Linked Labor Histories

New England, Colombia, and the Making of a Global Working Class

Linked Labor Histories

American Encounters/Global Interactions

More about this series

Book Pages: 416 Illustrations: 20 b&w photos Published: April 2008

Author: Aviva Chomsky

History > World History, Latin American Studies > Andes, Sociology > Labor

Exploring globalization from a labor history perspective, Aviva Chomsky provides historically grounded analyses of migration, labor-management collaboration, and the mobility of capital. She illuminates the dynamics of these movements through case studies set mostly in New England and Colombia. Taken together, the case studies offer an intricate portrait of two regions, their industries and workers, and the myriad links between them over the long twentieth century, as well as a new way to conceptualize globalization as a long-term process.

Chomsky examines labor and management at two early-twentieth-century Massachusetts factories: one that transformed the global textile industry by exporting looms around the world, and another that was the site of a model program of labor-management collaboration in the 1920s. She follows the path of the textile industry from New England, first to the U.S. South, and then to Puerto Rico, Japan, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and Colombia. She considers how towns in Rhode Island and Massachusetts began to import Colombian workers as they struggled to keep their remaining textile factories going. Most of the workers eventually landed in service jobs: cleaning houses, caring for elders, washing dishes.

Focusing on Colombia between the 1960s and the present, Chomsky looks at the Urabá banana export region, where violence against organized labor has been particularly acute, and, through a discussion of the AFL-CIO’s activities in Colombia, she explores the thorny question of U.S. union involvement in foreign policy. In the 1980s, two U.S. coal mining companies began to shift their operations to Colombia, where they opened two of the largest open-pit coal mines in the world. Chomsky assesses how different groups, especially labor unions in both countries, were affected. Linked Labor Histories suggests that economic integration among regions often exacerbates regional inequalities rather than ameliorating them.


Linked Labor Histories, which won the Best Book Award from the New England Council on Latin American Studies in 2009, deserves careful reading for the force of its arguments and the novelty of its approach.” — Seth Kershner, Historical Journal of Massachusetts

“[A] rousing call to consider globalization from the perspective of those who bear the brunt of its weight, and a stark reminder of the need to build farther-reaching coalitions with which to stand against its insidious influence.” — Sebastián Ramírez Hernandez, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

“[An} ambitious volume. . . . Aviva Chomsky makes a compelling case for studying immigration and capital flight as two sides of the same coin.” — Altha Cravey, Journal of American History

“[Chomsky] goes well beyond producing a merely comparative exercise. We are offered instead an in-depth analysis of the actual labour processes under consideration. . . . Overall, Linked Labor Histories is a fascinating text that will be of interest to people concerned about politics in the Americas and that will appeal to those concerned about labour history and processes of globalization from a labour-centric perspective.” — Robert O’Brien, Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

“By looking at globalization from the perspective of labor history, and labor history through the lens of globalization, Aviva Chomsky transforms our understanding of both. The result is not only a wonderfully rich and detailed look at particular times and places, but a path-breaking study that forces us to rethink how we understand the Americas as a whole. Students, scholars, labor leaders, and activists should all read this compelling book.” — Steve Striffler, EIAL

“Chomsky’s book represents an important attempt both to understand the history of capital and labor in the United States and Latin America and to look at labor’s strategic responses to capital. Her book makes an important contribution to the literature on globalization and on labor union movements in the Americas. University and public libraries should make this book part of their collection, and labor activists and those concerned with issues of social justice will want to put this book on their reading lists.” — Dan La Botz, Dialectical Anthropology

“Chomsky’s study provides very interesting insights into the workings of American imperial expansion over the course of the twentieth century.” — Cary Fraser, Hispanic American Historical Review

“In Chomsky’s book, narrative takes second place to the fierce urgency, activist energy, and bracing anger with which she crafts hard-hitting vignettes that establish surprising connections between working people and capital in two very different countries.” — John D. French, Radical History Review

“The ambitious linkage of Colombia’s and New England’s labor histories is sustained by her understanding of the nature of capitalism. [Chomsky’s] approach is thought-provoking and reminiscent of the work of Charles W. Bergquist, though with much greater attention to the struggles of local activists. This book merits a close reading and, one hopes, will inspire others to undertake similar studies.” — David Sowell, American Historical Review

Linked Labor Histories clearly establishes Chomsky as one of the foremost innovative labour historians of América—North and South.” — David C. Carlson, Canadian Journal of History

Linked Labor Histories is a book with a story that scholars can certainly learn from, but it has an even more important message to concerned citizens and labour activists about the necessity of building a movement that confronts globalisation with global strategies.” — James P. Brennan, Journal of Latin American Studies

Linked Labor Histories is an informative, thought-provoking explanation of how workers’ struggles within the imperialist centers are linked to those in countries dominated by imperialism.” — Ted Zuur, Socialism and Democracy

“By looking at globalization from the perspective of labor history, and labor history through the lens of globalization, Aviva Chomsky transforms our understanding of both. In Chomsky’s hands, global labor history becomes a compelling tool for understanding and challenging the social inequalities that capitalism creates and depends on. The result is not only a wonderfully rich and detailed look at particular places and times, but a pathbreaking study that forces us to rethink how we understand the Americas as a whole. Students, scholars, labor leaders, and activists should all read this magnificent book.” — Steve Striffler, author of In the Shadows of State and Capital

“The early-twentieth-century export of Draper looms from Hopedale, Massachusetts, to Medellin’s domestic textile industry sets the stage for a remarkably creative transnational study, documenting the eerie connection between the fates of both American and Colombian working people. Aviva Chomsky jumps skillfully across time and space to link capital flight and the early globalization of the New England textile industry to patterns of low-wage international immigration, even as she dissects the role of the United States (at times aided by American trade unions) in the suppression of Colombian labor radicalism.” — Leon Fink, author of The Maya of Morganton: Work and Community in the Nuevo New South


Availability: In stock
Price: $29.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Aviva Chomsky is Professor of History and Coordinator of Latin American Studies at Salem State College in Salem, Massachusetts. She is the author of “They Take Our Jobs!”: And 20 Other Myths about Immigration and West Indian Workers and the United Fruit Company in Costa Rica, 18701940; editor of The People behind Colombian Coal; and a coeditor of The Cuba Reader and Identity and Struggle at the Margins of the Nation-State, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Abbreviations ix

Introduction 1

Part I. New England

1. The Draper Company: From Hopedale to Medellín and Back 15

2. The Naumkeag Steam Cotton Company: Labor-Management Collaboration and Its Discontents 48

3. Guns, Butter, and the New (Old) International Division of Labor 93

4. Invisible Workers in a Dying Industry: Latino Immigrants in New England Textile Towns 142

Part II. Colombia

5. The Cutting Edge of Globalization: Neoliberalism and Violence in Colombia's Banana Zone 181

6. Taking Care of Business in Colombia: U.S. Multinationals, the U.S. Government, and the AFL-CIO 222

7. Mining the Connections: Where Does Your Coal Come From? 264

Conclusion 294

Notes 305

Bibliography 357

Index 373
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, 2009 NECLAS Best Book Award

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4190-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4173-4
Publicity material