The Anthropology of Labor Unions

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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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"As the first collection to bring together anthropological case studies of labor unions, The Anthropology of Labor Unions will hopefully encourage more anthropologists to engage in this important field of study. As a sophisticated treatment of labor and labor unions, this very readable collection will be of interest not only to anthropologists but to historians, sociologists, and all of us interested in labor studies."
—Steve Striffler, Journal of Anthropological Research

"Durrenberger and Reichart produce and idea-rich, pioneering collection on the sociocultural anthropology of unions, certainly citable for years to come. Their book is valuable not just for students of unions but also to those interested in the broader social relations of work influenced and even restrained by the state."
—Frederick C. Gamst, Anthropology of Work Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781607321842
  • Publisher: University Press of Colorado
  • Publication date: 5/15/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

E. Paul Durrenberger is professor emeritus of anthropology at Penn State University and is the coauthor of several related books. Karaleah S. Reichart is an adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction E. Paul Durrenberger Karaleah Reichart 1

2 Miners, Women, and Community Coalitions in the UMWA Pittston Strike Karaleah Reichart 17

3 Is This What Democracy Looks Like? E. Paul Durrenberger Suzan Erem 33

4 With God on Everyone's Side: Truth Telling and Toxic Words among Methodists and Organized Farmworkers in North Carolina Sandi Smith-Nonini 55

5 Buying Out the Union: Jobs as Property and the UAW Peter Richardson 79

6 Approaching Industrial Democracy in Nonunion Mines: Lessons from Wyoming's Powder River Basin Jessica M. Smith 103

7 Small Places, Close to Home: The Importance of Place in Organizing Workers Lydia Savage 131

8 Economic Globalization and Changing Capital-Labor Relations in Baja California's Fresh-Produce Industry Christian Zlolniski 157

9 The Tobacco Trap: Obstacles to Trade Unionism in Malawi Marty Otanez 189

10 Concluding Thoughts Karen Brodkin 211

11 Afterword E. Paul Durrenberger Karaleah Reichart 225

Contributors 233

Index 237

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