From “Knife Men” to “Streamlining with Curves”: Structure, Skill, and Gender in British Columbia’s Meat-Packing Industry
Keywords: labour, skill, gender, technology, industrial labour process, oral history, British Columbia, food processing, labour force
AbstractThis article examines the industrial labour process in meatpacking unique to British Columbia from the angles of industrial structure, skill, and gender. The British Columbia meatpacking industry forged out and maintained a place within a changing industry with significant corporate concentration on a continental scale. Based on a diverse set of sources—including reports, industrial census data, photographs, company newsletters, and oral history interviews with owners and workers—the article finds that workers in BC also resisted the forces of corporatization and concentration at the scale of the work floor. Workers used skill to leverage management for practical gains vis-à-vis management as well as personal pride and happiness. However, skill was not evenly distributed across the industrial labour process. And since jobs were sex segregated, gender served to naturalize de-skilling by capitalism.