Kara Zugman



Political Consciousness and New Social Movement Theory: The Case of Fuerza Unida

Kara Zugman’s case study of Fuerza Unida uses new social movement theory to give insight into a new form of political expression that straddles the traditional redistributive goals of labor unions and newer meaning or identity-based organizational forms, in this case one created by women of Mexican or Mexican-American descent. In the 1980s, economic restructuring led to plant closings across many industries, including the labor-intensive apparel industry. Fuerza Unida was born in the wake of a Levi Strauss and Company garment plant closure in January 1990 in San Antonio, Texas. This article addresses the occupational health and security concerns of these workers, and the ways in which the company succeeded in outflanking unions through appeals to the family and community that resonated with the cultural expectations of these women. The author points out that this organizational error, particularly in a workforce increasingly made up of immigrant women, is avoidable. She cites Latin American women and women of color in the United States who have fought for social change not by abandoning their traditional role as mothers, but by transforming the meaning of that role, often infusing it with radical politics.

Latina women; Texas; occupational health; environmental protection — environmental racism; garment industries; labor movement — United States; Levi Strauss and Company; social movements — new social movement theory; social theory — discourse theory

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 30, No. 1 (2003): 153-176