Cover Image

Larger ImageView Larger

Reorganizing the Rust Belt

An Inside Study of the American Labor Movement

Steve Lopez (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 314 pages
ISBN: 9780520235656
April 2004
$34.95, £24.95
This gripping insider's look at the contemporary American trade union movement shows that reports of organized labor's death are premature. In this eloquent and erudite narrative, Steven Henry Lopez demonstrates how, despite a hostile legal environment and the punitive anti-unionism of U.S. employers, a few unions have organized hundreds of thousands of low-wage service workers in the past few years. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has been at the forefront of this effort, in the process pioneering innovative strategies of grassroots mobilization and protest. In a powerful ethnography that captures the voices of those involved in SEIU nursing-home organizing in western Pennsylvania, Lopez illustrates how post-industrial, low-wage workers are providing the backbone for a reinvigorated labor movement across the country.

Reorganizing the Rust Belt argues that the key to the success of social movement unionism lies in its ability to confront a series of dilemmas rooted in the history of American labor relations. Lopez shows how the union's ability to devise creative solutions—rather than the adoption of specific tactics—makes the difference between success and failure.
Preface: Postindustrial Pittsburgh: Low-Wage Work and the Challenge for American Labor
Acknowledgments

1. Introduction: From Business Unionism to Social Movement Unionism

PART I: CONFRONTING WORKING-CLASS ANTIUNIONISM
INTRODUCTION TO PART I: ROSEMONT PAVILION

2. "See You Next Year": The Failure of Traditional Organizing Tactics

3. "It’s a Union": Why Face-to-Face Organizing and Collective Action Tactics Succeed

Epilogue to Part I: Organizing and Organization

PART II: DEALING WITH ORGANIZATIONAL LEGACIES
INTRODUCTION TO PART II: THE NEW URBAN POLITICS OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

4. "Save Our Kanes": Bypassing Organizational Structures

5. "We Want a Contract": Confronting Business Union Organization

Epilogue to Part II: Social Movement Unionism and the Problem of Power

PART III: SOCIAL MOVEMENT UNIONISM: CHALLENGING THE POWER OF CAPITAL
INTRODUCTION TO PART III: MEGACORP AND THE SEIU IN PENNSYLVANIA

6. "We Will Not Be Silenced": Escalating Mobilization

7. "Whatever It Takes, as Long as It Takes": Exploiting Antiunionism

Epilogue to Part III: The Ambiguity of Victories

Conclusion: Social Movement Unionism and Social Movement Theory
Appendix
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Steven Henry Lopez is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Ohio State University.
“By any measure, this is an impressive and provocative book.”—David Bright Labour/Le Travail
“Reorganizing the Rust Belt is a model of participatory observer research, at once both clearly partisan in its commitments and yet refreshingly sober, even detached, in its conclusions. It is a story that could only be told by someone who has actually been in the trenches.”—Howard Kimeldorf Social Forces
“Anyone interested in social movement theory would find much to engage with here, but for those interested in contemporary trade union difficulties and strategies, either side of the Atlantic, the book is invaluable.”—Bob Carter Work, Employment & Society
“Reorganizing the Rust Best is the best book I’ve read about contemporary organizing. I’ve even been urging friends who aren’t labor bureaucrats to read it.”—Jim McNeill Dissent Magazine
"Based on his immersion in heated campaigns, Lopez analyzes just how difficult organizing for today's trade unions can be. Still the Sisyphean effort goes on, led by unions, such as SEIU, which notch up victories despite the uphill struggle. Lopez's participant observation is a model of clarity, theoretical imagination and methodological innovation. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand why unions are so weak in the US, and how they could become stronger."—Michael Burawoy, President of the American Sociological Association

"Lopez's beautifully written, lucid analysis of the new labor movement bristles with insights. This rare insider's account of contemporary organizing consistently avoids the easy answers and relentlessly confronts the limitations of union achievements, even as he appreciates their transformative potential."—Ruth Milkman, Director, UC Institute for Labor and Employment and author of Farewell to the Factory

"Reorganizing the Rust Belt is the best ethnography around of what it's like, day-to-day, to be inside an organizing campaign and contract mobilization. Lopez brings to life the limits and problems, the changes over time, the victories and ambiguities, experienced by workers and organizers in a progressive union."—Dan Clawson, author of The Next Upsurge: Labor and the New Social Movements

Labor and Labor Movements, American Sociological Association

Join UC Press


Members receive 20-40% discounts on book purchases. Find out more