Changing Hiring Practices in the Food Industry, 1920-1970
This podcast is an excerpt from a lunchtime Southern Food and Civil Rights book talk (if you would like to host a similar event contact us). Among the topics covered include Arjun Appadurai’s theory of “Gastro-Politics,” meaning, “food related politics in which hierarchies, status and traditions are created and contested.” Author Fred Opie uses the theory to look at changes in hiring and promotion practices in the US food industry between the 1920s and 1970s. Opie discusses the company standards in terms of hiring and promotion at A&P, Silver Dollar, and the Safeway grocery store chains as well as the Thompson’s Restaurant chain and others. He looks at restaurant occupational hierarchies in terms of the hiring of management, skilled labor at the back of the house, the workforce at the front of the house, particularly servers, and those hired to do menial labor all over the house. His talk on first chapter of Southern Food and Civil Rights looks at the transition from conciliatory strategies for change before the 1920s and the introduction of the radical direct action strategy which he links to India’s independence movement and the 1917 salt March against British mercantilism. A key to understanding the success of the first direct action movement which occurred in Chicago in the late 1920s is the role of African-American newspapers. These newspapers documented the credibility of the direct action strategy and increased its popularity in African-American communities across the country. The historic role of journalist and media outlets explain why some politicians have recently tried to undermine its government watchdog responsibilities in a functioning democracy.