Ellie French Humanities and Social Science|L&S Sciences
Verbal Practice and Complaint on a Waterfront Labor Union
Workers of the ILWU (International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union) carry out their jobs in frequently dangerous situations that demand high-level cooperation and effective communication. On the docks and within union meetings, members constantly engage in strategic presentation of complaints and interpersonal conflicts. My research will employ methodologies of interactional sociology and conversation analysis to analyze verbal practices within union locals, specifically the act of voicing complaints. The focus of my analysis includes the workplace discourses of radio speech, face-to-face talk, and formal presentation of grievances at union meetings.
What does a careful analysis of conversational maneuvers in the presentation and negotiation of workplace complaints reveal about a community’s process of communication, cooperation, and resolution? This project will center on the question of how narrative structuring, turn-taking, and communication styles add up to form the whole construction and navigation of a complaint. By incorporating multiple modes of workplace discourse into my analysis, I not only aim to examine common themes within the verbal practice of workplace complaint but also to create an anthropological portrait of the ILWU as a community whose relationships are constantly built-upon and whose status as a unionized labor force may influence the way in which daily conflicts and cooperative tasks are navigated.