Explaining Peripheral Labor: A Poultry Industry Case Study

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Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Vol: 33, Issue: 2, Page: 353-400

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Alexander, Charlotte S.
Labor Law; Employment Law; Poultry; Agriculture; Farmers & Farming; Labor and Employment Law; Law
article description
Drawing on data and anecdotal accounts from a wide variety of sources, this Article investigates the law and economics of peripheral labor, so called because low wage, low skill workers on the periphery are excluded from the promotion ladders, job security, and steadily increasing pay available to supervisory and managerial workers in the core. Using the U.S. poultry industry as a case study, this Article describes the terms and conditions of peripheral poultry work: de-skilled jobs, low wages, lack of job security, and negligible prospects for promotion. Worker bargaining power is also highly constrained, as workers have little ability to demand concessions, and overt claiming behavior such as filing a lawsuit, complaining to a government agency, or forming a union often is not effective, rational, or safe. The Article hypothesizes that the reasons for these conditions may be found in poultry firms’ labor practices and modes of economic organization, in the transnational nature of the external labor market, and in the structure of labor, employment, and immigration laws that apply to peripheral poultry work.