The Case of Somalia Workers in Middle Tennessee: taxi drivers and poultry workers

Poster: Manifestation Pour L'Egalité
October 15, 2014
Dan Cornfield

Department of Sociology
Vanderbilt University

This paper describes two labor campaigns of recent Somali immigrants working in Tennessee. In the first case, Somali and Ethiopian taxi drivers who are independent contractors faced resistance to traditional unionization and instead create an independent, non-profit organization, the Nashville Metro Taxi Drivers Alliance (NMTDA). The NMTDA works to address workers concerns of poverty wages and poor employment conditions.

The second case covers Tyson poultry workers in rural Shelbyville and describes the complexity of RWDSU's effort to integrate immigrant workers' cultural practices into the collective bargaining agreement. After successfully gaining a paid Muslim religious holiday through collective bargaining, a high profile "nativist" public opposition interfered with the union's ability to implement the change.

See a brief, grassroots documentary video on these workers