Kathleen Schwartzman
Kathleen Schwartzman

Everyday acts as simple as eating a chicken dinner can mask global changes that affect how people make a living and where they must go to earn than living.

Kathleen C. Schwartzman, a sociologist at the UA, specializes in examining how economic transformation reverberate through society. She will discuss these changes in a 3:30 p.m. talk at the Arizona Senior Academy next Thursday (June 6).

The talk will focus on findings published in her recent book, “The Chicken Trail: Following Workers, Migrants, and Corporations Across the Americas” (Cornell University Press, 2013). The book explores the impact of globalization—and NAFTA in particular—on the North American poultry industry. It focuses on the displacement of African American workers in the southeast United States and of small landholders in Mexico.

Her book highlights a contemporary American dilemma: economic transformations have left the U.S. labor market with jobs that “nobody wants,” jobs that are shipped overseas, and jobs for which American workers are unqualified. It also highlights the Global Dilemma: in developing nations, as rural survival continues to be undermined by international trade, people attempt to alleviate their poverty by packing their suitcases and abandoning their country.

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, who holds a Ph.D in sociology from the University of Chicago, 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.

Submitted by Mike Maharry, Academy Villages Volunteer

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Immigration, Job Loss – and Chicken Dinners:June 2013