Organizing In Hard Times

Organizing In Hard Times: Labor and Neighborhoods In Hartford

Louise B. Simmons
Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Organizing In Hard Times
    Book Description:

    In 1990, Hartford, Connecticut, ranked as the eight poorest city in the country by the census; the real estate market was severely depressed; downtown insurance companies were laying off and the retail department stores were closing; public services were strained; and demolition sites abandoned for lack of funds pockmarked the streets. Hartford's problems are typical of those experienced in numerous U.S. cities affected by a lingering recession.

    The harsh economic times felt throughout the city's workplaces and neighborhoods precipitated the formation of grassroots alliances between labor and community organizations. Coming together to create new techniques, their work has national implications for the development of alternative strategies for stimulating economic recovery.

    Louise B. Simmons, a former Hartford City Councilperson, offers an insider's view of these coalitions, focusing on three activist unions-rhe New England Health Care Employees Union, the Hotel and Restaurant Employees, and the United Auto Workers-and three community groups-Hartford Areas Rally Together, Organized North Easterners-Clay Hill and North End, and Asylum Hill Organizing Project. Her in-depth analysis illustrates these groups' successes and difficulties in working together toward a new vision of urban politics.

    In the seriesLabor and Social Change, edited by Paula Rayman and Carmen Sirianni.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0419-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  5. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-34)

    Hartford, Connecticut, is a dramatic and compact example of contemporary urban dilemmas in the United States. In their neighborhoods and their workplaces, Hartford’s people feel the impact of economic change. They observe the booms and busts of downtown development, the rise and fall of real estate empires, shifting employment opportunities as firms in all sectors retrench, and varying levels of interest or concern from both private and public policymakers. Their public services erode as ever more complex demands on these services arise. Life in Hartford is full of both hope and grave problems: hope that opportunity can still be created...

  6. TWO Alliances, Coalitions, and Electoral Activities
    (pp. 35-66)

    During the late 1980s, an array of coalitions and electoral activities emerged locally in Hartford and statewide in Connecticut. Ranging in focus from single issues to strike support, from electoral initiatives to information sharing, these activities and coalitions have been national models for activists and analysts of progressive social movements (see Shapiro 1986; and Brecher and Costello 1988a, 1988b, 1990). They had a quality of building on and reinforcing each other that allowed members of different organizations to call on each other for support. The discussion below lists examples of situations in which neighborhood organizations and unions became either directly...

  7. THREE Labor Organizing
    (pp. 67-108)

    The Colt strike was a focal point for the labor movement in Hartford in the 1980s. As a major victory for the labor movement and its community allies, it became an example of the meaning unions still have and the sacrifices individuals are still willing to endure. Its importance lies both in the traditional strike drama between unions and management at the factory gate and in the strategies developed to meet a new climate of labor relations. Within this climate, organizing new members, developing existing membership to meet their challenges, and simply keeping a union organization together are all immensely...

  8. FOUR Neighborhood Organizing
    (pp. 109-144)

    Neighborhood organizers in Hartford take great pride in the degree of community organization in the city. In many cities, there are a few neighborhoods with some type of community or neighborhood organization, but most of the city remains unorganized. In Hartford, the opposite is true: Most areas are within the “turf” of one of the neighborhood organizations, residents can call upon the organization, and this arrangement encourages more organization. Not all of the various groups or associations follow in the Alinsky or neo-Alinsky tradition, but the three largest, Asylum Hill Organizing Project (AHOP), Organized North Easterners-Clay Hill and North End...

  9. FIVE Concluding Thoughts
    (pp. 145-174)

    One of the basic differences between unions and neighborhood groups lies in their organizational structures. Neighborhood organizations are made up of volunteers who can come and go, and the organizations are constituted to accommodate these conditions. Unions consist of dues-paying members who, in rare cases, can sue the organization if they feel their interests have not been properly represented, in much the same way the client of an attorney or physician can sue for malpractice. In effect, unions have a legal accountability to their members. Inasmuch as the neighborhood organizations are nonprofit corporations, they are accountable to contributors and boards...

    (pp. 175-176)

    Events and developments that occurred after the period generally covered in this book—particularly after my election to the Hartford City Council on the People for Change slate in 1991—totally overtook my life, my schedule, and my perspectives on issues. Along with the mayor and council colleagues, I became a target of protest and the object of derision by local radio talk shows and the editorial boards of the local press. I was responsible for voting on budgets, collective-bargaining contracts, policy directions and initiatives, and the selection of city administrators. All of this is in the context of one...

    (pp. 177-180)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 181-185)