Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Sociology and Anthropology
Dr. Lourdes Gouveia
Faced with declining union density and a growing immigrant workforce, the U.S. labor movement has begun to realize the importance of organizing Latino immigrant workers. However, the “conventional wisdom” among many within the movement is that these workers are “unorganizable.” Labor scholar Ruth Milkman (2002), for example, explains that the “conventional wisdom” is that immigrants are vulnerable, docile persons, intensely fearful of any confrontation with authority, who accept substandard wages and poor working conditions because their standard of comparison is drawn from their home countries, and who therefore are extremely unlikely to unionize. Through an in-depth study of a successful organizing campaign among Latino immigrant workers in South Omaha, this thesis challenges such “conventional wisdom.” It studies a collaborative campaign between the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) and Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) to organize meatpacking workers. In doing so, it explores the complexity of factors likely to affect Latino immigrant unionization. Specifically, it examines Latino immigrant workers’ propensity to support unionization based on a number of their individual and group characteristics. These include: 1) legal status; 2) length of time residing in the United States and intended length of stay in the country; 3) prior union experience; 4) ethnicity and/or nationality; 5) gender; and 6) age. Regardless of such characteristics, however, this thesis finds that these workers are highly receptive to unionization. Furthermore, it suggests that what is most important in organizing these workers is not so much their individual and group characteristics, but rather the labor movement’s commitment and determination to unionize them. Moreover, it suggests that in order to effectively organize such workers, unions should not only commit to organize them, but also should reach out to community-based organizations which have an established relationship with Latino immigrant workers.
Gabriel, Jacqulyn S., "Si, se puede: Organizing Latino immigrant workers in south Omaha's meatpacking industry" (2004). Student Work. 1155.
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