Labour Organising in the Logistics Industry: A Comparative Study of Warehouse Work in South Yorkshire and California's Inland Empire

   Management School

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  Dr K Fox-Hodess, Dr Gabriella Cioce  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project description

How can workers and trade unions in the UK and the US achieve better working conditions in the warehouse sector of the global logistics industry? The logistics industry plays a central role in contemporary processes of capital accumulation in the global economy, given the growing importance of just-in-time chains of distribution (Bonacich and Wilson, 2008). Nonetheless, working conditions in warehouses tend to be extremely poor, including in the UK and the US. The workforce is often fragmented, exploited and hired via fixed-term work contracts, outsourcing and (bogus) self-employment (Barnes and Ali, 2021). In addition, as most workers are migrants or belong to minority groups, poor working conditions are accompanied by discriminatory, hostile and xenophobic treatment (Alimahomed-Wilson, 2019). Although there is agreement by scholars that warehouse workers hold a strategic position in contemporary capitalism - being employed at ‘chokepoints’ (Wilson and Ness, 2018) - few logistics warehouses in the UK and US have witnessed the emergence of successful labour organising initiatives (Dörflinger et al., 2021). 

Drawing upon qualitative data to be collected in South Yorkshire (UK) and the Inland Empire (Southern California), this project will seek to understand warehouse working conditions, the challenges that trade unions and workers face to organise in warehouses, and the practices that can make these organising efforts successful. PhD project proposals that aim to study these key issues will be well received. 

International collaborator(s)

University of California Riverside’s Inland Empire Labor and Community Research Center (IELCRC) director and Professor of Sociology Ellen Reese will provide research advising support on an ongoing basis to a SUMS PGR student who will be conducting fieldwork in the Inland Empire as part of their dissertation project. Professor Reese and colleagues at the IELCRC will assist the student in building contacts with relevant trade unions and gaining access to logistics industry employers and work sites for research purposes. In addition, the student will be provided with office space at the university and will be welcome to attend academic events and classes in the Sociology Department and Labor Studies programme.

Secondary support will be provided by Professor Jake Alimahomed-Wilson at the Department of Sociology at California State University – Long Beach, who will provide additional research advising support and assistance in building contacts and gaining access for the SUMS PGR student. Professor Reese and Professor Alimahomed-Wilson are internationally recognised experts in the study of labour issues in the global logistics industry and co-conveners of the University of Sheffield Centre for Decent Work’s International Labour and Logistics Research Network (ILLRN).

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