International Labour and Logistics Research Network

The International Labour and Logistics Research Network seeks to identify and confront the complex challenges impacting workers in the global logistics industry, while simultaneously producing collaborative research advancing decent work in the contemporary economy.

An overhead view of cargo containers being loaded onto a cargo ship
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International Labour and Logistics Research Network

The International Labour and Logistics Research Network brings together scholars, researchers, policy-makers, and organisers from around the world in order to promote research and dialogue on contemporary issues facing logistics workers. The International Labour and Logistics Research Network seeks to identify and confront the complex challenges impacting workers in the global logistics industry, while simultaneously producing collaborative research advancing decent and sustainable work as well as promoting economic and social justice.

If you would like to share and receive information on upcoming events, new publications and research projects, relevant news reports and worker organising in the logistics sector, please join our listserv through google groups or by emailing: katy.fox-hodess@sheffield.ac.uk.

Upcoming Events

Watch this space for details of any upcoming events.

Precarity, Race and Resistance in the Global Logistics Industry: Case Studies from Italy, Portugal, Brazil and the UK

This online event took place on Thursday 12 May 2022.

This event had contributions from:

Dr Gabriella Cioce, ​​​an ESRC Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham Business School.

The Improvised Language of Solidarity: Translations, Lingua Franca and Humour in the Organizing Processes of Multi-Ethnic Migrant Workers

Drawing on the ethnographic study of the struggles of S.I. Cobas multi-ethnic migrant workers in the Italian logistics sector, three practices that help overcome language barriers – translation, lingua franca and humour - are identified and theorised as 'the improvised language of solidarity.

Anne Engelhardt, a PhD researcher at the Kassel University in the politics and globalisation department. Her research focuses on labour struggles at ports and airports in Brazil and Portugal.

Embodied Labour and the Metabolic Rift at the Chokepoint

Transport workers at ports and airports currently challenge precarious and increasingly dangerous working conditions. The talk discusses how the eco-Marxist concept of the metabolic rift can be employed for industrial relations and used as a junction between struggles for health and safety and just transition of transport.

Joe Morris, a PhD researcher at the University of Sheffield affiliated to the Centre for Decent Work.

Performance Management and Racialisation: Legitimisation and Subversion of Performance Management in the Sheffield City Region’s Logistics Industry

This talk presents an ethnography of the labour process and employment conditions in the logistics industry in the Sheffield City Region (SCR). It explores how the racialisation of labour unravels within the performance management regime, tracing the contradictory dynamics of managerial strategy on the experience of labour.


Book talk: The Warehouse: Workers and Robots at Amazon

This online book talk took place on Thursday 31 March 2022.

Speaker: Alessandro Delfanti, Associate Professor, Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology, University of Toronto

'Work hard, have fun, make history' proclaims the slogan on the walls of Amazon's warehouses. This cheerful message hides a reality of digital surveillance, aggressive anti-union tactics and disciplinary layoffs. Reminiscent of the tumult of early industrial capitalism, the hundreds of thousands of workers who help Amazon fulfil consumers' desire are part of an experiment in changing the way we all work.

In this book, Alessandro Delfanti takes readers inside Amazon's warehouses to show how technological advancements and managerial techniques subdue the workers rather than empower them, as seen in the sensors that track workers' every movement around the floor and algorithmic systems that re-route orders to circumvent worker sabotage. He looks at new technologies including robotic arms trained by humans and augmented reality googles, showing that their aim is to standardise, measure and discipline human work rather than replace it.

Despite its innovation, Amazon will always need living labour's flexibility and low cost. And as the warehouse is increasingly automated, worker discontent increases. Striking under the banner 'we are not robots', employees have shown that they are acutely aware of such contradictions. The only question remains: how long will it be until Amazon's empire collapses?


Precarious Infrastructures, Modern Supply Chains and Essential Labour

This online seminar took place on Wednesday 9 March 2022.

Speaker: Juan De Lara, Associate Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California

Juan De Lara is a human geographer who works at the intersections of race, space and power.

Her interdisciplinary research focuses on three broad themes. The first centres on urban political economy, racialisation and the politics of space. A second set of research interests focus on the use of data science of technology to reorganise how various state agencies are restructuring the social relations of race, immigration and labour. A third set of projects focus on public-facing research that support community-based organisations in their efforts to resolve social disparities.

His first book Inland Shift: Race, Space, and Capital in Inland Southern California is now available from UC Press. The book uses logistics and commodity chains to unpack the black box of globalisation by showing how the scientific management of bodies, space and time produced new racialised labour regimes that facilitated a more complex and extended system of global production, distribution and consumption.


The Life Cycle of Container Ships: An Anthropology of Maritime Working Lives

This online talk took place on Monday 29 November 2021.

The talk included contributions from:

Camelia Dewan is an environmental anthropologist focusing on the anthropology of development. She is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo as part of the Research Council of Norway-funded Life Cycle of Container Ship project and the author of Misreading the Bengal Delta: Climate Change, Development and Livelihoods in Coastal Bangladesh (2021, University of Washington Press).

Johanna Markkula is a maritime anthropologist and postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo, where she is part of the research project “(Dis-)Assembling the life cycle of container ships: Global ethnographic explorations into maritime working lives.” Johanna holds a PhD in anthropology from Stanford University and has carried out ethnographic research onboard cargo ships with multinational crews, as well as in the Philippines with different maritime organizations and businesses. She is currently working on a monograph, Moving worlds: Maritime work and life on the social ocean.

Elisabeth Schober is associate professor at the University of Oslo's Department of Social Anthropology, Norway. She is the author of Base encounters. The US armed forces in South Korea (Pluto Press, 2016). Schober is currently the principal investigator at Life cycle of container ships, a research project funded by the Norwegian Research Council, where she focuses on shipbuilding in South Korea and the Philippines. In 2019, she was awarded an ERC-Starting Grant for a project that centers on some of the world's most important container ports.


Geographies of Labour in the Global Logistics Industry

This online talk took place on Thursday 28 October 2021.

The talk included contributions from:

Casper Gelderblom, PhD Researcher, Department of Political and Social Sciences, European University Institute "Locality, Transnationality and Labor Solidarity: Multi-scalarity in Activist Imaginaries Across Amazon’s Supply Chain"

Spencer Potiker, PhD Researcher, Department of Global Studies, University of California, Irvine “A Multi-Scalar Conjunctural Analysis of Border Region Logistics: Supply Chains, Cities, and Labor in the Age of E-Commerce.”

Hans Stephen, PhD Researcher, Department of Sociology, University of Chemnitz "The Social Antagonisms of the Logistical Restructuring in the Region of Leipzig"

Robert Koepp, Research Fellow and PhD candidate at Berlin Social Science Center (WZB) "No job for the future? Automation strategy, workplace relations and the stability of the productive model in warehousing"


Book Talk: Workers Inquiry Perspective on the Logistics Sector

This online event took place on Thursday 23 September. The speakers discussed Workers Inquiry and the Global Class Struggle: Strategies, Tactics, Objectives, edited by Robert Ovetz.

The book talk included contributions from:

Robert Ovetz is a Senior Lecturer in Political Science and editor of Workers Inquiry and Global Class Struggle: Strategies, Tactics, Objectives (Pluto Press 2019) to which all the panelists have contributed.

Anna Curcio is a militant scholar in Italy who works on conflicts and labor transformations in the field of autonomous marxism.

Alpkan Birelma is an assistant professor at Ozyegin University, Istanbul, working on labour movements, sociology of work and social classes.

Dario Bursztyn is a Sociologist, independent researcher, and journalist based in Argentina. He is Editor of the political magazine www.purochamuyo.com and consultant for Prometeo Editorial.

Gifford Hartman, a founding member of the Global Supply Chain Study/Research Group (https://libcom.org/blog/empire-logistics), is an adult educator, labor trainer and working class historian.


Maritime Supply Chains, Labour and the Environment: Reflections on the Suez Canal Blockage

This online talk happened on Thursday 20 May 2021.


The talk included contributions from:

Professor Andrea Genovese and Akis Bimpizas, Logistics and Supply Chain Management (LSCM) Research Centre,University of Sheffield

Dr. Charmaine Chua, Dept of Global Studies, University of California - Santa Barbara

Dr. Martin Danyluk, Dept of Geography, University of Nottingham

Samantha Levens, ITF Northern California ships inspector


March-April 2021 Seminar Series 

Contemporary Labour Issues in the Global Maritime Industry

This book talk about "Capitalism and the Sea" (Verso 2020) happened on Thursday 15 April 2021.

The talk included contributions from:

Liam Campling (Professor of International Business and Development, Queen Mary University) 

Alejandro Colas (Professor of International Relations, Department of Politics, Birkbeck)


The Impact of New Technologies on Labour: Warehouse Work and Beyond

This talk happened on Thursday 1 April 2021.

The talk included contributions from:

Lisa Kresge (Researcher, UC Berkeley Labor Center)

Liz Blackshaw, Director of Global Campaigns, ITF

Craig Gent (Novara Media)

Kirsty Newsome (Professor of Employment Relations, University of Sheffield)


Building Worker Power through Supply Chain Organising

The talk happened on Thursday 18 March 2021.

This talk included contributions from:

Peter Olney (Former Director of Organising, International Longshore and Warehouse Union and faculty member at Building Trades Academy, School of Human Resources and Labour Relations, Michigan State University)

Glenn Perusek (Former Director of the AFL-CIO's Center for Strategic Research and faculty member at Building Trades Academy, School of Human Resources and Labour Relations, Michigan State University)

Ben Norman (Researcher, Unite the Union)

Katy Fox-Hodess (Lecturer in Employment Relations, University of Sheffield)


Labour Issues Facing Amazon's Global Workforce

This book talk about "The Cost of Free Shipping: Amazon in the Global Economy" (Pluto Press 2020) happened on Thursday 4 March 2021.

The talk included contributions from:

Jake Wilson (Professor of Sociology, California State University - Long Beach) 

Ellen Reese (Professor of Sociology and Chair of Labor Studies, University of California at Riverside)

Amazon Workers International (a cross-border coalition of Amazon workers)

Jörn Boewe (politologist and journalist with “Work in Progress”)

Johannes Schulten (doctoral student in Sociology, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena and journalist with “Work in Progress”)

Francesco S. Massimo (doctoral student in Sociology, Sciences Politiques and founding editor of Jacobin Italia)

Staff

Professor Jake Alimahomed-Wilson
Professor of Sociology
Department of Sociology
California State University, Long Beach
1250 Bellflower Boulevard
Long Beach, CA 90840 USA
Jake.Wilson@csulb.edu