Kelley

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pp. 87-110

In the Swiss main construction trades, union organization is high and workeremployer interactions are embedded in an elaborate institutional arrangement of what is known as social partnership. The definition of what this social partnership actually means is, however, constantly contested by the actors involved according to their diverging interests and relative bargaining power. Furthermore, while the system offers a number of unique advantages for organized labor and the workers it represents, it simultaneously produces interdependencies that constrain certain courses of action, especially the capability to carry out industrial action. The paradoxical...

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4. Union Power and Transnational Corporations in the Argentine Steel Industry

Julia Soul

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pp. 111-134

Neoliberal globalization is the consequence of capitalistic logic as it developed in a particular historical context marked by key defeats of socialist and workers’ movements. It has developed mainly through capital restructuring and concentration processes, as much as the reshaping of the global division of labor and industrial expansion to former nonindustrialized regions (Astarita 2004; Smith 2010).

Research focused on labor movements highlights the critical condition of these organizations, undermined by the diminishing social role of the...

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5. Agents of Change or Status Quo?: Labor NGOs in South China

Darcy Pan

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pp. 135-160

When I started my fieldwork in the office of Green Grass Workers’ Service Center (hereafter Green Grass),1 a labor NGO located in Guangdong Province, one thing that caught my attention was a bright red banner hanging next to six framed photos to the left of the entrance. The photos showed past activities and outreach services of the organization with workers. In the middle of the banner ran the following text: “Workers’ Solidarity Has Power, Collective Bargaining Yields Results” (工人团结有力量, 集体坛判有成果). On the upper right-hand side it said: “To Green Grass Workers’ Service Center,” and...

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6. Labor Struggles in the Ship building Industry of Piraeus

Manos Spyridakis

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pp. 161-184

Trade unions as organized entities for concerted workers’ action have numerous and varied descriptions and definitions, including as labor market parties or as “social partners” (Hyman 2001). The latter seems to offer an operational definition conceptualizing them as voluntary organizations that sprang out of civil society’s need for representation, protection, negotiation, and advancement of its members’ interests. Hence unions can be seen as combative organizations, bargaining associations, or even as mere economic agencies satisfying “economistic” claims, as Lenin would put it. However, this equates...

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7. The Struggle for Labor Rights in the Maquiladoras of Northern Mexico

María Eugenia de la O

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pp. 185-206

Mexican maquiladoras are assembly plants that produce parts and components for international corporations, mostly in the automotive, electronics, and textile industries. These plants were first established in areas of free trade for exports in the late sixties, mainly on the border between Mexico and the United States due to their relationships with companies located in the United States. Later, maquiladoras were established throughout Mexico, and they revolutionized the country’s economy and caused a profound reorganization of labor relationships. Since the 1980s, governmental policy supporting neoliberal...

Agriculture

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8. Growers, Unions, and Farm Laborers in Mexico’s Baja California

Christian Zlolniski

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pp. 209-232

In Mexico farm laborers have been traditionally treated by the state as temporary migrant workers with limited access to labor benefits and protections available to workers employed in other sectors. The construction of farm laborers as a distinct category in the labor code has created a framework of structural vulnerability in which these workers operate. Moreover, the Mexican government has traditionally maintained tight control of the official unions that represent farmworkers to avoid labor strikes and maintain “social peace,” often denying independent unions the right to represent farm...

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9. Policies, Economic Forces, Class Relations, and Unions in Spain’s Strawberry Fields

Alicia Reigada

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pp. 233-258

In her analysis of the political construction of the labor market in the California strawberry-growing industry, Wells (1996) offered a perspective that helps model the relationship between political pressures, economic organization, and class relations. Wells’s view of the workplace calls for a reconnection between economic and political forces, actor-oriented models and Marxist structural models, and farmers’ and workers’ experiences. As such, she understands that social classes are formed through struggle. From a similar viewpoint, Pedreño, Gadea, and de Castro (2014) have analyzed the relationship...

Retail and Service

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10. Subcontracted Employment and the Labor Movement’s Response in Turkey

Alpkan Birelma

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pp. 261-286

It was a Monday morning in January 2015, and we were standing in the yard of a public university hospital in the middle of Istanbul with nearly 2,000 protesters including two parliamentarians. This yard had been the scene of a years-long labor struggle by subcontracted workers fighting to improve their working conditions. Three days earlier, the hospital management had fired two leaders of this struggle in an effort to suppress the movement.1 In 2010, after being disappointed by several unions, these workers established their own local worker association. They have experienced many...

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11. Organized Labor in Contemporary Israeli Retail Chains

Gadi Nissim

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pp. 287-310

This chapter examines broad economic and social trends in Israel and their implications for organized labor using the case study of a recently privatized chain of retail stores and the union’s response to this development. I argue that union stewards and leaders embrace a dual orientation to adapt to the new challenge. On the one hand, they employ values, actions, and rhetoric identified with the socialist tool kit, and on the other they embrace elements identified with neoliberalism. The orientation becomes less socialist and more neoliberal as we move from the union stewards at the company level to...

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12. National Unions, International Capital, and Bank Workers

Steven Payne

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pp. 311-336

Almost every month in 2016 brought news of yet another financial scheme based on fictitious money, debt gambled on debt, all arranged to siphon money from the working class to the pockets of the one percent. The 2008 financial collapse was only the most visible instance of the dominance of the financial industry over the rest of the economy. Financiers bought up mountains of mortgage debt, encouraging banks to continue extending lines of credit to families ill-prepared to handle the ballooning interest rates and fees hidden in small print and footnotes. The whole house of cards collapsed when...

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Conclusion: Is There Hope in the Neoliberal World of Labor?

E. Paul Durrenberger

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pp. 337-352

This book draws our attention to several concrete and unmistakable findings that I wish to explore here. My original intent in convening this workshop came out of the insight that the labor movement in the United States has been defeated by legislative measures sponsored by the capitalist class. My idea was to compare the legal context of labor movements of several nations and from that comparison develop grounds for legislative agendas for each national labor movement. But as I read the work we present here about the labor movement in Greece, Turkey, Israel, China, Europe, and Latin America,...

Notes on the Authors

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pp. 353-354

Index

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pp. 355-361