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The Chicken Trail

In The Chicken Trail, Kathleen C. Schwartzman examines the impact of globalization-and of NAFTA in particular-on the North American poultry industry, focusing on the displacement of African American workers in the southeast United States and workers in Mexico. Schwartzman documents how the transformation of U.S. poultry production in the 1980s increased its export capacity and changed the nature and consequences of labor conflict. She documents how globalization-and NAFTA in particular-forced Mexico to open its commodity and capital markets, and eliminate state support of corporations and rural smallholders. As a consequence, many Mexicans were forced to abandon their no longer sustainable small farms, with some seeking work in industrialized poultry factories north of the border. By following this chicken trail, Schwartzman breaks through the deadlocked immigration debate, highlighting the broader economic and political contexts of immigration flows. The narrative that undocumented worker take jobs that Americans don't want to do is too simplistic. Schwartzman argues instead that illegal immigration is better understood as a labor story in which the hiring of undocumented workers is part of a management response to the crises of profit making and labor-management conflict. By placing the poultry industry at the center of a constellation of competing individual, corporate, and national interests and such factors as national debt, free trade, economic development, industrial restructuring, and African American unemployment, The Chicken Trail makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the implications of globalization for labor and how the externalities of free trade and neoliberalism become the social problems of nations and the tragedies of individuals.
Product Details

Table of Contents

1. Why Follow Chickens? 2. Ethnic Succession in the South 3. Where Have All the Workers Gone? 4. Taylorism Invades the Hen House 5. Solving Industry Crises: Pollos Y Polleros 6. Squeezing Out Mexican Chicken 7. Voice: Squawking At Globalization 8. Exit Mexico: "Si Muero Lejos De Ti" 9. The Global Dilemma: Summary and Reflections Notes References Index

About the Author

Kathleen C. Schwartzman is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona. She is the author of The Social Origins of Democratic Collapse: The First Portuguese Republic in the Global Economy.


"The book is packed with information and insights. For once, the tables are an integral and important complement to the text, a rigorous support for the author's arguments. In the panoramic and and at the same time meticulously detailed vision of the globalisation of capital and the myriad plagues it is inflicting on our world, it is a triumph - compelling, clear and irrefutable."-Frances Webber,Race & Class(April 2014) "Kathleen Schwartzman's lean and intelligent book,The Chicken Trail, is essentially aboutmovement and about linking together seemingly unconnected sites, people and developments... Schwartzman has written a tight, readable, and persuasive book, one that clearly captures and illustrates the push and pull of globalization on labor markets, workers, and business flows. Anyone interested in globalization, trade, labor, and food chains will benefit from understanding the trail or loop that chicken has taken in the last twenty years."-Bryant Simon,Comparative Labor Law and Policy Journal(Fall 2013) "...This book represents a brilliant example of militat or public anthropology. Its powerful descriptions of the harsh everyday lives of the migrant workers, with a style at the same time elegant and detailed..."-Joon K. Kim,Labour/Le Travail(Spring 2014) "Scholars interested in a more nuanced view of the dynamics of more recent historical immigration between the United States and Mexico should add The Chicken Trail to their reading list."-Joseph C. Balzer, ILRReview (April 2014) "The Chicken Trail is a fascinating account of the serious negative impacts of globalization on workers on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. Kathleen C. Schwartzman shows how globalization, particularly NAFTA, and changes in the poultry industry have caused the displacement of rural subsistence farmers from Mexico, who in turn migrate to the United States, where they have displaced African American workers. Schwartzman argues that for corporations, hiring undocumented workers was a union-busting strategy and a solution to the profit crisis."-Carolina Bank Munoz, Brooklyn College, author of Transnational Tortillas: Race, Gender, and Shop-Floor Politics in Mexico and the United States "When Americans gather to devour a meal of scrumptious chicken, they are unaware of the geographical and social journey along which that chicken traveled before landing on the dinner table. In her new book The Chicken Trail, Kathleen C. Schwartzman does a masterful job of illuminating the important role played by the chicken industry in shaping America's labor market, patterns of immigration, race relations, international trade, and globalization. Schwartzman uses sophisticated social theory and multiple methodologies to construct a riveting narrative that sheds new light on how the processing of a single commodity-the chicken-can explain complex social processes. By dissecting the processing of chickens from birth to human consumption, Schwartzman helps us to rethink important issues of our time including immigration, high black unemployment, labor strife, corporate behavior, and international relations between rich and poor countries."-Aldon D. Morris, Northwestern University, author of The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement "The Chicken Trail: Following Workers, Migrants, and Corporations across the Americas examines the history of poultry production in the United States and Mexico, describing how this industry has been affected by neo-liberalism and NAFTA ... This book focuses on the intertwined predicament of a 'push' of emigration from developing nations and the 'pull' of U.S. jobs. Tracing a single commodity chain, Schwartzman applies a nuanced qualitative and quantitative analysis to contest the validity of the 'commonsense' neoliberal economic model that generated such a dilemma." -Gerardo Otero, Simon Fraser University, American Journal of Sociology (January 2014)

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