Beyond The Mutual Backscratch: A New Model For Labor-Community Coalitions

Source: Amy Dean and Wade Rathke, New Labor Forum, Vol. 17 no. 3, Fall 2008
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Labor historian David Montgomery once compared the George Meany Era of the AFL-CIO to a great snapping turtle, “hiding within its shell to shield the working-class from contamination” and “snapping out” at those forces who venture too close. But, when he became the AFL-CIO president in 1995, John Sweeney announced that supporting “local coalition-building efforts with community, religious, civil rights and other organizations” would become part of labor’s organizing strategy. Today, collaboration with community groups is the official policy of the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, and many individual unions.

Now, however, some trade unionists are questioning this commitment, asking whether the benefits are worth the costs. What does labor get in return for the money and effort it puts into cultivating community allies?

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