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Labor Industrial Relations

Cutting into the Meatpacking Line: Workers and Change in the by Deborah Fink

By Deborah Fink

The nostalgic imaginative and prescient of a rural Midwest populated by way of self sufficient relations farmers hides the truth that rural salary exertions has been critical to the region's improvement, says Deborah Fink. targeting the porkpacking in Iowa, Fink investigates the event of the agricultural operating category and highlights its value in shaping the state's financial, political, and social contours.

Fink attracts either on interviews and on her personal firsthand event engaged on the construction ground of a pork-processing plant. She weaves a desirable account of the meatpacking industry's heritage in Iowa--a heritage, she notes, that has been skilled otherwise by means of female and male, immigrant and native-born, white and black staff. certainly, argues Fink, those alterations are a key consider the continued production of the agricultural operating type.

Other writers have denounced the hot meatpacking businesses for his or her ruthless destruction of either staff and groups. Fink sustains this feedback, which she augments with a dialogue of union motion, but in addition is going past it. She appears to be like inside rural midwestern tradition itself to check the category, gender, and ethnic contradictions that allowed--indeed welcomed--the meatpacking industry's development.

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Extra resources for Cutting into the Meatpacking Line: Workers and Change in the Rural Midwest (Studies in Rural Culture)

Sample text

An Anthropologist Gets a Job The culture of the Perry IBP porkpacking plant is unlike that of rural Iowa outside the plant, although working in the plant radically reshapes peoples' outside lives. In January 1992, in order to study the experience of wage labor in rural Iowa, I went to work at the Perry plant, an ordeal that revealed a small part of the disjuncture between the world of IBP and orderly social life. My fieldwork began with the application process. After driving forty miles over snowy Iowa roads from my home in Ames to Perry, I stopped first at the Iowa Job Service office in Perry, which does initial screening of IBP applicants.

Chapter 2 moves out from the immediacy of personal observation, placing my experience in historical and social perspective by outlining the general development of the Iowa working class and white male meatpacking workers specifically. Chapter 3 takes up the thread of gender, exploring the way that gender shaped the division of labor in rural Iowa in the early twentieth century; the impact of gender on the composition of the meatpacking workforce; and the subsequent manipulation of gender on the part of management, union leadership, and workers.

Our lunches were merely lagniappe. My sandwich was in a plastic bag tied tight with a twistie, and I carried it up to the cafeteria to eat. My first day I had eaten the inexpensive and adequate fast food from the cafeteria line, but I wanted my own food, as did many of the other workers. We had only thirty minutes for lunch, and break time was Page 18 counted from when we were working on the floor to when we were again back at work. With the minutes spent taking off and putting on equipment, walking out, around, and back through the plant, and going to the bathroom and washing our hands, we had at most twenty minutes in the cafeteria.

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