Monthly Archives

October 2021

Research Findings

Meatpacking work: Creating structural precarity and sacrifice zones in COVID-19

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October 21, 2021

In the early weeks of the pandemic, it became clear that meatpacking workers would bear a heavy burden, along with other frontline workers. In the meatpacking and food processing plant sector, nearly 92,000 workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and 466 workers have died from COVID-19, as of September 2021. Available data show that workers of color account for 80% of confirmed cases in an industry in which people of color comprise 80% of the workforce.

In a recent article in Sociological Perspectives, we drew on case studies of meatpacking facilities in three Midwestern states to analyze how industry consolidation and the hiring of marginalized workers affected worker safety and food system stability during the pandemic. We find that the meatpacking industry’s hyper-concentration and exploitative labor strategies created precarious structural conditions which COVID-19 deepened, producing two inter-connected processes:

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Research Findings

The Dispossession-Versus-Exploitation Dilemma for Informal Worker


October 14, 2021
informal worker

Defying stereotypes, millions of precarious informal workers have mobilized for labor rights over the past 40 years.  Yet, as my research on Bogotá’s recicladores (informal recyclers) movement demonstrates, organized informal workers may confront structural dilemmas as they seek to improve their working lives. As informal workers gain a measure of power to reshape the structure and conditions of their work, but continue to face constraints due to their subordinated positions in the broader political economy, tensions may emerge between the imperatives of combatting exploitation and dispossession.

Until recently, most scholars in the Marxist tradition viewed neither exploitation nor dispossession as significant threats to informal workers. Rather, such workers were dismissed as marginal outcasts, whose labor and assets were superfluous to the needs of capital. Indeed, Karl Marx categorized many workers who would come to be known as “informal” such as rag pickers, organ grinders, knife grinders, tinkers, and porters as part of the “lumpenproletariat,” an underclass of vagabonds and criminals.

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Research Findings

Another reason organizations need to support mothers returning to work: they are critical members

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October 7, 2021
Baby, Ouderschap, Hand, Vinger, Moeder, Vader

Mothers’ transition back to work after maternity leave is intense. It can be strenuous for mothers as they navigate new routines, relationships, and even identities. As Daisy Wademan Dowling, founder and CEO of Workparent, stated, “reentry is a transition that’s like no other … everything is changing.” In the United States, reentry may be especially challenging due to the absence of federal support and, on-average, shorter maternity leaves than in other developed nations.

We know that mothers need support from their employers during this critical transition. Yet, our understanding of the impact of organizations’ support on mothers’ as well as their partners’ personal and professional lives is less clear.

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