August 1998, Vol. 121, No. 8
Unionization in meatpacking
Training and education
Book reviews from past issues
Unionization in meatpacking
Unionizing the Jungles: Labor and Community in the Twentieth-Century Meatpacking Industry. Edited by Shelton Stromquist and Marvin Bergman. Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 1997, 272 pp. $32.95.
Unionizing the Jungles is a collection of nine papers commissioned for a symposium on the meatpacking industry sponsored by the Center for Recent United States History. The Center is a consortium of archives and research institutions with a distinctly Iowa flavor. The editors are from the same geographical background: Shelton Stromquist of the University of Iowa and Marvin Bergman of the State Historical Society of Iowa. The contributors are historians and anthropologists chosen because the Center believed their papers would prompt discussion among some 35 members of the academic community who had been invited to a symposium on new, promising areas of research. All of the authors previously had conducted research of the meatpacking industry, and or its unions, or of the impact that unionmanagement relationships had upon the community.
While Stromquist and Bergmans introduction briefly summarizes the symposium participants commentary on the issues raised by the contributed papers, they place the major emphasis, and rightfully so, on the richness of information offered by the nine authors about industryunion dynamics and history. Several of the papers especially emphasize the impacts that race and gender had on employer, union, and community interaction.
The papers describe an industry whose employers were consistently antiunion, who utilized different strategies of union avoidance, but who failed to stem union advances during the golden years of union organization, the 1930s and 1940s. Ultimately, employers contributed to the neutralization of union power by happenstance, that is, by introducing technological and structural changes to the industry in the post-World War II years for reasons unrelated to the industrys industrial relations situation.
The papers also detail the rise of unionism: the failure of Swifts welfare capitalism to substitute for the work forces need for representation, the short life of the intriguing Independent Union of All Workers (a radical union modeled somewhat after the IWW), the central role of the black labor force in organizing first under the umbrella of the Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee and its successor, the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA), and finally, the programs of the UPWA during postwar years to bring about civil rights change to local communities and the Nation.
The papers also address the appearance of internal strains that undermined unity in the UPWA. These included racial tensions which reemerged after the failed 1948 strike, the reassertion of anticommunism within the union, and the rather slow and painful struggle by women to achieve equality of pay and job rights. All affected union vitality and focus.
The editors rightfully see both the rise and decline of the union as a " distinctive story in 20th century labor history that casts in bold relief the conflicts between labor and capital and tensions based on race and gender in a perpetually changing workforce."
There is much information and much understanding to be culled from the combined papers; there is a scholarly richness of detail that emerges, to a great extent, from the authors close examination and analysis of historical record and oral histories. Unfortunately, the book also suffers from the slings and arrows of multi-authorship. Writing styles change; jargon emerges from more than one academic discipline; points of view differ; and repetition cannot be avoided as the various authors necessarily allude to some of the same events. The result is a loss of coherence that the story of the changing meatpacking industry and the rise and decline of meatpacking unionism deserves.
Training and education
Education, Training and the Global Economy. By David Ashton and Francis Green. Brookfield, VT, Ashgate Publishing Co., 1996, 227 pp. $79.95.
Local, regional, and national economies are increasingly affected by the trend of globalization. This means that companies will have to keep up with the rapid changes that are currently taking place. A welltrained and skilled work force, therefore, is important, in particular if they are appropriately trained for the level of jobs that exist in an economy. The authors of the book under review, David Ashton, a sociologist, and Francis Green, an economist, examine the role of training and education in a changing world. In the last 30 years, much has been written on the relationship between education and the economy, but none of the studies have been conclusive. Cross national comparisons have shown some interesting results, but there are so many differences in educational systems and industrial development that comparisons across countries have proven to be difficult.
They are in particular interested in the effects of training and education on the individual, the company, and the economy (local, regional, or national). Increased training and education for the individual often means investing money in training and education and the question whether that will translate into a higher salary. For a company to spend money on training and educating its employees means that it has to be sure that those employees will become more productive and increase the revenue of the company. If individuals make more money and the companies become more productive, this would mean an improvement of the economy. Experts differ in opinion on the relationship between training and education and the improvement of the economy.
A general assumption is that the higher the level of training or education of the workers, the more successful companies and economies will be. In their research, Ashton and Green show that this is not a given and that many factors play a role. In practical terms, an individual might invest a large amount of money on his or her training or education, but might not receive the monetary return on this investment in the job market. This can also be the case for companies where increased skill levels might not result in increased productivity. In their literature overview, they discuss four approaches, including the internal labor market approach and the political science approach. The authors assert that most of these approaches focus on high value-added goods production and that a higher level of education is important. This might not be the case for low-level production. In addition, these approaches often only explain one aspect of the issue and do not adequately take into consideration other variables. Therefore, the authors propose their own approach in studying the relationship between training, education, and the economy.
Ashton and Green focus on two aspects of education in an economy to develop a model for explaining the relationship between education and the economy. The first one is state formation. The state is one of the main financial supporters of the educational system through the levy of taxes. The level of education is linked to the development of the state. The authors give examples of how leaders in a state use education in forming a state. For instance, a state-controlled educational system allows leaders to unite a newly formed state. The second aspect is the industrialization that takes place in a state. With the increase in industrial sophistication of a state, the education level has to correspond with that level in order to produce workers that can be employed. These two aspects interact and the development of these two over time explain, according to the authors, much better the relationship between education and training and the growth of an economy. They demonstrate the model by examining the historical state and industrial development of the United States and the United Kingdom. Because these two countries participated early on in the industrial revolution, they are an example of the low-skills route in which the state promotes education at a low level, but enough for the industrial development at the beginning of the industrial revolution. Germany and Japan (second wave) and Singapore (third wave) are used as examples for the high-skills route in which the state attempts to catch up with the industrial development and these countries need to invest large sums of money in their labor force.
The new approach introduced in this book, according to the writers, can be used for policy analysis and policy making in countries, regardless of their state of industrial development. For instance, older industrialized countries with still an emphasis on low value-added sectors can take the high skills route to improve their economy. But this would mean that the state has to be strongly involved in the educational sector.
The book gives a good overview of the literature on training and education and the effects it has on economies. The book is somewhat short on practical examples and data to make it easily accessible for a wider audience. Despite this shortcoming, the topic, and thus the book, is very important for educational institutions, training providers, economic development practitioners, and policymakers to understand the implications of training and education on the growth of an economy and which routes to take to improve an economy, especially in light of the globalization process that is currently taking place.
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