Workers and Globalization in the Americas

Conference Overview Thursday, October 4 Panelists Registration

Conference Overview

Bringing together renowned scholars, labor representatives, and students, the conference will explore the following critical issues:

  • How is globalization influencing the competitive strategy of private firms and changing the labor process in Latin America and the Caribbean?
  • What forms of consciousness and collective action are being engendered as male and female workers become more intensely subordinated to the logic of internationally integrated production networks and markets?
  • How are workers' organizations responding to the consolidation of export-led growth and expansion of global production networks?
  • How are workers, unions and civil society defending workers' living standards and rights in the context of increasingly deregulated and hyper- mobile capital in the region?
  • What conceptual approaches and analytical categories from the fields of Latin American and Caribbean, labor and gender studies evidence the greatest potential for understanding the new conditions of Latin America's working classes?
Workers in the field

Pre-Registration $7
On-Site Registration $ 10
Students Free

(First 20 UUP members will have their registration fees waived)


Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS), Center for Latino, Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CELAC), Journals and Conferences/Office of Research, Office of Affirmative Action, Dean's Office–College of Arts and Sciences, Office of Academic Affairs, Office of Finance, President's Task Force on Sweatshop Labor, Women's Studies Department, Graduate Student Organization/MCAA (GSO), United University Professions (UUP), The Solidarity Committee of the Capital District/Jobs with Justice.

New York Labor Religion Coalition, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement/Capital District Chapter (LCLAA),

Prof. Fernando Leiva (LACS)
University at Albany
(518) 442-4891


    Over the last two decades we have witnessed profound economic, political and cultural transformations – a shifting of productive structures, social identities, and labor strategies. Neoliberal economic restructuring, the deployment of export platforms and regional integration agreements (NAFTA, MERCOSUR and a looming FTAA) seem to be producing a growing divorce between "economic growth" and "social integration".

"Globalization" has brought about increasing levels of social vulnerability for the majority of Latin American workers. Yet, at the same time — through firm relocations, internationalized production and distribution networks, increased flows of capital, commodities and labor, international trade/investment agreements, and cross-border solidarity campaigns, globalization is also increasing the interconnectedness of North, Central, South, and Caribbean societies and social actors.

By focusing on Latin American workers, the conference will explore the profound implications that the accelerated internationalization of production and capital flows are having upon poverty, inequality and "citizenship" in the region. Critically analyzing the class, gender, and cultural dimensions of such restructuring, the conference seeks to explore how transformations experienced by the working classes in one part of the Americas, become vital for understanding — and effectively acting upon — what is happening within our own communities in another point of the hemisphere.

Workers and children


Struggling for Workers' Rights and a 
Living Wage in the 21st Century

"Globalization" poses new challenges for workers and their families, not only throughout the Americas – in South, Central, and North, but right here in New York state as well. Particularly when we consider that the "flip side" of the internationalization of trade and capital flows is the migration of labor. What can be done to defend workers' rights and a living wage in the face of the changes brought about by globalization? Direct participants in the struggles of workers, students, and communities, address the difficulties, lessons and hopes for the future of these efforts.

5:30 Welcome
5:45 Film:  Bread and Roses (110')

A young Mexican woman, Maya, illegally crosses the border into Southern California to be with her sister. Without official papers, she finally finds a regular position at the cleaning company where her sister works. Soon, a representative of the organization Justice for Janitors, shows up, trying to convince the workers to unionize, and it is through this struggle that we see Maya come to political awareness.

7:30 Panel:  Struggling for Workers' Rights and a Living Wage in the 21st Century
  • Oscar Best (Social Welfare-University at Albany) Executive Secretary of the President's Task Force on a Sweatshop Labor

  • Yanira Merino, Organizer, (Laborers International Union of North America) Born in El Salvador, as a teenager her parents sent her to the U.S. to escape the war ravaging her country. Involved in solidarity work, she was was kidnapped by Salvadoran rightwing paramilitary groups operating in Los Angeles. Surviving that ordeal, she went on to organize Central American workers in the North Carolina poultry industry. Today she is an organizer for LIUNA.

  • Amber Martin, student activist (University at Albany) Participant in the mobilizations that initiated the Sweatfree SUNY on campus.

  • Aspacio Alcántara (Centro Independiente de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas (CITA) Florida, New York). Born in the Dominican Republic, Aspacio Alcántara is the founder and director of CITA, an organization initiated and run by farmworkers and former farmworkers, based in the Hudson Valley. CITA seeks to empower farmerworkers working in New York state. Operating out of the back of a Mexican grocery store in Florida, CITA was able to to get the first collective bargaining agreement for farmworkers in New York state history.

  • John Funiciello, Chair of the Solidarity Committee of the Capital District/Jobs with Justice.


Workers and Globalization in the Americas

8:30 – 9:30 Conference Registration (Campus Center Assembly Hall)
9:00 – 9:30 Continental Breakfast
9:30 – 10:00 OPENING  (Assembly Hall)
  • Carlos Santiago, Provost and Vicepresident for Academic Affairs
  • Liliana Goldin, Chair, LACS
  • Fernando Leiva, Conference Chair
10:00 – 12:00 Panel 1:

Restructured Workplaces, Households and Communities and the Expansion of Transnational Capital

What structural changes is globalization bringing about in workplaces, in labor markets, households and communities? How is this reorganization of production and employers' increasing reliance on a more "flexible" labor force changing social relations in the spheres of production and social reproduction? What are the implications?


  • Chris Bose, (Sociology/LACS) University at Albany
  • Juan Pablo Pérez Sáinz, Senior Researcher Flacso-Costa "Labor and Capitalist Development in Central America: An Update"
  • Hector Figueroa, Service Employees International Union
12: 00 – 1:30 LUNCH BREAK
1:30 – 3:00 Panel 2

Changing Identities: Ruptures and Continuities Between Latin America's "Old" and "New" Working Classes

Transformations in the age, gender, and skill composition of the labor force of the export-sector, along with the combined effects of increased job insecurity and consumerism, are recasting what it means to be a "worker" in Latin America. This second panel addresses the complex processes through which male and female workers forge their identities and recognize themselves as social actors. Panelists will link their analysis of shifting/recasting identities in either one of the two following directions:

  • Transformations in the makeup of the working classes and their impact on the re-emergence of the labor movement in the region.
  • Implications for analytical categories and theoretical approaches
  • Robert Carmack (Anthropology/LACS)
  • Altha Cravey, (Geography, University of North Carolina) "The Politics of Geographic Scale"
  • Carmen Diana Deere, (Economics, UMASS-Amherst) "Agrarian Class Relations under Neoliberalism: Old and New Social Movements"
  • Liliana Goldin, (Anthropology/LACS-UAlbany) "Maya Maquilas: Industrial Production in Rural Guatemala"
3:00 – 3:30 Coffee Break
3:30 – 5:15 Panel 3

Workers Rights and Regional Integration: Public Policy and Labor Strategies

What obstacles confront workers, workers' movements and unions as they attempt to become protagonists in shaping Latin America's present and immediate future? What labor strategies hold hope for the re-emergence of labor as a collective social and political actor in the first decades of the 21st century? What are the lessons learned so far?


  • Ray Bromley (Geography & Planning/LACS ) Panelists:
    • Henry J. Frundt, (Latin American Studies, Ramapo College) "How Can Sweatshop Labor Codes Be Used to Protect Workers?"
    • Judith Marshall  (Steelworkers Humanity Fund-Canada) "Mining in the Americas: Developing New Labor Responses"
    • Kjeld Jakobsen, (Director of International Relations, Central Unica de Trabalhadores CUT-Brazil)
    5:15 – 5:30 Closing of Conference




    Aspacio Alcántara, founder and director of the Centro Independiente de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas/Independent Support Center for Agricultural Workers (CITA), providing training and support to agricultural workers in New York's Hudson Valley as they strive to defend their rights.

    Altha Cravey (Geography, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). ), author of Women and Work in Mexico's Maquiladoras (Rowan & Littlefield, 1998).

    Carmen Diana Deere is a development economist specializing in Latin American agricultural development issues. She is past President of the national Latin American Studies Association (LASA) and is currently Director of the Center for LatinAmerican, Caribbean & Latino Studies at Umass-Amherst. Her latest book is Empowering Women: Land and Property Rights in Latin America (Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2001).

    Héctor Figueroa, a political economist, he is with Service Employees International Union.

    Henry J. Frundt (Latin American Studies, Ramapo College). Secretary of the Latin Anerican Studies Association's Labor Section, author of Trade Conditions and Labor Rights : U.S. Initiatives, Dominican and Central American Responses (University of Florida Press, 1998).

    John Funiciello, Chairman of the Solidarity Committee of the Capital District/Jobs with Justice

    Liliana Goldin (Chair, LACS, University at Albany). Her latest book is Identities on the Move: Transnational Processes in North America and the Caribbean Basin (University of Texas Press, 1999).

    Kjeld Jakobsen, International Affairs Secretary of the Brazilian Confederation of Labor (CUT). A member of the Metalworkers Union, as the representative of Brazil's Central Unica de Trabalhadores (CUT), the most powerful workers' organization of Latin America, Kjeld Jakobsen has participated in all of the international gatherings.

    Judith Marshall (Steelworkers Humanity Fund) is an educator and writer who has worked for many years on social justice and solidarity issues. She spent eight years in Mozambique where she was involved in workplace literacy programs. She returned to Canada in 1984 where she did a Ph.D. at the University of Toronto. Her thesis was published as a book entitled: Literacy, Power and Democracy in Mozambique. For the past decade, she has worked with the Steelworkers Humanity Fund, a labour interntational development fund created by the Canadian Steelworkers in 1985.

    Amber Martin, a student at the University at Albany, Amber Martin had played a key role in the emergence of the student anti-sweatshop movement on campus.

    Yanira Merino, Organizer with the Laborers' International Union of North America. Yanira has a vast and rich experience organizing Latin American workers both in North as well as Central America.

    Juan Pablo Pérez Sáinz (Senior Researcher/ Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO), Costa Rica. His most recent book is From the Finca to the Maquila. Labor and Capitalist Development in Central America, (Westview Press, 1999).



    Pre-Registration $7 (until September 30),    On-Site Registration $10,    Students Free

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    All artwork by Rini Templeton

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