Globalization and Latino labor: Labor advocates' accounts of meatpacking in rural Missouri
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This paper presents labor advocates' accounts of the common problems faced by Latino/a workers employed in the Missouri meatpacking industry and the potential strategies they identify for addressing them. Information is drawn from participatory observation, document analysis and qualitative interviews. Placed in the context of globalization of the agrifood system and the increasingly problematic position of wage laborers, these accounts are discussed using a theoretical framework based on Karl Polanyi's concept of fictitious commodities. In this study we investigate what labor advocates have to say about the situation faced by Latino workers employed in Missouri meatpacking plants. In the next section, we present an overview of the global agri-food system with specific attention to the meatpacking industry. This is followed by a discussion of Karl Polanyi's (1944) concept of "fictitious commodities," which we use here as a theoretical framework to provide insight into the situation faced by Latino workers in meatpacking. We then examine, in two sections, the problems expressed by labor advocates in Missouri and the proposals for changes they suggest. To conclude, we return to Polanyi's fictitious commodity framework as a way of understanding these issues more fully. Specifically, this theoretical framework supports the argument we make that Latino labor must be able to organize and unionize to correct unfair labor practices that currently exist in the state and the industry as a whole.
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