Unrepresented: Gender Negotiations and the Movement to Organize Migrant Farm Workers in the United States

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Laurie MICHAELS, The Ohio State University, USA
Despite strides toward equality, gender disparities remain rife within the labor movement. Labor organizations are often structured around the needs of workers as men, and gender dynamics within organizations often systematically overlook the needs of women. Using the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) as a case study, this paper draws on ethnographic data collected from January 2013 – May 2014, and shows how organizations often use framing processes to position migrant farm workers as a uniformly exploited group, inadvertently overlooking the unique needs of migrant farm worker women. While much of the extant literature in the field of social movements accounts for the ways organizations utilize framing processes in order to foster a collective identity among actors, this paper identifies the ways in which organizations themselves risk becoming a site of precariousness when the cultivated collective identity lacks nuance and is overly essentialist, creating an exclusionary environment for actors whose identities fall outside of the collective framework. Migrant farm workers are precarious workers, and migrant farm worker women are particularly vulnerable. This paper shows how the framing processes which create a collective identity among migrant workers simultaneously overlook the unique struggles faced by migrant farm worker women. Through a masculinist discourse, a gendered allocation of resources, and a lack of attention paid to sexual harassment, the labor movement inadvertently places the rights of women in a secondary category.