Fractured Unions: Corporate Versus Independent Unions in Mexico's Transnational Agriculture
Christian Zlolniski (University of Texas at Arlington)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines the organizational strategies and barriers of indigenous unions to address the labor and civil rights demands of farmworkers in Northern Mexico. This study contributes to the anthropology of precarious labor and new forms of union organization in the Global South.
Paper long abstract:
The Mexican government treats farmworkers as temporal migrants with limited access to labor benefits and protections. It also support company unions to avoid labor strikes, maintain "social peace", and attract foreign investment. This paper examines the effects of this political framework for farmworkers in northern Mexico's export-oriented agriculture. Specialized in the production and export of fresh fruits and vegetables to the United States and Canada, Baja California combines capital-intensive production technologies with indigenous labor from Southern Mexico. While growers have business partnerships with transnational companies in the United States, labor unions are frozen in old patron-client relations with a provincial flavor. Defying this inequity, independent indigenous organizations have emerged to fight for their labor and civil rights. In the process, they use transnational connections with ethnic organizations in the United States, and social media as a weapon for social communication, resistance, and collective organization. These changes, I argue, speak of a social movement unionism with a holistic agenda of labor and community demands to address the needs and aspirations of a new class of rural proletarians along the Mexico-US border. I use this ethnographic case study to reflect about the anthropology of precarious labor and new forms of union organization.
Globalized workers and trade unionism