Cornell University

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Student Profile

Dana Ford, BS ILR January '06 with Honors

Dana Ford

Dana Ford’s international experience grant is helping her spend Summer 2005 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she is writing her senior honors thesis. Her research focuses on labor’s response to the collapse of the Argentine economy in December of 2001. In examining labor’s response, Dana will observe the attitudes and behaviors of the unemployed and the unorganized, in addition to the response of workers who belong to traditional trade unions. Specifically, she will focus on the reactions of unions to the formation and continued existence of workers’ cooperatives, which began in the wake of the 2001 collapse. While both cooperatives and unions aim to increase the power of the Argentine working class, they suggest different roadmaps. "I propose to write a thesis that understands each path, but that focuses on where the two routes intersect. Namely, how have cooperatives affected the traditional trade union movement in Argentina? What consequences will these effects have on the future direction of the Argentine labor movement? Ultimately, I aim to ask what lessons, if any, the Argentine labor movement may learn from the cooperatives to inform its plans for the future."

In seeking to answer to these questions, Dana will be participating in a program run by the Argentine Autonomista Project (AAP). The AAP is an umbrella organization, in Buenos Aires, that offers technical and financial assistance to recovered factories. As part of their program, she will live in University of Buenos Aires housing, take classes on the social and political history of Argentina since 1955, and most significantly, she will intern with a recovered factory, Chilavert Gráfica. Chilavert is a printing press in Buenos Aires that was recovered by its employees in May of 2002.

Dana writes, "My desire to work in a recovered press connects to the independent research I plan to conduct during the final two weeks of my stay in Argentina. Controlling for the work process, and presumably also for many demographic characteristics, I will research the printing industry in and around the city of Buenos Aires. Within this industry, there are workplaces that are recovered, that are organized by a union, and that operate without any system of worker organization. I plan to survey and interview workers at each type of workplace to determine how decisions are made and to what degree workers influence them. I will ask workers about their level of community participation to determine whether or not there is any connection between their workplace and civic participation. Finally, where applicable, I will ask questions relating to the scope and quality of their workplace and union participation."

"From my research I hope to gain insight into the relationships among various types of worker participation. Traveling to Argentina is a crucial part of the work that I propose to do. From the United States, I would be unable to conduct the research that I need to complete my senior honors’ thesis. As a result of its contemporary nature, the movement to recover factories does not yet have a great deal written about it. That which has been written tends to be informal, and lacks a critical perspective. My focus within the printing industry further limits the scope of materials I am able to locate outside of Argentina. Therefore, I find it necessary to travel there this summer and to meet the people, whose lives I study."

Dana's senior honors thesis is supervised by ILR Professor Maria Cook.

- Dana Ford

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