Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Warehousing and supply chain logistics

CUED is engaged in a three-year research project, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, to examine how the constraints that result from subcontracting arrangements impact both the business models and employment decisions of warehouse operators.


“Technology Adoption and the Future of Warehouse Work,” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 75, no. 4: 844-856 (2022).

  • Authors: Beth Gutelius and Nik Theodore
  • As part of ILR Review’s new special series “Novel Technologies at Work,” this article introduces a forum composed of five industry studies that examine the drivers and impact of recent and impending technological change. Each of the studies, condensed from longer reports published over the past two years, relies on interviews with sectoral actors and other primary data to determine the relevant technologies confronting workers and managers and the sorts of strategies and policies that will mediate their effects.

The Future of Warehouse Work: Technological Change in the U.S. Logistics Industry (2019)

  • Report Authors: Beth Gutelius & Nik Theodore
  • The authors project that the warehousing industry likely won’t experience dramatic job loss over the next decade, though many workers may see the content and quality of their jobs shift as technologies are adopted for particular tasks.

“Taming Globalization: Raising Labor Standards across Supply Chains,” in Fine J, Burnham L, Griffith K, Ji M, Narro V, and Pitts S, eds., No One Size Fits All: Worker Organization, Policy, and Movement for a New Economic Age, 341-358. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press (2018).

  • Author: Nik Theodore
  • This chapter examines two approaches for raising labor standards across global supply chains. Focusing on the Asia Floor Wage campaign and the workers’ rights campaign at C.J.’s Seafood, this chapter highlights efforts by labor groups to hold powerful corporations accountable for the employment practices of supplier firms. The campaigns featured here are notable because they target supply chains that span political jurisdictions, link product markets, and mobilize labor forces from various countries. Moreover, while they seek to leverage national laws and enforcement mechanisms, the strategies documented here reflect the regional character of production networks, and by doing so, they reconceptualize the terrain for worker organizing, bargaining, and activism.

"Disarticulating distribution: Labor segmentation and subcontracting in global logistics." Geoforum 60 (2015): 53-61.

  • Author: Beth Gutelius
  • An enduring focus of scholarly work on global production networks (GPNs) is the process of insertion into production networks and the capacity of places to shape their manner of inclusion. Sometimes overlooked are ways in which these insertions are based on an evolving set of exclusions. A disarticulations perspective trains our attention on the mutual interplay between moments of inclusion and exclusion that produce uneven geographies and histories of development, foregrounding place-specific factors and offering a framework for understanding local experimentation. Firms continue to restructure under relentless pressure to improve performance and the concomitant need to experiment, causing firm strategy to shape-shift and re-making relations of inclusion and exclusion. In the distribution function of global supply chains, the prevailing value-creation strategy is downward pressure on the cost of labor, but this perhaps suggests a false sense of stability. Using data gathered in the distribution hub just outside of Chicago, I examine the role of labor market intermediaries in re-negotiating the boundaries of inclusion. This article explores processes of linking and delinking subsets of workers and the differential implications for worker segments and their attachment to the supply chain. Inscribed in the absorption of places and workers into GPNs are ongoing processes of disarticulation, evident in this case through the labor market strategies pursued by local firms and temporary staffing agencies. These processes lay bare the mechanisms that reproduce capital-labor relationships in global supply chains.