By Danny Postel
On April 18, Arise Chicago and Interfaith Worker Justice teamed up with the political scientist Paul Apostolidis to explore this question at a thought-provoking event for his new book Breaks in the Chain: What Immigrant Workers Can Teach America about Democracy held at the Harold Washington Library Center.
An audio recording of the event is available here, but it doesn’t do justice to the multilayered texture of the presentation, a PowerPoint rich with photographs and quotations from workers, from advertisements, from social theorists, and other sources. A video will be available soon — check back for that.
As the publisher’s website says of Breaks in the Chain, the book:
investigates the personal life stories of a group of Mexican immigrant meatpackers who are at once typical and extraordinary. After crossing the border clandestinely and navigating the treacherous world of the undocumented, they waged a campaign to democratize their union and their workplace in the most hazardous industry in the United States. … Examining their personal narratives, Apostolidis recasts our understanding of the ways immigrants construct and transform social power. … Linking stories of immigration to stories about working on the meat production line–the chain–he reveals the surprising power of activism by immigrant workers and their allies and demonstrates how it can-and should-promote social and political democracy in America.
I was honored to give the introduction at the event. Shelly Ruzicka of Arise Chicago provided a wonderful overview of the work that organization does defending the rights of immigrant workers in the city.
If you’d like to read the book, please consider purchasing it online from the Seminary Co-Operative Bookstore, one of the event’s co-sponsors, by going here. It’s a compelling and relevant book. Also check out Paul’s recent blog post “Working conditions, the battle at Tyson, and the Wisconsin moment”.
-Danny is Communications Coordinator at national organization, Interfaith Worker Justice