Chapter 25: Immigrants and ‘American’ Franchises: Experiences from the Field
Jennifer Parker Talwar In an earlier paper I discussed my accidental entrance into the study of immigrant labor while I was a graduate student working at a Burger King and studying poverty at the bottom rungs of the growing service economy. As I explained then it had not occurred to me to study immigrant workers until my on-the-job experience provoked this interest. During my three months of employment I witnessed this workforce transform from a predominately African-American staff to a diverse group of immigrants from all over the world with seeming effects on the chances for mobility for different groups of workers, including immigrants and the native born. My paper focused on some of the theoretical quandaries I faced trying to develop a framework for a topic that had not been studied before and how my research methodology (including fieldwork) evolved out of my theoretical questions. On an applied level I discussed issues of access and rapport; two methodological concerns I struggled with attempting to implement an interview-based research design in a giant corporate franchise organization characterized by low-wage, low-status, temporary, and part-time employment. I also provided examples of ‘unintended’ research findings that evolved directly from my choices in methodological approach in order to illustrate the inextricable link between research methods and results. This research culminated in a book titled Fast Food Fast Track: Immigrants, Big Business, and the American Dream (Westview Press, 2002) and provided a foundation for a postdoctoral fellowship with the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), International...
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