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Immigration as industrial strategy in American meatpacking


  • Dell Champlin
  • Eric Hake


This paper examines the connections linking recent changes in Latino migration, the American meatpacking industry, and American immigration policy. As the meatpacking industry has vertically integrated and shifted to rural non-union areas throughout the South, it has grown increasingly dependent on short-term low-skilled employees. This process can be understood as the industrialization of meatpacking, where profitability depends on continuous high-throughput production. To succeed, the industrialization of meatpacking requires a large pool of easily replaceable labor that has no control over the pace work on of the shop floor. At the same time, as immigrants have been drawn to these new company towns, American immigration policy has turned increasingly towards border enforcement. We argue that the presence of illegal immigrants within the factories reduces the bargaining power of shop workers and increases employer control. Most studies of immigration have focused on the supply of migrant labor, the immigrants attracted to higher paying jobs. We argue that valuable insight is gained by looking at the manufacturers' demand for cheap labor and the implementation of an industrial strategy that requires it.

Suggested Citation

  • Dell Champlin & Eric Hake, 2006. "Immigration as industrial strategy in American meatpacking," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(1), pages 49-70.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:18:y:2006:i:1:p:49-70
    DOI: 10.1080/09538250500354140

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    Cited by:

    1. J. David Brown & Julie L. Hotchkiss & Myriam Quispe-Agnoli, 2013. "Does Employing Undocumented Workers Give Firms A Competitive Advantage?," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(1), pages 158-170, February.
    2. Gomez-Ruano, Gerardo, 2011. "Technological Change and Immigration Policy," MPRA Paper 63705, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Brown, J. David & Hotchkiss, Julie L. & Quispe-Agnoli, Myriam, 2009. "Undocumented Worker Employment and Firm Survival," IZA Discussion Papers 3936, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Jackie Gabriel, 2008. "Si, Se Puede: Organizing Latino Immigrant Workers in South Omaha’s Meatpacking Industry," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 29(1), pages 68-87, March.

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