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Local Challenges to Labor Organizing in Mexican Immigrant Enclaves: Kaolin

Historically, labor organizing in U.S. agriculture has proven to be a daunting challenge for countless farmworkers (McCurry & Rubenstein, 1975; Edid, 1994). Early attempts in the last century were mired in violence and bloodshed, and victories were brief and unsustainable. The successes of the 1960s, such as the United Farmworkers Union (UFW) and Farm Labor Organization Committee (FLOC), which are at the forefront of farm labor organizing today, have suffered setbacks of their own in the workplace and courts (Mooney & Majka, 1995; Edid, 1994). Nonetheless, their relentless endeavors, together with creative approaches, have allowed these unions, such as the Kaolin Mushroom Workers Union (KMWU) in Southeastern Chester County, Pennsylvania, are struggling. Besides resistance from growers, these unions are encountering local-level challenges specific to agriculture regions with growing Mexican immigrant enclaves and crop industries that hire transnational migrants. Transnational workers and immigrants, if not incorporated into organizing activities, keep a viable farm labor union from emerging in these regions.

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