Contesting Contingency: Racialized Labor and the Logistics of Global Capital

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Juan DE LARA, University of Southern California, USA
This paper argues that precarious workers can provide insightful organizing strategies and theoretical challenges to the global circulatory apparatus of racial capitalism. It uses Southern California’s logistics economy to show how the production of immigrant workers as precarious labor was critical to the development of flexible production and distribution systems. Southern California’s port complexes are an example of these systems and provide a window into the machinations of state actors and business interests; who strengthened their position within the global commodity network by developing extensive and intensive distribution systems they believed would attract a highly mobile and flexible 21st century capitalism. More specifically, the paper examines how contingent warehouse workers produced a counter-narrative that challenged the dominant discourse of logistics-based regional entrepreneurialism by questioning public policies that placed growth and profit before economic and social justice.

The paper begins by outlining how the Change To Win labor federation launched a regional organizing campaign that extended the scale of warehouse workby moving beyond the usual confines of shop floor complaints to make a broader argument about economic justice, regional development and globalization. Warehouse workers and their allies argued that the unmitigated flow of global capital - underwritten by corporations like Walmart and Amazon - regularly subjected local communities to poverty level wages, precarious employment and deadly levels of diesel pollution. What unfolded during the Warehouse Workers United organizing campaign will show how labor and immigrant social movement organizations crafted spatial narratives that connected global logistics to regional struggles for racial and economic justice.