Work and Community in the Jungle: Chicago's Packinghouse Workers, 1894-1922

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University of Illinois Press, 1990 - Community organization - 290 pages
Chicago's packinghouse workers were not the hopeless creatures depicted by Upton Sinclair in "The Jungle", but active agents in the early twentieth century transformation that swept urban industrial America. In his case study of Chicago's Union Stockyards, Barrett focuses on the workers - older skilled immigrants, new immigrant common laborers, migrant blacks, and young women workers - and the surrounding neighborhoods. The lives and communities of these workers accurately convey the experience of mass-production work, the quality of working-class life, the process of class formation and fragmentation, and the changing character of class relations. Because Packingtown's struggle for existence was linked directly to the character of work and employment in the industry, unionization played an important role in the lives of these workers. Although unionization was associated with both improving the quality of life and creating a viable community, workers were divided by race, ethnic identity, and skill. "Work and Community in the Jungle" discusses a wide range of social, economic, and cultural factors that resulted in class cohesion and fragmentation. Addressing the broader problem of relations between capital and labor, Barrett demonstrates the effects of government intervention on labor organization, negotiation, and conflict. Shop-floor workers banded together to develop new strategies and forms of organization in their struggle with management for control. Barrett employs contemporary social surveys and a computer-assisted analysis of census data to illustrate the physical and social characteristics of the workers' environment. He analyzes this data in the context of the relationships between community, ethnicity, family, work experience, and industrial characteristics.

Selected pages


The Meatpacking Industry Monopoly Capital and Mass Production
The Packinghouse Workers
The Families and Communities of Packingtown 18941922
Unionization and Americanization 19001904
Work Rationalization and the Struggle for Control 19001904
Class Race and Ethnicity 191721
The Packers Offensive 192122
Appendix A
Appendix B

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About the author (1990)

James R. Barrett is a professor emeritus in the History Department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His books include William Z. Foster and the Tragedy of American Radicalism and The Irish Way: Becoming American in the Multiethnic City.

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