Social Unionism in Western New York: The Case of the Economic Development Group
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Whalen, Charles J.
The academic literature on union-community engagement—labor activity often called social unionism—has grown steadily since about 1980, an expansion paralleling a similar evolution in union practices. This article examines one manifestation of social unionism in western New York: the labor-led Economic Development Group (EDG), which emerged in the late-1990s as a way for that region’s union leaders to jointly engage in regional economic development activities. Part I surveys the existing literature on labor-community engagement, with an emphasis on the U.S. experience at the metropolitan level. Part II traces the EDG’s origins and early development. Parts III, IV and V examine the EDG’s major initiatives: in labor relations, regional energy, and workforce development, the latter of which includes a neighborhood revitalization component. Part VI identifies some of the EDG’s current challenges and opportunities, and in the process highlights lessons of its experience. Part VII offers a summary and concluding thoughts, including suggestions for future research. A number of EDG projects appear to be on the leading edge of innovation with respect to regional development; thus, the case of the EDG warrants the attention of academics and practitioners, including policymakers interested in improving the wellbeing of the nation’s working families.
social unionism; Economic Development Group; EDG; labor relations; workforce development; working families
Required Publisher Statement: Copyright held by the author. A condensed version is forthcoming in Labor Studies Journal.