restricted access 4 The Logic of Colonialism in Modern Labor Relations
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99 Chapter Four The Logic of Colonialism in Modern Labor Relations For two-thirds of the twentieth century Xaripus were recruited as colonial labor to the United States.1 After the Bracero Program ended in the mid-1960s, they continued to labor under colonial conditions in the agricultural fields, where they remained highly exploited, underpaid, and without access to labor rights.2 In spite of their residential status and semipermanent settlement in the United States, retiradas/os and mayores generally remained working in farm labor throughout their lives.3 Many hijas/os, however, searched for economic opportunities outside of the fields, particularly at the time of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) and 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Though chicas/os were under age eighteen during this period and generally did not work in the fields, they were also affected by their families’ occupational and residential segregation. While younger Xaripus ’ economic opportunities improved compared to their elders, their labor experiences also reveal colonial hierarchies—confined largely in service and other de-skilled job sectors and experiencing further class segmentation within these occupations (Barrera 1979; Segura 1990; Glenn 2002). These inequities become evident when examining the relationship between the racialization of the workplace and corresponding labor conditions (wages, productivity, and work schedules). This chapter analyzes this relationship from the standpoint of Xaripus4 and classifies their labor experiences as Mexicanized, diversified, and Whitened. These experiences are discussed in two sections in this chapter:“Colonial Labor in the Fields” and “Out of the Fields.” 100 The Xaripu Community across Borders The Mexicanization experiences are documented both in and outside field occupations, whereas the diversified and Whitened experiences are ob­ served only outside the fields. Furthermore, I do not document the proc­ ess of diversifying and Whitening an occupation as I do for the Mexi­ canization of jobs. However, I work from the assumption that in a diverse city with a notable presence of minority groups,5 a nondiversified occupation—i.e.,one that employs predominantly one racial group— is not a natural condition, and neither are racially segregated communities (Massey and Denton 1993, 41–61; Lipsitz 1998, 13–14; Allensworth and Rochin 1999, 16, 49–52, 58). The absence of diversity is a consequence of a past and present history of practices with institutional or­ individual bias—such as recruitment, interview processes, and tests6 — and unwelcoming or exclusive work environments that keep occupations generally homogenous. Colonial Labor in the Fields In Racial Formation in the United States, Omi and Winant (1994) elaborate how race as a social historical construct has been shaped by­ institutional and representational processes in which unequal power relations determine the emergent racial formations. These authors con­ ceptualize racialization as the assigning of specific racial meanings and values to an ethnic group, whose members through social-political struggles may shift and change the content of the racial ascription.7 Along these lines, I use the term “Mexicanization”8 to illustrate how people of Mexican origin, as well as the work that they do, become similarly racialized in the United States.9 Although the findings of my case studies are not inferential, they fit the general national patterns of the devalu­ ation of Mexicanized occupations—particularly those that are feminized in both private and public spheres (see Levine 2006, 7–10; see also chapter 6). The Mexicanization of labor occurs when Mexicans become a ma­ jority of the workforce and wages and working conditions subsequently deteriorate. According to Elaine Levine (2006, 7–10), all occupations (except skilled construction work) whose workforces experienced an increase of at least 25.6 percent in Mexican composition resulted in sig­ The Logic of Colonialism in Modern Labor Relations 101 nificantly lower median weekly earnings than found in the general population. It is important to stress that Mexican immigrants do not themselves deteriorate labor conditions,10 but rather racist employer and state practices and norms devalue Mexican labor and negate their humanity .11 This distinction adds a critical qualification to the body of classic labor scholarship documenting how racial minorities are used to segment (Barrera 1979; Gordon et al. 1982; Menchaca 1995) and/or split the labor market (Bonacich 1972, 1976;Wilson 1980; Miles 1989).The dominant theses advanced in this scholarship argue that racial minorities were historically cheapened (Roediger 1991) and that they were later incorporated into the labor market as cheap labor (Bonacich and Cheng 1984) for the purpose of depressing wages. However, I propose that racial minorities are not...