Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Sociology

Committee Chair

Daisy Rooks

Commitee Members

Dusten Hollist, Jill Belsky, Scott G. McNall


temporary work, precarious work, boomtowns, labor process, consent, Bakken


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Inequality and Stratification | Place and Environment | Politics and Social Change | Rural Sociology | Theory, Knowledge and Science | Work, Economy and Organizations


In this thesis, I explore what accounts for worker consent to precarious employment in the context of rapid industrial change in the rural United States. In recent years, domestic oil development has transformed the landscape of western North Dakota and Eastern Montana into a zone of oil production now known as “the Bakken.” The acute demand for labor brought about by this development resulted in vastly inflated wages, which in turn drew workers from around the U.S. and the world. State and private labor market intermediaries, including temporary labor agencies, formed to organize and market this labor force for employers in the area. Just as global demand for oil flagged in late summer of 2015, I completed six weeks of participant observation as a temporary laborer in the Bakken. Using the observational data I collected during my fieldwork, I examine how a private temporary labor agency organized and redistributed the labor force still present in the Bakken, as well as how workers themselves participated in and resisted the commodification of their labor. I find that the interplay of worker aspirations for class mobility, the removal of the labor process from worker-employer negotiations, and the inability of migrant workers to invest in the local community account for consent to this precarious organization of labor, and present major obstacles to worker mobilization.



© Copyright 2016 Peter D. Ore