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Labor Research Review, Volume 1, Number 09 (1986)

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Labor Research Review, Volume 1, Number 9 (1986)

Labor Tackles the Local Economy


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    Expanding the Fight Against Shutdowns
    Swinney, Dan; Metzgar, Jack (1986-09-01)
    [Excerpt] The Midwest Center for Labor Research has been involved, in both direct and secondary ways, in fighting dozens of plant closings. We've studied similar efforts of labor-community coalitions around the country, beginning with the Ecumenical Coalition's fight to save Youngstown Sheet & Tube in 1977. We also have several years' experience in building community-based economic development projects on Chicago's West Side and in Northwest Indiana. This article argues that, as the crisis of manufacturing has deepened, the fight against shutdowns has accumulated a rich mine of experience and insight upon which it is now possible to wage a series of more effective struggles. It argues that, while fighting shutdowns on one front, labor must take the lead in building diverse local coalitions engaged in systematic efforts to retain and create jobs in the community. This is not only essential for immediate objectives, but can provide an opportunity for labor to begin to mount an aggressive political and economic offensive in the broad public interest.
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    Greenhouse: Why a Good Plan Failed
    Weisman, Dan (1986-09-01)
    [Excerpt] In June 1984, Rhode Island voters went to the polls to decide the fate of an ambitious economic revitalization plan. Two years in the making, the plan was based on the most comprehensive study of a single state's economy ever conducted. It was overseen by a broad-based commission, including AFL-CIO leadership, and was authored by a leading authority on industrial redevelopment, Ira Magaziner, who infused it with a liberal philosophy. Called the Greenhouse Compact, the plan was a tapestry of public policy changes and strategically targeted public investment to create jobs in selected industries, and it included concessions from both business and labor. It was presented to the electorate a half-year before the actual vote. At 800-plus public meetings and in the media, it was heralded as pro-labor, modestly liberal but balanced, appropriately priced and financed, and a can't miss, sure thing to resusitate the state's failing economy. The program was actively promoted by the governor and most of the state's business, civic, political and labor leadership. When the vote came, however, Greenhouse was defeated by a 4-to-l margin.
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    Early Warnings in Chicago
    Charpentier, Elaine (1986-09-01)
    [Excerpt] Dear Mayor Washington, The Milton Bradley Company, the parent of Playskool, Inc has just announced a $18 million loss for 1983 down from $19 million profit in 1982... these results have increased ongoing speculation here at the factory that this facility will be closed... Can't you help us somehow? I can't sign this cause it would probably cause me trouble if they knew I was writing to you. The arrival of this letter in the Mayor's office in the Winter of 1984 coincided with the city's initiation of a unique attempt to do something about plant closings in Chicago. Some Chicago neighborhoods have almost 40% fewer jobs now than ten years ago, and over the past five years the city has been losing 10,000 jobs a year.
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    Massachusetts & Mature Industries
    Schippani, Michael (1986-09-01)
    [Excerpt] At the core of labor's current crisis are deindustrialization, the economic collapse of major industrial cities, and the worsening working and living conditions of working people. Massachusetts was one of the first states to experience these phenomena, with the decline of its older industrial base. In the decades following World War II, manufacturing employment dropped significantly. From 1963 to 1978, more than 600 plant closings were recorded, with almost 150,000 people thrown out of work. Last year alone, more than 160 plants closed, affecting nearly 16,000 workers, and an equal number were affected by partial closings and mass layoffs. Upon reemployment, dislocated workers in Massachusetts suffered an average 13% decrease in wages. These industrial dislocations had a disproportionate impact on organized labor, as nearly two-thirds of all the plant closings in the state were union shops. State government in Massachusetts has finally tried to combat some of these problems with its Mature Industries Act, passed in 1984. Though still in their infancy, the programs initiated by that legislation open new doors for organized labor to begin to deal with the crisis of deindustrialization. This article gives a basic outline of some of these programs and assesses their significance.
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    Beware of Fantus
    Crouch, Mark (1986-09-01)
    [Excerpt] The Fantus Company is the nation's premier economic development consulting firm. It acts as a catalyst in the regional rotation of jobs between communities, providing essential services to America's migrating firms as they seek to find the lowest common denominator of wages, social wage legislation and business regulation. Careful examination of Fantus' activities and methods indicates that they may be a cause of, rather than a solution to, the decline of America's industrial heartland.
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    Saturn's Rings: What GM's Saturn Project Is Really About
    Russo, John (1986-09-01)
    [Excerpt] In their listing of top news stories of 1985 in the economically depressed Youngstown-Warren area, local newspapers consistently listed "Saturn mania" near the top. In an effort to attract the Saturn project, the local community offered GM a sizable economic development package, organized a 100-car caravan to GM headquarters delivering 200,000 letters from local residents and school children, and bought billboard space and television time in Detroit. This continuation of Saturn mania belies the belief that it was an essentially harmless exercise in corporate public relations. Rather, there is much evidence to suggest that throughout the Saturn campaign GM misled the public about its intention to build an inexpensive small car; diverted public and union attention from its plans for plant closings, technological displacement and the importing of cars from its foreign subsidiaries; forced additional concessions that have weakened the UAW; and shaped the public debate surrounding U.S. economic decline and future economic development.
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    Job Wars at Fort Wayne
    Crouch, Mark (1986-09-01)
    [Excerpt] Several international unions and the national AFL-CIO have developed sophisticated proposals calling for an "industrial policy" which would utilize a business-government-labor structure for planning national economic activities. Yet to be developed, however, are any guidelines for labor's participation in local economic development activities. Since 1982 Fort Wayne, Indiana, has pioneered what is being touted as one of the most aggressive and successful economic development programs in the country. An economic development consulting firm, the Fantus Company, was used to organize the business community around an agenda designed to weaken labor and encourage a series of job wars with other communities. A careful examination of the Fort Wayne Strategy reveals a program that is subtly yet deeply anti-union, anti-worker, and not in the long-run interests of the people of Fort Wayne. A review of the Fort Wayne Strategy and local labor's response can provide valuable lessons for the labor movement across the country.
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    Keeping GM Van Nuys Open
    Mann, Eric (1986-09-01)
    [Excerpt] In Van Nuys, for the past four years, we have been building a movement of our own local union, the Chicano and black communities, clergy, intellectuals, students and small businesspeople to demand that General Motors keep open a profitable plant it has threatened to close. The basic premise of the struggle—that we do not recognize GM's plant as "private property" but see it as a "joint venture" between capital, labor and minority communities — flies in the face of GM's worldview and the dominant business ideology of the times. Our impressive organizing successes indicate that a revitalized labor movement can rebuild powerful coalitions in opposition to big business. It is a small, but hopeful, example of grass-roots regional planning — from the bottom up. But, as we will describe, recent efforts by General Motors, representatives of our International union, and a company-oriented faction of our local have been pursuing a strategy of competition with other UAW locals to try to save our plant at the expense of others. If this strategy of "company-unionism" succeeds over the strategy of community-based demands for corporate responsibility, then once again a declining labor movement will have rescued corporate greed from the jaws of defeat.
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    "If All the People Are Banded Together": The Naugatuck Valley project
    Brecher, Jeremy (1986-09-01)
    [Excerpt] The Naugatuck Valley in western Connecticut was once the center of the American brass industry and one of the most intensely industrialized areas on earth. From its center in Waterbury, the region's major city, with a population of 100,000, the Valley runs north through the towns of Thomaston and Torrington and south through Naugatuck, Seymour, Derby and Ansonia. Like so many industrial areas of the Northeast and Midwest, its workers are primarily the descendants of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe, with more recent additions of Blacks from the South and Puerto Ricans. During the 1960s and '70s it could have been renamed "deindustrial valley," as dozens of plants were sold or closed. Like those in similar areas elsewhere, the people of the Naugatuck Valley have found that their established approaches have given them little leverage over deindustrialization. Conventional union tactics have exerted little influence over companies prepared to close up or sell the shop. Legislation to affect plant closings has been difficult to pass, and when passed has had limited impact. Local communities have felt powerless in the face of decisions made in distant board rooms; until recently, few efforts have been made to affect those decisions, even when they threatened the lifeblood of Naugatuck Valley communities. Over the past three years, the Valley has developed a regional organization of more than 50 religious, labor, community and small business organizations. Called the Naugatuck Valley Project, its purpose is to give workers and communities more influence over their economic destiny.
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    Reindustrialization From Below: The Steel Valley Authority
    Stout, Mike (1986-09-01)
    [Excerpt] Trade unionists and community residents determined to save the Monongahela Valley have succeeded in forging an effective instrument for waging their struggle. In January 1986 the Steel Valley Authority was officially incorporated by the State of Pennsylvania. Its board includes representatives of nine municipalities, including the city of Pittsburgh. In the months since the Authority was launched, its power, including the power of eminent domain, has been used to pressure corporations not to abandon manufacturing plants in the Mon Valley region. The fight to reindustrialize the Pittsburgh area is fairly joined, and victory is a real possibility. It took nearly five years of education and patient organizing to establish the Steel Valley Authority (SVA). Other communities around the country, suffering similar problems of capital flight, have much to learn from the story of the campaign to establish the SVA. But the most important lessons are easy to tell: You can win community support for the idea that deindustrialization is not inevitable. You can mount a viable struggle to preserve your community's industrial base. In this article, I will describe our five-year campaign to win public support for our approach to reindustrialization.