Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dana Frank: Bananeras

(I'm currently developing a course on "social movements" and would appreciate any suggestions of movements, books, websites, films, music, art, etc... I haven't read the book below, but it is on my short-list...)

"I want to learn how to defend myself from whoever tries to oppress me, whether it's my husband, my union, or my boss."—a bananera

Women banana workers—mujeres bananeras—are waging a powerful revolution by making gender equity central in Latin American labor organizing. Their successes disrupt the popular image of the Latin American woman worker as a passive bystander and broadly re-imagine the possibilities of international labor solidarity.

Over the past twenty years, bananeras have organized themselves and gained increasing control over their unions, their workplaces, and their lives. Highly accessible and narrative in style, Bananeras: Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America recounts the history and growth of this vital movement.

Starting in 1985 with one union in La Lima, Honduras, and expanding domestically through the late 1990s, experienced activists successfully reached out to younger women with a message of empowerment. In a compelling example of transnational feminism at work, the bananeras crossed borders to ally with banana workers in five other banana exporting countries in Latin America, arguing all the while that empowering women at every level of their organizations makes for stronger unions, the better to confront the ever-encroaching multinational corporations.

When the bananeras of Latin America, with their male allies, explicitly integrate gender equity into their organizing work as essential to effective labor internationalism-when they refuse to separate the global struggle against transnational corporations from the formidable efforts at home to achieve equity and respect-they inspire all of us to envision a new framework for internationalism that places women's human rights at the center of global class politics.

Banana workers are waging a quiet revolution in Latin American labor organizing by making women's issues central. Their successes disrupt the popular image of the Latin American woman worker as a passive bystander and offer a new model for international labor solidarity.

Excerpt from the Introduction

"I hope Dana Frank's highly readable and moving book will find its way into the hands of those who know nothing about how, by whom, and under what conditions bananas are grown, as well as by those who do know something and seek to know more from the workers themselves.… Bananeras is a vital accounting of the struggles still being waged."
—Margaret Randall, author of When I Look Into the Mirror and See You: Women, Terror, and Resistance

"This is a wonderful book—entertaining, enlightening, and inspiring. A unique blend of personal stories grounded in a solid analysis of the globalization of the banana economy, the rise of a regional banana workers movement, and the intense internal struggle for gender justice within Latin America's historically male-dominated unions. I couldn't put it down, really!"
—Stephen Coats, Executive Director, US/Labor Education in the Americas Project

Dana Frank is a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Buy American: The Untold Story of Economic Nationalism (Beacon, 1999); Purchasing Power: Consumer Organizing, Gender, and the Seattle Labor Movement, 1919–1929 (Cambridge, 1994); and, with Howard Zinn and Robin D.G. Kelley, Three Strikes: Miners, Musicians, Salesgirls and the Fighting Spirit of Labor's Last Century (Beacon, 2001). Her work has also appeared in The Nation, the Washington Post, In These Times, New Labor Forum, and numerous scholarly journals. Long active in labor solidarity work, since 2000 she has worked with the US Labor Education in the Americas Project (US/LEAP) in support of the banana unions in Latin America.


Leslie said...
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Leslie said...

I thought this might be relevant. (Forgive me if it's not.)

There is this study on Branding, Anti-corporatism and Labor Rights - No Logo by Naomi Klein. It is an observation of the anti-corporate movements underway, with activists raging quiet storms to high-profile ones. Sweatshop labor issues are tackled too; maquiladoras, EPZs, etc.

You might have read it I'm sure. But thought it's good material for the course.

The Continental Op said...

I didn't know about Dana Frank's new book, but I will definitely add to me "to read" list. She's done some great work on consumer politics, including her book Buy American and an earlier article, "Housewives, Socialists, and the Politics of Food: the 1917 New York Cost-of-Living Protests," Feminist Studies 11/2 (1985), about a meat boycott by working class women in early 20th century NYC.

Michael Benton said...

Thanks CMYK, very useful, so much out there that i can always use reminders of what I am missing.

There is a very good documentary based on No Logo.

Continental Op,

Thanks for the info on Dana Frank's other writings...