Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Charles Gallagher - Chair

Second Advisor

Lesley Reid

Third Advisor

Ian C. Fletcher

Fourth Advisor

Robert Adelman


This dissertation analyzes the changes introduced in the U.S.-Mexico food-chain, and the ways in which the multinational corporations that control the food industrial complex from seed to shelves have altered the labor dynamics of farm-workers. Over the past two decades, U.S. agribusiness and big retail-chains such as Wal-Mart have reached the top of the food pyramid and have come to control the process of production, supply, and distribution of agricultural inputs and perishable food. My study analyzes the impact of U.S. agribusiness on growers and farm-workers, focusing on how the integration of agriculture into a “free-trade” world economy has affected the working conditions of farm-labor. It explores how migrant farm-workers have responded to their deteriorating labor conditions with a campaign led by the Farm-Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) that involved innovative cross-border grassroots tactics and strategy. It traces how this campaign culminated in the achievement of the first labor contract for guest-workers in U.S. history. Based on participant observation, interviews with the workers and their union leaders, and the analysis of workers’ grievances, I conclude that such a reorganization of the farm-labor movement at the grassroots level is crucial to the creation of a food-chain that is capable of satisfying the needs of production and consumption for the global population.