Findings & Writing
Reid-Musson, E., K. Strauss and M. Mechler. (2022). “A virtuous industry”: The agrarian work-family ethic in US rulemaking on child agricultural labour. Globalizations, Early Online View. DOWNLOAD LINK
Abstract: US rules on child agricultural labour have remained largely unchanged since the 1960s. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Labour (DOL) announced a rulemaking proposal to limit child farm labour, especially for migrant children. Yet by 2012, the DOL abandoned its proposed changes following heavy opposition. Based on a random sample and grounded thematic analysis of public submissions to the 2011 rulemaking proposal, our research explores how meanings of work and family surfaced in submissions from rural constituents. Linking Kathi Weeks’ feminist critique of the work and family ethic to the agrarian geographical imaginary, we identify how family farm operations were conceived as a locus for the making of ‘good’ American workers and national (white, settler) citizens. Our analysis explores the ideological function of these “regressive solidarities” – internalized expressions and experiences of the agrarian work-family ethic – in relation to historical and contemporary unfreedoms embedded in North American food systems.
Reid-Musson, E., E. MacEachen, M. Beckie and L. Hallström (2020). Work without workers: Legal geographies of family farm exclusions from labour laws in Alberta, Canada. Agriculture and Human Values, Early online view. DOWNLOAD LINK
Abstract: Under the Canadian labour laws that govern workplace safety, wage, and other work conditions, ‘family’ workers are not covered by the law under special rules for agriculture. Among other legal exclusions, the family farm exclusion contributes to a dearth of basic work, health, and safety standards in the sector, despite the commercialization and industrialization of family farming activities. Through a focus on Alberta, Canada—where farm labour rules have only applied to agriculture since 2016—this article explores the family exclusion in relation to family farming experiences with work and risk, based on interviews with farm operators, their family members, and farm employees in Alberta. While some participants continued to press for exemptions for farms from labour rules under the rationale that there is intrinsic safety within families, the findings also reveal how other participants have begun questioning this rationale, despite their overall support for the family farm exemption in Alberta. Using the lens of legal geography and critical perspectives on the family, we argue that the family is a significant but under-examined dynamic in the legal regimes governing farm labour and agricultural safety and health. Together, the law and dominant narratives about family farming treat farm operations as hyper-private domains, where operators have disproportionate power to dispose of their own work and the work of others how they wish. These legal geographies of hyper-privacy contribute to the indecent work conditions that characterize farm labour systems in Alberta and other jurisdictions.