Economic Dependency, Race, and Experiences of Industrial Labor in an East European (Semi)Periphery: The Case of Roma in Late Socialist Romania

Mara Marginean, Romanian Academy. George Baritiu Institute of History

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, as economic growth policies were being reconsidered worldwide, the Romanian authorities launched an ambitious program to reform the industrial labor regime. The policy makers' strategy included a new payment system for workers, the diversification of training programs, or technology imports to modernize existing factories and build new ones.Drawing on a micro-historical case study – that is, the Roma community around the mining and copper industrial facilities in Baia Mare, this chapter explores labor recruitment and management strategies (payroll, recruitment and promotion, qualification, benefits, technologization) in the mining and non-ferrous metal processing industries to capture the labor experiences of Roma in the 1970s and 1980s with a further focus on the mechanisms of their social incorporation into the emerging industrial communities. Specifically, my contribution aims to assess dependency relations between skilled (usually educated Romanians and Hungarian ethnics) and unskilled (mostly un-educated Roma) workers in Baia Mare and how this permanent state of reassessment of power eventually led to new everyday experiences for unskilled (Roma) workers. The argument put forward here is that the increasing precarity of marginal Roma communities that became visible in the post-socialist period is a direct consequence of the labor management strategies implemented by the socialist government in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of a general effort to revise the post WWII industrialization paradigm, which makes the case of Roma community in Baia Mare relevant for a more nuanced understanding of the global history of labor. This analysis builds on archival documents and oral histories testimonies.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 13. Race, Class, and Labor Market Inequality