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Labor Studies Journal 28.1 (2003) i-iv
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Margaret Hallock and Kim Scipes
In April 2002, labor educators and activists met in Los Angeles to discuss the topic "Generating Power for the Labor Movement." Members of the United Association for Labor Education (UALE) and AFL-CIO activists celebrated the victories and pondered the challenges facing labor in the U.S. and internationally as we build power through bargaining, political activism, organizing, and social justice activism. This issue presents some of the best papers from that conference, papers that address this theme from a number of different angles, privileging none but suggesting that the way forward might be more diverse than many imagine.
We begin with a much-needed focus on young workers in a path-breaking study of students and workers in the San Francisco Bay area. Stuart Tannock and Sara Flocks argue that while young workers are everywhere, we really know little about their lives and their struggles. They suggest that it is important to know the reality of the plight of these workers if we ever hope to recruit them into the union movement.
Tannock and Flocks interviewed 45 young students at a Bay Area community college. Their sample from this integrated college was 40 percent African-American, 24.5 percent Latino, 22 percent white, 9 percent Asian American and 4.5 percent "other." They found a complex interaction in their lives of both school and work. Even though all were classified as "students," the interaction between their studies and their jobs had an impact upon them that was very different from those attending a four-year college on a full-time basis. They note that, while public officials call again and again for the young to go to school to get ahead, these students are already in school. Yet their economic circumstances and the very nature of their jobs create obstacles in their efforts to succeed educationally. Tannock and Flocks argue that until these young students organize collectively in unions, their lives will continue to be pulled in contradictory directions, undercutting their very efforts to get ahead. [End Page i]
From the Bay Area, we travel to Chicago. An innovative program, "The Building Bridges Project," is a pre-apprentice effort to prepare workers of color and women for entering the building trades. Helena Worthen and Reverend Anthony Haynes discuss this innovative effort by the Chicago Interfaith Committee on Worker Issues to link African-American and Latino workers with the unions through their churches and congregations.
If the union-church-community link was the only focus of this paper, it would be interesting. But, even more relevant to our theme, the unions involved in this project view it as an organizing effort. They see this as a way to increase their market share of the construction work being done in the region, as they want to see these workers of color successfully enter the trades and then fight to unionize community-based contractors.
However, what are the experiences of the individual workers who enter Building Bridges: has it worked for them? This paper reports on program graduates from the time they finish the class and the time they either gain an apprenticeship or they decide to cease this effort. The authors argue their findings are important for unions that are trying to organize workers of color and women.
The next paper, by Tracy Chang, moves us to the southern U.S. and a focus on the roles of local unions in electoral mobilization. Chang argues that local union mobilization has been overlooked in the literature and argues strongly that this is a mistake. The local union, she avers, is a key actor in labor's electoral efforts. In this paper, though, she doesn't look at the impact of local union decisions on political mobilization. Rather, she focuses her research on the factors that affect the local union's electoral efforts: in particular, the social environment, the external organizational factors (i.e., the international union to which a local is affiliated), and the internal (local union) factors.
To understand the impact of these factors, she conducted survey...