Belabored: Supply Chain Chaos, with Charmaine Chua

Belabored: Supply Chain Chaos, with Charmaine Chua

A discussion on global shipping, just-in-time manufacturing, and why fixing the supply chain means rethinking endless growth.

Containers stacked up in the Port of Long Beach in California on November 15, 2021. (Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

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The news these days is full of stories about the supposed supply chain crisis. But those stories come with little to no explanation of what that actually means, and of course the thing generally known as “the supply chain” isn’t a thing at all, but an impossibly complex web of workers and technology that stretches around the world. Today we’re beginning an intermittent series on supply chains, starting with Charmaine Chua, an assistant professor in the University of California Santa Barbara’s Department of Global Studies and a scholar of global logistics systems at work on a book titled Logistics Leviathan: Circulation, Empire, and the TransPacific Supply Chain. She joined us to discuss global shipping, just-in-time manufacturing, and why there’s no normal to get back to.

We also check in on the latest from Bessemer, Alabama, as an NLRB director orders a new union election, and a Board decision that workers have the right to wear “Black Lives Matter” swag on the job. We hear from Zenei Triunfo-Cortez of National Nurses United and Varsha Gandikota-Nellutla of Progressive International about a push from nurses’ unions for global vaccine equity and the latest on the Burgerville workers’ union. For Argh, we consider whether we really need 24-7 shopping, and whether we should be panicking about high wages causing inflation.

We’re going to be doing a special end-of-year virtual live show on December 16, 7 p.m. (EST). We’ll be joined by Rutgers University professor and union leader Rebecca Givan and Strikewave’s C.M. Lewis to talk all things Great Resignation and “Striketober,” plus we’ll take your questions! Register here.

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Varsha Gandikota-Nellutla, Carers of the World vs. Covid-19 Criminals, Progressive International 

Nurses from 28 countries file UN complaint alleging human rights violations by EU and four countries for ‘the loss of countless lives’ in the pandemic, Global Nurses United

Noam Scheiber, Union Vote at Amazon Warehouse in Alabama Is Overturned by Regional Labor Office, New York Times

Sarah Jaffe, It’ll Take a Movement: Organizing at Amazon After Bessemer, New Labor Forum

Jaffe, ‘Horror Story After Horror Story’: A Frontline Nurse Discusses the CrisisNation

Nick Bowman, Labor board: Fred Meyer, QFC ban on Black Lives Matter buttons violated lawMYNorthwest 



Charmaine Chua

Chua, Organizing Against Amazon Requires Strategizing Across Global Supply Chains, Jacobin

Chua, The Ever Given and the Monstrosity of Maritime CapitalismBoston Review

E. Tammy Kim, The Supply-Chain Crisis Is Creating a Rare Opportunity for Truck Drivers, New York Times 

Grace Kay, Why the supply chain is in crisis, spurring an ‘everything shortage’, Business Insider

Chris Stokel-Walker, Good Luck Trying to Fix the Supply Chain CrisisWired


Argh, I wish I’d written that!

Michelle: Rebecca Gordon, Why Do We Need a 24/7 Economy?, TomDispatch

Sarah: Matthew Boesler, Joe Deaux, and Katia Dmitrieva with Josh Eidelson, Fattest Profits Since 1950 Debunk Wage-Inflation Story of CEOs, Bloomberg