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Breaks in the Chain

Breaks in the Chain: What Immigrant Workers Can Teach America about Democracy

Paul Apostolidis
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Breaks in the Chain
    Book Description:

    Breaks in the Chain shows how immigrant workers—individually and sometimes collectively—both reinforce and contest a tacit but lethal form of biopolitics that differentiates the life chances of racial groups. Examining their personal narratives, Paul Apostolidis recasts our understanding of the ways immigrants construct and transform social power.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7484-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Acronyms
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: Immigration, Power, and Politics in America Today
    (pp. xiii-xlviii)

    In the fall of 2003, the United States Congress and the Bush administration were getting serious about immigration control. Earlier that year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), founded in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, had assumed full responsibility for border security. Flush with new funds from DHS’s rapidly increasing budgets, officials from the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) were testifying on Capitol Hill to build support for a vast expansion of military capacities and a major extension of fencing along the U.S.–Mexico border. A BCBP official justified these new steps to curb illegal...

  6. 1. Political Narratives, Common Sense, and Theories of Hegemony
    (pp. 1-32)

    What assumptions do people bring with them when they confront the personal life stories of immigrant workers? It would be understandable if one main expectation were that these narratives “tell it like it is”—that they provide an authentic, firsthand account of what it wasreallylike to struggle to keep one’s family afloat in Mexico in the late twentieth century as the national economy deteriorated; to make it across the U.S.–Mexico border without documents and without being robbed bycoyotes, shot by vigilantes, stricken with acute dehydration, or arrested by the Border Patrol; to work day after day...

  7. 2. Hegemony in Hindsight: Immigrant Workers’ Stories of Power in Mexico
    (pp. 33-64)

    In December 2002, in Walla Walla, Washington State, my research assistant and I interviewed Maria Martinez about her experiences leading the movement of Mexican immigrant meatpackers at Tyson/IBP. By that time, the workers had achieved some of their greatest successes and institutionalized their rank-and-file upsurge in the union. Those who demandedrespeto y dignidad(respect and dignity) had waged a major strike and then had taken control of Local 556, democratizing its internal structure in terms of both electoral processes and day-to-day efforts to spark broad and deep member participation. They also had altered the culture of the factory: more...

  8. 3. Stories of Fate and Agency in the Zone of Illegality
    (pp. 65-110)

    In contemporary America, the politics of border control relies centrally on a politics of the body. Efforts to assert U.S. “sovereignty” by impeding and regulating the movement of undocumented immigrants northward from Mexico commonly evoke anxiety over the vulnerable body of the nation, whose corporeal boundaries are imagined as perpetually in danger of violation by immigrants. The “alien invasion” threatens to mainline drugs into the nation’s veins, narcotizing Americans into such a stupor that they no longer care about freedom or the rule of law (Goldsborough 2006; Grassroots On Fire 2006). Significantly, in a special report by Lou Dobbs on...

  9. 4. Labor, Injury, and Self-Preservation in the Slaughterhouse
    (pp. 111-160)

    Having grown up in Mexico doing an assortment of odd jobs to help their families scrape by, and having kept afloat financially north of the border by laboring in the fields, orchards, or other areas of the informal economy, the immigrants we interviewed found their lives to be dramatically changed when they gained legalization and began working at IBP. With over 1,500 employees at its Pasco facility, IBP was much larger than any workplace these individuals had ever entered before. And more than just a source of income, it was its own world with its own culture—even its own...

  10. 5. ¡Nosotros Somos la Unión! Immigrant Worker Organizing and the Disciplines of the Law
    (pp. 161-210)

    As the new century dawned, the misery wrought by the meatpacking industry following the IBP revolution and borne disproportionately by immigrants began to catch the public’s eye. This was partly because of the splash created by Eric Schlosser’s bestselling exposéFast Food Nation(2002) along with his related articles inMother Jones(2001) andThe Nation(2004).¹ Commonly seen as a latter-day cousin of Upton Sinclair’s famous muckraking bookThe Jungle(1926 [1906]), which revealed the agonies of immigrant workers and the dangers to consumers in the meat industry during the Progressive Era,Fast Food Nationriveted the eyes of...

  11. Conclusion: Immigrant Workers and Counterhegemony
    (pp. 211-234)

    I began my examination of the Tyson workers’ narratives at the beginning of chapter 2 by discussing an evocative statement that Maria Martinez, the principal leader of the workers’ movement, had made when we interviewed her toward the end of 2002. We spoke to Martinez shortly after her “Respect and Dignity” slate had triumphed by a landslide in the first round of elections following the rank-and-file takeover of Teamsters Local 556 in 2000. Buoyed by heavy turn-out, the Martinez group had soundly beaten the so-called Reform slate organized by Diego Ortega, garnering over 70 percent of the vote. Yet when...

  12. Appendix: Interview Methods
    (pp. 235-238)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 239-270)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 271-282)
  15. Index
    (pp. 283-290)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-291)