The Relational Production of Workplace Equality: The Case of Worker-Recuperated Businesses in Argentina

Abstract

Work organizations are commonly studied as sites that produce and reproduce inequality. But we know much less about how organizations promote equality. This article examines efforts to broaden access to power, opportunity, and resources in Hotel Bauen, a worker-recuperated business that was converted from a privately-owned company into a worker-run cooperative. Drawing on extensive ethnographic and archival research, I analyze efforts to redesign and redefine work through collective decision-making, job rotation, and pay equity. The article concludes by identifying three mechanisms of equality—inclusion, opportunity distribution, and symbolic leveling—to theorize the relational production of workplace equality and complement the near-exclusive focus on inequality and its effects.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    WRBs exist in countries around the globe. On Brazil, see Henriquez et al. (2013); on France, see Azzellini (2015); on Greece, see Kokkinidis (2015); on Italy, see Vieta (2015); on Uruguay, see Rieiro (2016); on Venezuela, see Ríos and Picone (2010) and Azzellini (2012); on the single case in the U.S., see Cancino (2013).

  2. 2.

    When referencing the cooperative that operates the facility, I use the acronym (BAUEN) of its registered name: Buenos Aires Una Empresa Nacional (Buenos Aires. A National Company). I use the name Hotel Bauen to refer to the property itself.

  3. 3.

    In addition to organizational consent, this research was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the editors and anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments, which improved this manuscript. Many thanks are also due to Javier Auyero, Kate Averett, Nino Bariola, Caitlyn Collins, Jennifer Glass, Kristine Kilanski, Megan Tobias Neely, Samantha Simon, Amanda Stevenson, Inbar Weiss, and Christine Williams, all of whom provided feedback on previous drafts. This research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation (Award #1519204), the Fulbright Commission to Argentina, and the University of Texas at Austin. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

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Sobering, K. The Relational Production of Workplace Equality: The Case of Worker-Recuperated Businesses in Argentina. Qual Sociol 42, 543–565 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11133-019-09434-y

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Keywords

  • Relational inequality
  • Equality
  • Worker cooperatives
  • Worker-recuperated businesses
  • Argentina