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TWELVE. Dreams, Illusions, and Realities

E. Paul Durrenberger University Press of Colorado ePub

Conclusions

E. PAUL DURRENBERGER

Michael is using interest from his trust fund to pay for this trip. I am grateful, but also angry at the inequalities in our realities. No matter what I say or do, he can’t understand what it’s like to scrabble for the money for rent and heat and food. Worse, he thinks he does understand.

I worked an entire summer once to pay my own way on an Outward Bound trip, he says.

I roll my eyes.

Big whoop, I say. Working a whole summer for a want, not a need, is not the same. There’s no desperation there. No life or death. No crisis should you fail. If I miss a payment I’ll be chattering in the dark, or worse, asking my family for help.

Don’t be so melodramatic, he says. Your family would help.

I look at him like he’s from the moon . . .

I was raised to be self-sufficient. It is a virtue in our family. A virtue born of necessity, perhaps, but a proudly held virtue just the same.

You wouldn’t understand, I say (Latus 2007:79–80).

I quote from a memoir of an abused woman, not an anthropological work. But I quote it because it’s a familiar situation to anyone from a working-class background trying to make herself understood to someone from the managerial middle class. In 1994, Rubin wrote:

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FOUR With God on Everyone’s Side: Truth Telling and Toxic Words among Methodists and Organized Farmworkers in North Carolina

E. Paul Durrenberger University Press of Colorado ePub

Sandy Smith-Nonini

Moral authority and religious faith have been important components of social struggle during both the civil rights movement and farm labor organizing struggles. From his earliest efforts organizing in the fields, former United Farm Workers (UFW) president Cesar Chavez worked closely with the fledgling California Migrant Ministry (CMM), which assigned staff members to assist with his labor campaign (Hoffman 1987). The new partnership of the UFW and progressive religious supporters involved a gradual shift from charity and service work to social justice advocacy as a central focus for mobilization. This shift was facilitated by several factors, including the late 1960s culture of youth mobilizing for social change, Chavez’s adoption of Gandhian nonviolent organizing techniques, and the Catholic Church’s authorization after Vatican II of liberation theology, with its focus on building solidarity at the grassroots through practices that involved social action to alleviate poverty and other forms of oppression. Even today, after a period of growing influence by Protestant evangelicals and charismatic churches in Latin America, about three-quarters of Mexican American farmworkers grew up Catholic, and the traditions of liberation theology and rhetoric about class solidarity among rural workers dating to the Mexican revolution resonate with many from their pre-immigrant lives in Mexico (Hoffman 1987; Holt and Mattern 2002).

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EIGHT Economic Globalization and Changing Capital-Labor Relations in Baja California’s Fresh-Produce Industry

E. Paul Durrenberger University Press of Colorado ePub

Christian Zlolniski

The fresh-produce industry, within which transnational corporations organize production in developing countries that lack strong labor unions employing indigenous and other vulnerable segments of the workforce, raises the question of how economic globalization in this growing industrial sector affects workers’ ability to organize. It also raises the issue of whether the labor exploitation of indigenous and immigrant workers in Mexico and other Latin American countries fuels alternative forms of labor organization not based on class consciousness alone. This chapter explores these and other related questions from the vantage point of the San Quintín Valley (SQV), a region that specializes in the production of tomatoes and other horticultural products for export to the United States and other international markets.

Over the past few decades the fresh-produce industry has served as a primary vehicle for developing nations to expand their presence in global trade and become key players in international commodity chains (Alvarez 2006). In Latin America particularly, the export of fresh fruits and vegetables has become one of the fastest-growing agricultural sectors, often employing migrant indigenous workers connected through transnational social networks (Alvarez 2006; Echánove 2001; Lara 1996; Llambi 1994; Loker 1999; Reynolds 1994). In Mexico the fresh-produce industry has increased dramatically because of the combined effect of foreign demand for fresh vegetables; the expansion of U.S. agribusinesses south of the border attracted by access to land, soft environmental regulations, and cheap labor; and national agrarian policies that have reduced government subsidies for traditional crops, privatized ejido lands, and promoted export agriculture along free-trade agreements such as the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (Alvarez 2005; Echánove 2001; Echánove and Steffen 2005; Marsh and Runsten 1988; Sanderson 1986; Weaver 2001). In addition to increasing the country’s economic competitiveness, the Mexican government has supported neo-liberal agrarian policies in hopes of reducing poverty, labor migration of rural workers to the United States, and the potential for social and political instability—especially among indigenous workers. After all, indigenous political rebellions in Mexico since the mid-1990s have shown the ability of marginalized workers to respond to the state’s neo-liberal projects (Nash 2001).

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ONE. Introduction

E. Paul Durrenberger University Press of Colorado ePub

E. PAUL DURRENBERGER

There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success. The fertile earth, the straight tree rows, the sturdy trunks and the ripe fruit. And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange.

STEINBECK, 1939:477

Steinbeck was writing of California. We write about the world as the processes he described in The Grapes of Wrath have overtaken the planet. He outlined the processes (1939: 324–325):

And the great owners, who must lose their land in an upheaval, the great owners with access to history, with eyes to read history and to know the great fact: when property accumulates in to few hands it is taken away.

And that companion fact: when a majority of the people are hungry and cold they will take by force what they need. And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed. The great owners ignored the three cries of history.

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ONE Introduction

E. Paul Durrenberger University Press of Colorado ePub

E. Paul Durrenberger and Karaleah Reichart

This collection is a move toward a definition of an anthropology of unions. Questions about unions can only arise in complex social orders with class structures that define incompatible interests between owners of capital and workers. Unions only come into existence when those with privileged access to resources hire others to create value the owners can appropriate for their own use. When those without privileged access to resources organize to identify, promote, and protect their interests, labor unions are born.

Most studies of unions are developed from historical perspectives or are based on national data sets collected by government agencies. Few use the defining method of socio-cultural anthropology: ethnography, which has much to teach us about the nature of unions. The studies in this book bring ethnographic methods to bear on unions. Anthropology is also comparative. The authors in this volume situate their individual ethnographies within a broader comparative framework that tells us what the ethnography of unions can contribute to a broader anthropology of contemporary states.

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