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December 15, 2009

Global Stratification

Excellent example of the final paper by M. H. - Fall 2009

There are many different types of stratification within a society. A societies' particular value system based on their cultures ideology of how power, wealth, and prestige are allocated determine where a person is placed in their stratification system. These basic stratification processes can also be used to categorize countries around the world where the distribution of wealth, power and prestige is extremely unequal. An individual country's position in the stratification process is established by its relationship to other countries and its ability to achieve economic power. This is global stratification.

Global stratification can be traced back as far as the 1750s when Great Britain and other countries in Western Europe began sailing around the world, conquering weaker countries and colonizing them. After invading the country, they would subdue the people and leave a "governing force" in place who would exploit the indigenous people and the resources for their own economic benefit.

This global stratification process is still going on today but the Western European countries have been replaced by multinational corporations. These corporations "sail" around the world and find the least expensive labor they can, set up shop (just as the colonists did), and begin exploiting the indigenous people and their resources. Third world countries are a particularly easy target because the people there live in extreme poverty. Any offer, no matter how meager, is usually better than what they currently have available to them.

Many people defend multinational corporations, and "globalization" saying they create jobs, transfer technology, and help a countries economic development. This can be true, but what we are finding today is that the main goal of the huge multinational corporations is to maximize profits, not to try and help the local population in their plight for a better life. These multinational corporations operate without any respect for the people, the environment, or even the government of the country in which they operate. They continuously break laws with no consequence. They exploit workers with no consequence. They pollute the land with no consequence. And they do all this to earn bigger profits for Wall Street.

Some of the biggest multinational corporations are oil companies. These corporations have had a long history of bad behavior in which they exploit the local population for their own economic gain. One example of this is ExxonMobil. This is an American company based in Irving, Texas. They were operating a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Lhokseumawe, Ache (A special territory of Indonesia located on the northern tip of Sumatra). MobilExxon paid the Indonesian government (a centralized, military-dominated government) 30% of its total oil and gas revenues in order to operate there; however, the local population did not receive any benefits from this arrangement. (Collingsworth) When the natural gas was discovered there in the 1970s the local villagers were immediately displaced and forced to move from their land without any compensation.

After beginning operations, ExxonMobil separated themselves from the local population by building their own "compounds" that were fenced off from the local villagers. These compounds included luxurious living quarters for their corporate staff. The ExxonMobil elite even had their own paved road (the only paved one in the area) which the locals were not allowed to drive on. The locals had to constantly put up with natural gas flair ups and chemical spills. These spills caused many health problems in the nearby villages. The industrial waste from the plant polluted rice paddies (their main source of food) and fishing ponds. The villagers who organized themselves and tried to speak out against MobilExxon were routinely raped, tortured, and even murdered by Indonesian Military soldiers who were hired by ExxonMobil Corporation to provide security for them. These atrocities were reported by human rights groups, international human rights organizations, and the U.S. Department of State, to no avail. Many of the people were tortured by the security forces inside the ExxonMobil compound itself. The facilities had special areas built inside the compound to accommodate the military forces needs, such as barracks and holding rooms. Additionally, ExxonMobil provided these security forces with heavy equipment to cover mass burials after a conflict with locals who were protesting against conditions there.

Even though ExxonMobil knew of these human rights violations, they kept providing the Indonesian military with money and resources. Clearly, ExxonMobil believed the people of Ache were a separate underclass that did not deserve to be treated the same as their corporate "elite" who were mostly American. The ExxonMobil officers and management did not care about the land, environment, or the people of Ache, they just wanted to extract natural gas and make very large profits even if it was at the expense of the locals and the environment.

Another multinational corporation who definitely stratifies the country they operate in and the local people is Coca-Cola. In the late 1990s, Coca-Cola (Nestle Corporation participated in this too) was accused of bringing in paramilitaries to intimidate, kidnap, torture and then ultimately murder union leaders who were trying to improve working conditions at the bottling plant in Columbia. Coca-Cola wanted to keep wages low and orchestrated these events to keep the unions from gaining power. In fact, the multinational corporations have so much power in Columbia, that more union leaders are murdered there than anywhere else in the word.

In India, Coca-Cola is accused of polluting groundwater and soil, causing water shortages and having high levels of pesticide in its soft drinks. Amit Srivastava, of the India Resource Centre stated, "We are profiling a series of community struggles against Coca-Cola in India, all of which point to a pattern in the company's operations. The communities are left thirsting as Coca-Cola draws water from the common water resources. . ."

Additionally, Coca-Cola has illegally occupied some private property that belonged to local villages and has not even paid for it. The villagers took Coca-Cola to court and the company was ordered to pay the villagers for the property, but they were never paid. When they protested the Coca-Cola plant hoping to get their money, they were met by 200 law enforcement officers who were sent to the plant to protect Coca-Cola. The demonstrators were then badly beaten by the police and sent away. (Srivastava, 2003) Furthermore, when Coca-Cola set up bottling plants in India, they agreed to divest a forty-nine percent stake in the company to Indian entities within five years of operation. Coca-Cola no longer wants to do this, and the government of India became worried that Coca-Cola may leave India, so they will accommodate Coca-Cola by accepting a new arrangement which includes some ownership without any voting rights.

I personally know several people who have worked for Coca-Cola in America. The workers there were treated like numbers, not people. The employees were never happy and had many quotas set on them. I can only imagine how the employees in other countries are treated without the protections that are afforded workers in the United States. It is evident that the Coca-Cola Corporation thinks they can do what they please to laborers in other countries. They feel the people in third world countries are beneath them and they will continue to exploit them in order to keep soft drinks cheap, and earn Coca Cola large profits.

Another example of multinational corporations exploiting a country and the people is Chiquita Brands. They are headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. They produce fresh fruits, vegetables and juices which are sold all over the world. Chiquita's exploitation of workers began in the 1950s when it used it political power to convince the U.S. government to overthrow the government of Guatemala. Over 100,000 people we killed or went missing as a result of this action. Additionally, they used a pesticide called Nemagon that is so toxic it had been banned in the United States since the 1970s. They would spray Nemagon on their crops without any type of protection for the field workers. Sometimes the workers were still in the fields picking bananas when the spraying occurred. Nemagon has been proven to cause many medical problems including migraines, vision loss, liver and kidney damage, infertility, cancer, miscarriage and birth defects. Additionally, Chiquita brands admitted in Federal Court that it had for years paid terrorists to protect its banana fields in Columbia. According to U.S. Officials familiar with the case, the terrorists that had been paid were involved in torture, kidnapping, rape, beatings, extortion, drug trafficking, and the killing of thousands of rural Columbians.

Lastly, is the Gap which is headquartered in San Francisco, California. The Gap has manufacturing facilities all over the world, including some that are in American territories. All the countries where the Gap operates have reported human rights abuses. In October 2007, Indian authorities raided manufacturing facilities in New Delhi and found children as young as 10 years old who had been sold to the factory by their parents working there as slaves - they were not even earning a salary. Another factory reported three deaths in 2007 because management refused to allow the employees to leave when they became seriously ill at work.

Just like the early European colonists, these corporations have no regard for the people, or the government of the country where they operate. They move in to these countries in order to exploit the people and get valuable resources to benefit only themselves. They do not build infrastructure, offer medical plans, or try to enhance the indigenous people's life in any way. They are arrogant, powerful, and many times can be more powerful than the governments where they operate. If multinational corporations are going to continue to expand around the world, perhaps we should consider a "world minimum wage" and world "working conditions" reforms that all the companies must abide by. The wages do not have to be as high as they are in the United States, but they should be high enough that the people can work a normal workday and live comfortably. If these multinational companies had these types of regulations put on them, they may even think twice about moving into another country and interfering with their culture and traditions. Maybe it will slow down the pace of their expansion around the world and their exploitation of the people, their resources, and governments to get what they want - corporate profits at the expense of everyone.
Works Cited:

1. Henslin, James M. 2009. Essentials of Sociology A down-to-Earth Approach. Allyn and Bacon: Boston MA

2. Collingsworth, Terry. "Using the Alien Tort Claims to Act to Introduce the Rule of Law to the Global Economy"

3. Leech, Gay M. "Coca-Cola Accused of Using Death Squads to Target Union Leaders" 2001

4. Srivastava, Amit "Communities Reject Coca-Cola in India" India Resource Center. 2003

5. Krebs, A.V. "Chiquita, Dole, & Del Monte Sued for Poisoning Banana Workers in Costa Rica" The

6. Staff, "Chiquita pleads guilty in terrorism probe" The Associated Press 2007

7. Staff, "Nicaragua: International Action Day in Support of Banana Workers!" Report from Nicaragua Network. 2003

8. Cisneros, Noel "Gap Sweatshop Videos Cause Uproar" ABC7. 2007
http://www. abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=business&id=5732845

9. McVeigh, Karen "Third death in a year at Indian factory that supplies Gap" Guardian. 2007

The Exploitation of Guestworkers in the United States

Excellent research paper by M.H. - Fall 2009

"Human history is the chronicle of class struggle, those in power using society's resources to benefit themselves and to oppress those beneath them - and of opposed groups trying to overcome domination." (Henslin 2009)

This quote from Henslin's book, "Essentials of Sociology," shows us that all throughout human history, there has been class struggle, and there have been those in power, whether it is political or corporate power, who will use society's resources to benefit only themselves.

The politics of social stratification with its relationship to race, culture, and social class are very much alive and ongoing in the United States today. Most Americans don't want to believe that any type of oppression is still happening here in the United States. They want to believe that we are a country in which there are opportunities for all, and moving up the social ladder, or social mobility, is something that is an inherit right and available to everybody. However, sociologists know this is not true. There are many different ways people in power use their positions to "seize greater rewards for themselves," while oppressing others. (Henslin 2009) What I will be discussing in this paper is the struggle of migrant and "guestworkers" in the United States, and how they are socially oppressed, exploited and abused. Additionally, I will describe how politicians and corporations have influenced American ideologies and have reinforced the belief that hiring guestworkers is good because they do jobs that Americans don't want to do.

Let us begin with the notion that unattractive jobs must be filled by foreign workers. Employers who state that Americans will not do certain jobs because they are beneath them imply that the foreign workers who take them are a separate underclass. Having our government back these employers by issuing policies that allow them to hire guestworkers internalizes this ideology in our society - that guestworkers are a separate underclass and deserve to be treated as such. This idea is in conflict with what we are outwardly taught that America is a society that believes in equality of opportunity and that we should avoid ethnic and racial discrimination of any kind.

This internalized ideology is prevalent among employers who seek to hire guestworkers for low wages. An example of just how prevalent this ideology is among employers comes from a company, Professional Grounds, Inc., which is a landscaping company located in Springfield, Virginia. In 2006, they ran a help wanted ad in the local newspaper for landscaper help. The company stated in their ad that the starting wage was $7.74 per hour - which is $8.32 in comparable 2009 wages. (In researching these figures, I found that one of the lowest paid positions in Springfield at the time was a car wash attendant who made $11.00 per hour in 2006 wages and $11.83 per hour in 2009 wages). The company always placed ads like this, and they hoped that nobody would respond, because if they did, Professional Grounds would by law, have to offer the jobs to United States citizens. Professional Grounds actually recruits its real labor force from Mexico and Central America through the United States Department of Labor's H-2A Program. This is a program that allows employers who cannot find enough American workers at the market's "prevailing wages" to hire foreign migrant workers on temporary work visas. By advertising for these jobs at such low wages, Professional Grounds is assured of being able to hire "guest workers" and pay them very low wages because they know that American citizens will not apply. The low wages offered for these jobs support the ideology that "Immigrants fill the jobs native workers won't do." The President of Professional Grounds buys into the ideology wholeheartedly. When he was asked if "native-born Americans" would apply if the wages were doubled he said, "I don't think it's a wage situation. It's the type of work and the nature of the work. It's hard, backbreaking work." (Jaynes, p. 6)

Additionally, the idea that the guestworker policy is good because it helps keep prices low and does not affect American jobs is not true. History has showed us time and again that guestworkers are exploited and abused. In fact, we should ask ourselves, "How can a program, which permanently isolates a class of workers and treats them as a separate and unequal social class, not lead to exploitation?" According to Henslin, conflict theorists believe that there are two main ways to keep laborers under control. "The first tactic is to keep workers insecure. Fear of unemployment works especially well," and the second tactic is "encouraging and exploiting racial - ethnic divisions" by pitting worker against worker". (Henslin 2009) One of the main problems guestworkers face is that fact that they cannot freely change jobs, because their H-2 contract stipulates that they can only work for the employer who hired them. Moreover, they do not complain if they are exploited or abused because they are afraid that they will be deported. Furthermore, they face many civil rights abuses. Some of these abuses are that they are cheated out of wages, held captive by employers who confiscate their documents, forced to live in unsanitary and overcrowded conditions, denied medical coverage if they are injured on the job, and many are forced to pay large sums of money for the privilege of coming to the United States to work. (Bauer 2007)

The first occurrence of guestworkers being exploited and socially oppressed began in 1942, when the United States negotiated with the Mexican government to import low-skilled labor, creating the Bracero Program. This program began as a way to help American farmers because there was a labor shortage as the United States had just entered World War II. The Bracero Program was supposed to bring in a few hundred experienced farm laborers to harvest sugar beets in California, but by the time the program was abolished in 1964, more than 4,500,000 Mexican laborers filled jobs of the Braceros. Although this program had many legal protections written in it, including contracts with workers, housing that would comply with minimum standards, wage guarantees, minimum of 30 days of work, and shared transportation costs, none of these protections stopped American employers from exploiting the Braceros.

As is the case today, due to deportation threats, the Braceros were afraid to complain; they were technically held captive because they did not work consistently and were unable to earn enough money to even pay their way back home. When they did work, they had to work long hours - sometimes 12 a day, and their earnings barely covered their expenses. They constantly had unauthorized deductions taken out of their pay, were given little or no food and they had to live in run-down, unsanitary and overcrowded housing. In addition, they encountered unsafe working conditions that sometimes led to disabling or fatal accidents, and they even tolerated physical abuse, as well as severe racial discrimination. In fact, the exploitation and mistreatment of the Braceros was so severe in Texas, that the Mexican government barred Texas from participating in the program from 1942 to 1947. This first guestworker program was so abused and the people were so badly exploited that the Labor Officer in charge of it, Lee G. Williams said that it was a system of "legalized slavery." (Bauer 2007) Conflict theorists term this type of treatment of one social class exploiting the other, "internal colonialism." Internal colonialism is similar to colonialism, but instead of an industrialized nation taking advantage of a less industrialized nation, a country's dominate group exploits minority groups for their economic advantage. They manipulate social and governmental institutions to control minorities and deny them full access to their society's benefits. (Henslin 2009)

Just like the employers of today, the farmers' main purpose in recruiting foreign workers was to be able to exercise control over who worked, dictate how much they earned, and to be able to control under what conditions they worked and lived. Like any other classification based on immigration status, guestworker programs segregate the workforce, which allows employers to exploit immigrant workers which in turn, drives all workers' wages down.

Stratification of the guestworkers become even more pervasive when, in addition to abuse in the work place, Braceros had to contend with discrimination in the communities where they worked. Many of the establishments in these communities posted "No Mexicans, White Trade Only" signs in an effort to keep Braceros away. Furthermore, many Braceros reported that they often received verbal abuses, false arrests, and physical attacks. (Hines 2006)

After the Bracero Program was terminated in 1964, another phase of exploitation began when foreign workers were imported for agricultural work under the H-2 sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This program was set up in 1943 because Florida's sugar cane industry requested and was given permission to hire Caribbean workers to cut sugar cane on temporary visas. This program too, was badly flawed, and the Caribbean laborers were often exploited, abused, and paid a lower rate than originally promised. Then, in 1986, a well-publicized labor dispute occurred where 300 sugar cane cutters refused to work unless they were paid their stated contract amount. The company involved called the police, and they used guns and dogs to gain control over the laborers, round them up, put them on busses and send them back to the Caribbean. This incident demonstrates the opportunity for extreme abuse in a guestworker program, because it permits the employers to have absolute control of the workers, which includes their right to remain in the United States. (Bauer 2007)

This H-2 program was revised in 1986 as part of the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which divided it into two sections, the H-2A agricultural program and the H-2B non-agricultural program. Both these programs have protections written in them, but these protections exist only on paper. As was stated earlier, one of the fundamental problems with these guestworker programs is that it gives the employer absolute control over their guestworkers, not just in their wages and working conditions, but also in their legal status. This creates a huge imbalance of power, which is dangerous and leads to extreme abuses.

The exploitation of guestworkers normally begins in their home countries when the agencies that represent the United States employers recruit the workers. Lured by these recruiters and promised jobs that pay high wages, they are required to pay large fees, sometimes thousands of dollars, to cover the cost of travel, fees, visas and profit for the recruiters. Most of the workers who want to come to the United States to work are doing so because they have little or no economic opportunities available to them, and they usually are living in poverty. To pay these huge fees, they borrow from friends, or may mortgage a family home. If they don't have anything to mortgage, or have friends to borrow from they must take out loans at very high interest rates, making it impossible for them to ever pay the loan off during the term of their contract.

For example, in her article "Close to Slavery, Mary Bauer of The Southern Poverty Law Center writes how Guatemalan guestworkers paid an average of $2,000 in travel, visa, and hiring fees to obtain forestry jobs in the United States. She states, "Guatemalans are recruited from Huehuetenango, an extremely poor region where many indigenous people live. . . They generally work as subsistence farmers and have virtually no opportunity to earn wages in rural Guatemala.

Thus, their only realistic option for raising the funds needed to secure H-2 jobs in the United States is to visit a loan shark, who will likely charge exorbitant interest rates. Many of these workers report having been charged 20 percent each month. Given that the pine tree planting season is three months long and workers often earn less than $1,000 per month, they have little hope of repaying the debt doing the work for which they were hired." In her report, she tells the story of Alvaro Hernandez-Lopez who came to the United States to work for Express Forestry Inc. He states, "What I earned planting trees in the States was hardly enough to pay my debt . . . it was really hard for us to fight to get to the States legally and then not earn any money. We were told we had to leave our deeds to get the job. On a blank paper, we had to sign our names and hand over our deeds. They said that if we didn't sign this paper they wouldn't bring us to the states to work." (Bauer 2007)

Then, there is the story of Nelson Ramirez. He signed up to work with Eller and Sons Trees Inc. The agency who recruited him required his wife to sign a paper agreeing to be responsible for his debt if he did not honor his contract. Again, as the conflict theorists believe, this is a tactic of keeping the workers insecure, and therefore, under control.

This type of extortion is not limited to Latin America. There are recruiters in Thailand who charged $5,000 - $10,000 or more for the privilege of being employed in short-term agricultural jobs that pay less than $10.00 per hour. In actually, the workers were not even paid that.

Additionally, in an effort to keep wages low, many employers will seek long visa periods, claiming to have many more months of work than they actually have. When the guestworkers have completed their contract, the employer "allows" them to go work somewhere else. The guestworkers call this period "tiempo libre," or their "free period." This is violation of the immigration laws, but the workers think this is legal because their employer gave them permission. By allowing this period of "tiempo libre", the employers are able to continue to attract a low paid workforce. (Bauer 2007) This policy of allowing a worker to "work off" their contract, then being released to work somewhere else closely resembles the definition of an indentured servant.

Another tactic of ensuring that the guestworkers remain insecure and vulnerable is that the employers "hold all the cards" relating to the employment of the guestworker. The worker basically has no rights because the employer can send them home for any reason whatsoever. A forestry worker from Guatemala reported that when a supervisor noticed that a guestworker was getting fed up because the pay was too low, the employer would take the workers papers away. The forestry worker said the employers would rip up their visas and threaten them with deportation. This has been one of the most common complaints from guestworkers - the seizure of their papers. Some employers say they are holding the documents for safekeeping, while there are others who will admit that they are taking the papers so the guestworkers will not leave in the middle of the contract. The employers believe that if the workers have their paperwork, they will leave. (Bauer 2007)

Discrimination is another form of stratification guestworkers must endure. Many of the workers who want to come and work in the United States are told by recruiters that they are too old. One guestworker was told that it was the policy of the North Carolina Growers Association that they don't accept employees over the age of 40. The United States claims they have no jurisdiction over this type discrimination because it does not happen on United States soil. Moreover, guestworkers often times receive different pay based on their national origin, and women are frequently put into H-2B jobs (non-agricultural) because they pay less than H-2A jobs. (Bauer 2007)

In addition to discrimination, women guestworkers report being continuously sexually harassed. After meeting with farm workers in Fresno, California, William R. Tamayo, a regional attorney for the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), stated that, "We were told that hundreds, if not thousands, of women had to have sex with supervisors to get or keep jobs and/or put up with a constant barrage of grabbing and touching and propositions for sex by supervisors." Additionally, Tamayo was told that there is a field in California that the guestworkers refer to as "fil de calzon," or "field of panties," because so many women had been raped by there by their supervisors. (Bauer 2007)

Another requirement set by the H-2 guestworker program is that employees of the H-2A program (the agricultural workers) are to receive free housing that is in good condition for the period of the contract. The housing is often times inadequate, and some workers have reported that as many as 20 workers must share a "house" and many more report having to live in accommodations such as old school busses. Guestworkers who are hired on the H-2B program are not required to receive free housing, but many employers still offer it purely out of necessity - the workers are paid so little they cannot find housing on their own. The employers who offer housing to the H-2B workers are allowed to charge them rent which, of course they do. The rent, which is often excessive, is deducted from the workers' paycheck, and the workers end up earning much less than they expected; it often works out to be less than the minimum wage.

Moreover, employers often locate guestworker's housing in isolated rural areas. This causes the workers to be extremely dependent on their employer since they usually don't have cars and there is insufficient public transportation available to them in these rural areas. In addition to being exploited by their employers, the workers must also rely on them for transportation for trips to the grocery store and banks. Having the guestworkers so dependent on the employer gives the employer absolute power over their workers. Furthermore, many guestworkers report that the housing given to them lacks electricity, bathrooms, and even windows. For example, some of the guestworkers who were hired to help clean up after Hurricane Katrina actually had to live in the hotels that had been damaged by the hurricane. These hotels were dirty, moldy, and filled with garbage. The water was not safe to drink, but the workers had no choice but to use it to cook their food. (Bauer 2007)

Due to the fact there is so much illegal immigration in the United States, there is much debate in congress about what we should do with our H-2 guestworker program. President Bush implemented changes to it before he left office that President Obama and our new representatives do not agree with, so the debate continues. However, what congress really needs to consider is whether or not we can really fix a broken program that has had allowed such terrible abuses to migrant workers. Moreover, since these abuses have been ongoing since the 1940s, maybe we should consider a completely new approach to the guestworker dilemma. While researching what might work to fix the H-2 program I discovered what seems like a promising alternative to our current program. A Futurist and an International Affairs Student, named King Taj, suggests that a possible solution would be to allow the migrant workers to move freely from the United States to their home country. He calls this a "Circular Pattern." This would allow the migrant workers to maintain a relationship with their families, and maintain social ties with their home country. He states, "This can lead to eventual permanent repatriation for many reasons. First, it may help migrants maintain a sense of belonging to their original communities. It may also encourage migrants to develop business relationships and look for financial opportunities in their home countries. For immigrants in the United States, a circular pattern means being able to return home without the risk of being shut out when trying to return to the United States. Daniel Griswold argues that most Mexicans who come to the United States do not have plans to stay permanently, and that the goal is typically to return home and rejoin families and communities. The implication here is that migrant workers are afraid to return home for fear they will not be able to easily return to the United States." (Taj, 2007)

This seems like a promising idea since we have a history about this too. Before the introduction of the Border Patrol in 1924, and before the introduction Bracero Program in 1942, Mexican laborers were free to cross the border, work, and return home. Most laborers did not stay in the United States. They just wanted and needed to work and then would return home to their families, friends, and their own familiar culture. The United States created the problem of illegal immigrants by making it hard for the laborers to reenter the United States after they returned home. Perhaps our representatives in Washington D.C. should look at what has worked in the past before making decisions about what we should do in the future.

Clearly, the H-2 guestworker program contains many flaws in it that allow employers to exploit migrant workers who want to work in the United States. Although changes to the policy could offer more protections to the guestworkers, I do not believe this program should be expanded, or even used at all in the United States. Moreover, when immigrants come to America, they become part of our society and culture. Even the immigrants who are here illegally can become part of our society; if not them, their children who are born here can. Unless we can change the ideology that the politicians and the corporations have engrained into our culture, a guestworker and their family will have no opportunity to become part of our American society. They will be slotted into a "caste," with no real hope of ever rising above it. They will never be viewed by Americans as equals. They will never be immigrants or future Americans; they will merely be janitors, construction workers, and housekeepers. (The New Republic, 2006)

Works Cited

1. Henslin, James M. 2009. Essentials of Sociology A down-to-Earth Approach. Allyn and Bacon:
Boston MA

2. Hines, Sarah 2006. "America's Last Guest Worker Program: A System Designed for Maximum Exploitation"

3. Bauer, Mary 2008. "Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States"

4. Coleman, David A. 2007. "To the Contrary" PBS TV show transcript

5. Taj, King 2007 Guest Worker Programs: Establishing a Circular Pattern.

6. "That's Hospitality" 2006 The New Republic

7. Jaynes, Gerald D. "Migration and Social Stratification: Bipluralism and the Western Democratic State"

December 13, 2009

The Rose City by Any Other Name Still Smells Like Segregation: Gentrification in Portland

An excellent research paper by Maggie Hodges Fall 2009

I admit it, I am a Californian transplant. Unable to afford the rising housing trends of my home state, I moved northward where rumors of better prospects existed. When I asked locals where I would be able to buy a house in the Portland Metro area, I was unanimously directed (by whites) to what was referred to as "the Ghetto," or the inner Northeast. I was informed that there was a revival of areas where the prices were cheap and the neighborhoods were on the "up and up."

After researching the history of the development of Portland, I now understand that "up and up" is code word for where young white professionals are buying up houses and remodeling the neighborhoods to reflect aspects of affluent white culture -yoga studios, art galleries, trendy hole-in-the-wall fine dining establishments, hipster coffee shops, and baby boutiques. This paper is an outsider's view on the history of gentrification in Portland's Northeast neighborhoods and the impacts on the longtime residents of the black community.

The ITS Geography Dictionary & Glossary defines gentrification as "the renovation of the housing fabric in an old, usually inner-city area, when more affluent groups displace lower income groups en masse over a relatively short period of time. May be triggered by a clear event such as the improvement or provision of a better transport link, or by something less tangible such as a fashion trend taking off in the housing market" (ITS, 2009.) Elizabeth Kirkland writes "in urban lore, the pre-gentrified neighborhood is inhabited mostly by African Americans or other people of color when the rumblings of change begin, and the rumblers are typically white--white, upper middle-class, professional homebuyers, displacing the original residents" in her article 'What's Race Got to Do With it? Looking for the Racial Dimensions of Gentrification' (Kirkland, 2008).

Through these processes, it is no far leap to surmises how gentrification could in fact re-enforce segregation as housing prices escalate and trendy consumer culture drives away cornerstone community businesses. Unable to afford rising costs, families move farther out to cheaper areas, which in effect dissolves the core of all neighborhoods- community. "As black residents leave the central areas of Portland and Seattle for the suburbs -- either because they have sold their homes or been forced out by higher rents -- their community is being splintered by geographic dispersal and racial integration" (Harden, 2006).

In class discussions we learned the importance of social structure on the maintenance of culture and how social institutions re-enforce our connection to culture. So if the social institution of Economy drives families and communities apart to different geographical areas, the culture as was defined prior will be in risk of losing power over identity of not just the culture at large, but of the individual as well. The loss of identity sparks depression, low self esteem, and isolation. In many ways, this can be seen as a means of controlling a specific population by stripping away aspects of power. Isolation in itself defies organization, which is a fundamental pillar of social change.

Last winter I took a job as a holiday delivery helper for UPS. The Mississippi/Emanuel Legacy Hospital is Curtis's (the driver) route. Curtis is a tall, thin, black man whose family moved to Portland in the mid-50's from the "deep south." He grew up in the neighborhoods where we were delivering packages and I was amazed at how many people he knew on a personal level. He called the elderly by their formal last names, who in turn greeted him with lifelong familiarity and called out greetings to pass to his family members. He pointed out cousins, childhood friends, teachers, old neighbors, old sweethearts, and congregation leaders of his past. And it was through Curtis that I learned Oregon was still segregated until 1964.

He told me about how he couldn't go into stores, movie houses, or restaurants when he was a young man and how it made him feel frustrated and angry, and yet it was perceived as normal at the time. He told me how the neighborhoods had changed and how many people had moved to other areas of Portland, including himself due to inflating housing costs. He embodied what I now recognize as a communal story of black displacement in Northeast Portland. As more white people move into these neighborhoods, that web of community is littered with gaps of connection and replaced with suspicion, doubt, and even a lack of introduction.

I have since moved into Northeast Portland over the last month and have literally not met a single neighbor on my street. And as I grow to understand the history on how parts of Portland became black communities, there is a deep sadness attached to my time with Curtis because I understand now that these communities were forced into these specific places, however, in these areas there was a vast network of family and extended family to serve as culture informers and a framework of support. And these communities had been thriving.

When Oregon became a state of the Union in 1859, the state constitution excluded the right of admittance and establishment of black Americans. This remained state law for more than 60 years (Yardley, 2008). In 1943, the "first influx of African American families moved into cramped quarters in the Guild's Lake district and... into the new wartime housing project at Vanport" to work in the shipping yards (Robbins, 2002). In the flood in 1948, Vanport- which had been the second largest city in all of Oregon- was under 15 feet of water and thousands of low income dock workers, both white and black, were suddenly homeless (McGregor, 2003).

Portland had restrictions on who could rent what and where. Ridiculously enough, this was written in what was called the real estate industry's "Code of Ethics," which forced black people into the Albina area of Portland (McGregor, 2003). If you were black, you could not rent or buy a home in any other area of the city aside from the Albina district. This was built into law and re-enforced by deed restrictions, bank loans, and policing. Even once the "Code of Ethics" had been amended to repeal these restrictions, in "1960, when over 10,000 African Americans lived in the city, 73 percent of them were still huddled together in Albina.  Because of this concentration, Portland's schools were as segregated as Alabama's" (McGregor, 2003).

It wasn't too long until the city of Portland began increasing the density of residents to smaller neighborhoods by reclaiming areas for urban renewal, beginning with the construction of the coliseum of the Rose Quarter in 1956 (Hyatt-Evenson and Griffith, 2002). The city claimed the housing in this area was substandard, and presumably the people living there too. If the norms of a culture, in this instance white elite Portland developers, is to regard the black community as insignificant, than the range of acceptable behavior is to ignore or possibly even fail to acknowledge the impact of literally wiping out neighborhoods for the sake of a sports arena. It is highly possible that the attitude atmosphere at the time was one of complete ignorance and lack of caring towards the displacement of black residents. William Toll outlines the city's continual moves against the black community over the next twenty years of development:

"Between 1956 and the early 1970s a series of massive construction projects decimated the Albina district. In 1956 voters approved bonds to build the Memorial Coliseum, which was located on the oldest portion of the neighborhood. In the 1960s the interstate highway to Seattle was routed away from downtown Portland to the east bank of the Willamette River through central Albina. In the 1970s Emanuel Hospital expanded to absorb still more housing, and construction began on the Fremont Bridge. Its ramps to Interstate-5 shredded the southern end of Albina, pushing still more black families to the northeast (Toll, 2003)."

And Portland isn't the only city to take such actions against the black community. Birmingham, between 1926 and the mid 1970's, zoned and constructed highways directly through the center of black neighborhoods to perpetuate racial segregation (Connerly, 2009). This was happening to black communities all over the nation- it was purposeful and damaging to the integrity of the established neighborhoods.

So it is no wonder why in the 1980's so much of the inner Northeast of Portland was falling into disrepair and abandonment with empty lots and boarded up houses. The people who had been living here had been forced to relocate multiple times! With so many empty houses, the property values of the neighborhoods fell which attracted many developer's eyes. "In the mid to late 1980's, it was possible to buy houses in Portland that were in sound condition for under $30,000" (Howe, 2004: 187). However, the unwritten policy of banks financing mortgages set the loan minimum to $25,000, as such, "someone who could qualify to buy a $25,000 car could not obtain a loan for a $16,000 house. It was a system of red lining without the red lines (Lane, 1990)" (Howe, 2004:193).

The 1990's brought more of the me's (that is Californians) to Portland in the form of Dot-Commer's (not me) who were young, 20-34, with pockets full of fast made money. This influx of population drove prices higher, and moderate to low income families weren't able to participate in the property purchasing. "Between 1990 and 1996 housing prices rose so rapidly that north and northeast neighborhoods saw prices double and in some places triple" (Gibson and Abbott, 2002) (Seltzer, 2004:69). With African American homeownership growing only 1.6% compared with white homeownership's 6.9% increase in the 1990's, it is clear that the accumulation of equity in the form of property was slanted toward white favor (Howe, 2004:190-191). This directly affects the social class and social stratification placement of the large group of black families that could not afford to purchase a home, and as we discussed in class, the access to control over resources is closely tied to power and prestige. These neighborhoods were primed for the reverse of white flight in the form of white flood. And as I write this from my apartment just off of Mississippi Ave, I know I am part of the problem facing the black community in Portland.

So what is to be done regarding gentrification in Portland? There are many currently working on this issue. The Restorative Listening Project is designed to provide the opportunity for those affected by gentrification to engage in dialogue with the "gentrifiers" in an effort to establish an understanding of the experienced impact. How much will this help? I can't imagine it will stop gentrification or black displacement but it may provide an awareness to the white people moving into these historically black neighborhoods. As for me, when the time comes to buy a house, I think I will look into other areas of Portland. Until then, it's about time I meet the neighbors and find a way to engage in the community around me. While I will always be considered "white," although it wasn't too long ago that my Hungarian ancestors were not, I can be considered a good neighbor and a part of the community.

Works Cited:
Connerly, Charles E. 2009. "From Racial Zoning to Community Empowerment: The Interstate Highway System and the African American Community in Birmingham, Alabama." Portland State University Urban Planning Department class notes.

Curtis, the UPS driver. 2008.

Harden, Blaine. 2006. "In Parts of U.S. Northwest, a Changing Face: Economics Drive White Gentrification of Core Black Neighborhoods of Seattle and Portland." The Washington Post. Monday, June 19.

Howe, Deborah. 2004. "The Reality of Portland's Housing Market." The Portland Edge: Challenges and Successes in Growing Communities. Edited by Connie P. Ozawa. Pages 184-205. Island Press: Washington, DC.

Hyatt-Evenson, Tania and Sarah Griffith. 2002. "Albina Residents Picket Emanuel Hospital." Oregon Historical Socitey. http://www.ohs.org/education/oregonhistory/historical_records/dspDocument.cfm?doc_ID=0004CBF8-16F2-1ECD-A42A80B05272006C

ITS Tutorial School. 2009. " 'G' , Geography Dictionary." http://www.tuition.com.hk/geography/g.htm

Kirkland, Elizabeth. 2008. "What's Race Got to Do With it? Looking for the Racial Dimensions of Gentrification." The Western Journal of Black Studies. 32(2):18-30.

McGregor, Michael. 2003. "The Vanport Flood & Racial Change in Portland." Oregon Historical Society. http://www.ohs.org/education/oregonhistory/learning_center/dspResource.cfm?resource_ID=000BC26B-EE5A-1E47-AE5A80B05272FE9F

Robbins, William G. 2002. "Cramped Quarters." Oregon Historical Society. http://www.ohs.org/the-oregon-history-project/narratives/this-land-oregon/oregon-depression-war/cramped-quarters.cfm

Seltzer, Ethan. 2004. "It's Not an Experiment: Regional Planning at Metro, 1990 to the Present." The Portland Edge: Challenges and Successes in Growing Communities. Edited by Connie P. Ozawa. Pages 184-205. Island Press: Washington, DC.

Toll, William. 2003. "Subtopic : Portland Neighborhoods, 1960s-Present: Race and Progressive Resistance." Oregon Historical Society. http://www.ohs.org/education/oregonhistory/narratives/subtopic.cfm?subtopic_ID=220

Wolf, Rowan. 2009. SOC 204 class discussions and notes.

Yardley, William. 2008. "Racial Shift in a Progressive City Spurs Talks", New York Times. http://www.srwolf.com/wolfsoc/articlearchives/2008/06/racial_shift_in_a_progressive.html

December 12, 2009

The Socialization of Bureaucracies

An excellent research paper by A. Abero Fall 2009

When you go into any franchise market, restaurant, or store, you often encounter this rather impersonal and insincere attitude from the workers in these establishments. You are often thought of as a number, another customer that is adding to the company's profit, and not as a human being or individual. I remember going into a Walmart store in Virginia Beach, VA a long time ago, and experiencing first hand just how impersonal a big franchise could be. The cashier barely looked at me in the face, and had this rather monotonous tone in their voice that voided them of any personality. Most big companies are typically set up bureaucratically. This means that jobs are divided up, and the hard labor tasks are done by workers that make the company functional who, incidentally, all working under the supervision of CEOs and managers. After having experienced such an undesirable situation at a Walmart store, I made a conscious decision to start supporting local businesses because of the personal interaction and care you get from the workers when you buy from them, and not to mention you are supporting the local economy and making it thrive. The rise and expansion of big companies and franchises such as McDonald's and Walmart, has clearly made a negative impact on society by standardizing the way people live their lives.

What is the definition of bureaucracy? According to the text, "Essentials of Sociology. A Down-to-Earth Approach" by James M. Henslin, a bureaucracy is, "A formal organization with a hierarchy of authority and a clear division of labor: emphasis on impersonality of positions and written rules, communication, and records." (Henslin P. 124-125). Thinking about the definition that the text gives, it is hard not to notice just how prominent bureaucracies are in everyday society. We are exposed to bureaucratic ideology everyday of our lives, whether we experience it at our jobs, or when we are doing our routine grocery shopping at the nearby food market chain. At work, you have a boss who manages you, and they have a boss who manages them. Unless you are a manager, you are considered just another worker out of many who is there to do your task to keep the company going. When you are sitting in class, you and all the other students are expected to face the front of the class, and listen to the teacher speak as participants of this formalized type of learning. As students of this rigid educational system, you are expected to all retain the same material that is taught in class and take the same exact test as all your fellow classmates.

Henslin (P. 124-125) describes the typical characteristics of bureaucracies. "Bureaucracies have: Clear levels, with assignments flowing downward and accountability flowing upward. A division of labor. Written rules. Written communications and records. Impersonality and replaceability." These characteristics hold true for most big companies because this is how most of them are able to function and stay alive. With big companies, you always have a head person (usually a CEO or a manager), and they have to do the least amount of labor-intensive work. Rarely do any of the owners or CEOs have any communication or interaction with the labor workers who work below them who help keep the company functioning, and very rarely any of the consumers. Most of the labor workers of these companies are often worked to death and paid grossly low wages for the amount of work they put out for the company. Most of the ways that the CEOs of big companies get in touch with the workers is through impersonal e-mails or fliers and bulletins for the employees to read.

With this impersonal way of communication, it leaves much to be desired for the workers to believe that the company actually cares about their overall well-being. To the CEO's and managers of these franchise companies, they do not see their workers as actually human beings/individuals, they see them as expendable entities that if they are not helping the company with their monetary gain or accretion, that they can easily replace those workers who are not helpful, and hire new workers that will. When those companies are gaining profit, most of it goes to the CEOs, leaving the workers frustrated, depressed, and usually poor because of their low wages and hard working environments. Most big companies only care about branching out, becoming more famous, and of course, becoming wealthier.

This sort of mentality has bled into mainstream culture. We have billions upon billions of fast food chains for those who do not have time to cook, and want something quick, easy, and know you will always get the same product every time. We live in a world where we expect everything to be consistent and reliable. We are always looking for something grander, trying to beat out others, to gain status and power, and taking down anyone along the way. The flaw of this type of mentality in everyday social interaction (personal and professional) with each other, is that we as a society have become stripped of any feeling or empathy, which is a pertinent characteristic of what makes us individuals, what makes us human beings. We have become a society that mainly thinks about themselves, and not really care or are aware of the well being of others. We are so submersed in our own selfish needs, that we often forget that there is world with people and living things that surrounds us.

An example of a type of bureaucracy is chain supermarkets or stores. When you go into a huge store chain such as Walmart or WinCo foods, you walk in, and immediately upon putting one foot into the store; you get this sort of impersonal vibe that inundates you the whole time you are there. You immediately sense the lack of diversity, and this overwhelming feeling that you are a small ant wandering through this huge dirt hill. I get the same feeling inside me whenever I walk through a Walmart or WinCo food, which is why I avoid shopping at these particular places all together. As soon as you walk into a Walmart, you notice a similarity in everything around you. All the isles in the store look alike with the same products stocked in the shelves, and all of the employees are dressed the same with their blue vests. After a couple minutes of being in the store, you start to have a hard time distinguishing between the different employees because they all start to blend together and look the same. A quote that is referenced in the article, "Eleven Inherent Rules of Corporate Behaviors" by Jerry Mander by the president of Nabisco Corporation:

"One world of homogenous consumption... [I am] looking forward to the day when Arabs and Americans, Latinos and Scandinavians, will be munching on Ritz crackers as enthusiastically as they already drink Coke or brush their teeth with Colgate" (Mander, P.4).

This quote epitomizes one of the main characteristics of bureaucracies - homogenization. Big companies have this idea that everything needs to look, feel, act, and smell the same, the less variation the better. They want to be able to have consistency, and reproducibility in their ideas and products because that is what they know will sell and will help their company grow. The same idea becomes embedded into their workers as well. Going back to Walmart, when you go to ask a cashier a question about where a certain item is located, you get this sort of friendly-fake yet monotonous tone in their voice when they respond to you.

They have to act a certain way towards the customers, and usually have a spiel to do because that is what is expected of them, and after a while, the employees will start using that same monotonous tone in their everyday personal interactions, and even catch themselves using that same spiel in a setting outside of work. I know I caught myself using that monotonous voice when I worked at Burgerville and Meier & Frank. Walmart has also been know to branch out to more areas, and put out numerous ads in the newspapers and television to make themselves more prominent all over, as if they weren't already.

I have been working at Kaiser Permanente as a Certified Nursing Assistant for about two years now. Kaiser Permanente, as you might know, is a big HMO. Kaiser is well known and is located all over the United States, and came up with the lingo "Thrive" as a way to distinguish the company from the rest. When I first started working at Kaiser as a Certified Nursing Assistant, it definitely was a challenge to get all of the tasks assigned to me done by the end of the shift. We always had set tasks that were mandatory for CNAs to complete before the end of our shifts, and a majority of the time, I would barely get everything done. Since I work on the busy post-operative nursing unit, things can get pretty hectic, and quite unpredictable.

When I first started working at Kaiser, I was handed a sheet that had all the assigned tasks for what each CNA on each shift is supposed to do, and even had a time frame of when we are supposed each tasks. With my first three months working on the unit, I was trying my hardest to complete all of my assigned tasks, and answer call lights in a timely manner. I would religiously look at that sheet, and even had my own copy that I would carry with me as a reminder if what I should be doing at what time. As I worked longer and longer, and gained more work experience on the post-operative unit, I no longer needed the sheet because it was embedded into my brain of what I am supposed to do as an employed CNA at Kaiser. In the article, "The McDonaldization of Society" by Robert Keel, it describes today's society as being developed through the process of rationalization, "A far reaching process whereby traditional modes of thinking were being replaced by an ends/means analysis concerned with efficiency and formalized control." (Keel, P.1).

Having worked so long on the floor, and becoming accustomed to the pace and the demands of the floor, I have reprogrammed myself to be quicker and more efficient at work in order to succeed as a CNA on the floor. I would sometimes have 15 patients that I would have to do routine vitals on, that sometimes I would come in, say a few words to the patient, and leave. I do not have a choice in this matter because I am on a time frame of when I am supposed to start and end getting my vitals signs finished, regardless of how many patients I have during a shift. Sometimes when I am extremely busy (which is all the time on my floor), I have to sometimes stop for a minute and remind myself to slow down, and remember that I am there to take care of patients and not robots. The patients that I am caring for are human beings, and most of the time human beings can be unpredictable. You cannot control or expect human beings to look and act all the same, all the time. When I come to work, I usually get in this frame of mind and think in my head of all the tasks I have to accomplish that evening, I sometimes become this robot, and will just go through the motions of the shift.

On my unit, we have experienced a lot cutting of core staff and the amount of hours we are supposed to spend with each patient with each shift we work. With that said, we have less time to spend with patients, and when we are busy, we have little time to converse with the patient. Saying only few words, and being curt to the patients because you are pressed for time can be perceived by the patient as you having a snooty, holy-than-thou attitude. Having this mentality ingrained into your personality is less than desirable when it comes to everyday life, and I have noticed lately that I have let this exact mentality bleed into my own personal everyday interactions. I no longer have this sense of creativity or spontaneity I once had before I started working at Kaiser.

In the article, "George Ritzer's Theory of McDonaldization: A Modern Weberian Theory?" by Cecilia Phenix of the Associated Content, it states that:

"People in society are now concerned with predictability to the point that it seems as society is begging to stay within the proverbial lines. Society has whitewashed all unique characteristics that once colored our movies, malls, dinners, houses and campsites." (Phenix, P.3)

I noticed that in my relationships with my family and friends, my mannerism has changed quite a bit from before, and tend to be very abrupt and curt. I lost a part of my bubbly, carefree personality that I once had that was endearing to my friends and family. Since working at Kaiser, I have been more aware of my mannerisms, and how I have this sort of controlled personality. I tend to get uneasy if something is not done correctly or put away. When I come to class, I want to sit in the exact same chair, and was discombobulated when someone sat in the chair one day. Even with my room, I often will have to straighten up my room when I come home from work because my manger told us that we need to pick up the patients room, and make sure their tidy before the next shift comes on.

Kaiser is very strict about coming onto work on time. We are not considered late if we clock in no more than seven minutes past our scheduled shift time. I also notice that I have picked up a little road rage because I would sometimes be rushing to work just so that I do not clock in past those seven minutes. With doing just regular, everyday tasks that I do, I have this sort of tendency to rush everything and try do to everything as quickly as possible, and this is because at my work, we are always rushing, always pressed for time, and always trying to get everything done before the end of our shift to clock out exactly at 11:30pm. Having been employee of Kaiser for a while and experiencing working in a big HMO, I do not think that Kaiser is living up to their motto of "Thrive".

The article, "Markets, Bureaucracies, and Clans" by William G. Ouchi of Administrative Science Quarterly, talks about how big companies are hiring new workers and "socializing them to accept the company's goals", and then eventually the "employees' natural (socialized) inclination is to do what is best for the firm." (Ouchi, P.132) This has great negative affects because big companies are always trying to convince people to buy their products, or conform to their beliefs by blatantly advertising their "hidden" agenda.

A friend of my mine who worked at Walmart told me that during her time of employment with the company, she had five different bosses that were above her. If she did something wrong, she would only get told what she did was wrong by one boss, but by five different bosses. Having being told so many times what is expected of her as an employee, and also what the standards of the company are, eventually she started to notice that she would do things that were above and beyond her tasks. Having been told what to do so many times, it was eventually embedded into her head, and eventually she did not even have to think about it because it just became automatic. My friend did not even know how to express her concerns or opinions in any matters pertaining to work because she was "socialized" into Walmart's expectations. This is a big way, I think, that huge companies use their money and power to control and exploit their workers in order to gain more money and more dominance in society.

In mainstream society, I feel that people have become dehumanized and desensitized because we no longer have to think for ourselves. We are constantly bombarded with these big companies and images all around us telling us what we should do, eat, think and feel. We have lost our compassion towards each other because we are always thinking about ourselves, and trying to get ahead. We have let bureaucratic ideology control us in all aspects of our professional and personal lives, that it has marred the meaning of what it means to be a human. Writing this paper has made me set a personal goal for myself to not let this mentality continue to overtake my life. Although it has affected parts of my being, it is never too late to change and step away from this ideology, and to be more a person, an individual, a human being.

Henslin, James M. (2009). Essentials of Sociology. A Down-to-Earth Approach. New York: Pearson

Keel, Robert. (n.d.). The McDonaldization of Society. Retrieved 11/28/2009 from

Mander, Jerry. (n.d.). Eleven Inherent Rules of Corporate Behavior. Retrieved 11/28/2009 from http://dieoff.org/page12.htm

Ouchi, William G. (March 1980). Markets, Bureaucracies, and Clans. Administrative Science Quarterly. Vol. 25 No.1 P.129-141. Retrieved 11/28/2009 from http://glennschool.osu.edu/faculty/brown/home/Org%20Theory/Readings/Ouchi1980.pdf

Phenix, Cecilia. (May 14, 2007). George Ritzer's Theory of McDonalization: A Modern Weberian Theory?. Associated Content. Retrieved 11/28/2009 from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/240243/george_ritzers_theory_of_mcdonaldization_pg3_pg3.html?cat=4