Subcontracted racial capitalism: the interrelationship of race and production in meat processing plants

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  • 1 University of Padua, , Italy
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The aim of this paper is to extend discussion on subcontracted labour by focussing on the labour process and on the role of race and racialization within it. The existing literature has so far analysed the factors that have encouraged employer decisions to outsource labour, together with its effects on labour conditions and on industrial relations. Missing, however, has been any detailed analysis of the role of race and racialization processes, pivotal elements in the facilitation of subcontracting thereby accelerating the worsening of labour conditions.

Based on qualitative empirical research on the meat industry in Northern Italy, this article highlights how the processes of outsourcing and racialization intersect to support the segmentation of labour within the workplace. In particular, we argue that, through contracting out work to racialized groups of migrant workers, outsourcing has been both facilitated and legitimized. Furthermore, the presence of in-plant contractors has fostered the implementation of racializing practices, which in turn have bolstered workforce fragmentation on racial lines.

Notwithstanding this, our findings show that race can be a factor in the mobilization of subcontracted migrant labour through the production of pragmatic (racial) solidarities. These informal ties are a key component in the development of the everyday struggles and alliances that emerge within grass roots worker organisations as well as beyond their boundaries through hybrid forms of collective organisation.

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