Virginia Parks is an Associate Professor at the School of Social Service Administration.
Her fields of special interest include urban geography, urban labor markets, immigration, racial and gender inequality, residential segregation, and community organizing and development. She teaches courses at SSA in policy formulation and implementation and in community organizing and development
TITLE: “Trajectories of Wal-Mart Site Fight Campaigns: Making Sense of Regulatory Strategies from Below”
ABSTRACT: In response to growing wage inequality and stagnation of the federal minimum wage, why have social movement actors organized at the urban scale around different regulatory “solutions,” ranging from a variety of public living wage ordinances to privately negotiated community benefits agreements? I develop a framework that explains regulatory and policy innovation among social movement actors as a tactic to maximize bargaining power by constraining or expanding the scope of conflict. This approach emphasizes the scope of conflict, as conceived by Schattschneider, as a continuum bounded by opposing tendencies toward the privatization or socialization of conflict. Using a comparative case study of community-labor economic justice campaigns (initiated by Wal-Mart site fights) in Los Angeles and Chicago, I show how this framework explains the emergence of seemingly disparate public and private regulatory innovations as organizing tactics to win collective benefits for union and non-union workers. Though social movement actors frequently seek to expand the scope of conflict to offset their relative powerlessness, I show how they can sometimes maximize bargaining leverage by constraining, or privatizing, the scope of conflict in the short term.