Book Review: AFSCME’s Philadelphia story: municipal workers and urban power in the twentieth century

Book by: Francis Ryan, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, ISBN 143990278X, 2011
Review by: Joseph Hower, Labor History, Vol. 53 no. 4, November 2012
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From the revelation in January 2010 that government employees constituted a majority of all union members in the United States to the political campaigns to curtail union rights in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states, few issues have commanded as much attention in the past two years as public sector union power. Francis Ryan’s AFSCME’s Philadelphia Story thus comes at a key time. A revised doctoral dissertation, the book is part of a welcome recent surge in interest in public sector labor history. But it is much more than a local study of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). As the subtitle implies, the book is also self-consciously a work of urban history. The evolving relationship between the union and the city is Ryan’s central analytical thread….