New Chapter on Community Labor United in Igniting Justice and Progressive Power

A chapter on the history of Community Labor United (CLU) that I co-authored with Mark Erlich has just been published in a new book on progressive labor community alliances. Igniting Justice and Progressive Power compiles cases of regional power building in cities across the US from affiliates of the Partnership for Working Families (recently renamed Power Switch Action).

In our chapter on CLU in the greater Boston area, Mark and I had the chance to delve deeper into an alliance that we were involved in launching in 2004. I was director of a community environmental justice organization (Alternatives for Community & Environment), while Mark headed the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. Together we tell the story of how CLU bridged long-standing racial divides between organized labor and communities of color to wage campaigns that benefited both workers and their communities.

Our chapter recounts how CLU coordinated campaigns that won more work for Boston residents to paint Boston Public Schools, organized security guards, and expanded green jobs across Massachusetts. We reflect on the importance of CLU in building deeper relationships between union and community leaders. Over the last several years, CLU has played a vital role developing a long-term 10-year shared progressive agenda, while uplifting the leadership of women of color. In 2019, CLU’s director Darlene Lombos became the first woman and first person of color to be elected to lead the Greater Boston Labor Council. CLU has been a critical piece of the progressive movement infrastructure in the region.

Edited by David B. Reynolds and Louise Simmons, Igniting Justice and Progressive Power is published by Routledge. The publisher’s description of the volume is below:

  • A progressive resurgence is happening across the United States. This book shows how long-lasting coalitions have built progressive power from the regional level on up. Anchored by the “think and act” affiliate organizations of the Partnership for Working Families (PWF) these regional power building projects are putting in place the vision, policy agenda, political savvy, and grassroots mobilization needed for progressive governance.
  • Through six sections, the book explores how Partnership for Working Families projects are a core part of the defeat of the right-wing in states such as California; the challenge to corporate neoliberalism in traditionally “liberal” areas; and contests for power in such formally solid red states as Arizona, Georgia, and Colorado. This book considers how these PWF groups work on economic, racial and environmental justice challenges, equitable development, and other critical issues. It addresses how, at their core, they bring together labor, community, environmental, and faith-based organizations and the coalitions and campaigns that they developed have won and continue to win substantial victories for their communities.
  • Igniting Justice and Progressive Power will be of interest to activists and concerned citizens looking to understand how lasting political change actually happens as well as all scholars and students of social work, urban geography, political sociology, community development, social movements and political science more broadly.

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Distinguished Senior Lecturer and Director of Master of Public Policy and Community Practice, Tufts University Department of Urban & Environmental Policy and Planning

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