Fortune favors the organized: How chicago activists won equity goals under austerity

Marc Doussard, Jacob Lesniewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What explains the recent success of municipal minimum wages and other city-level distributive economic reforms? Noting the emergence of income inequality as a political issue, scholars and media accounts attribute success to the current political focus on inequality. But such a perspective neglects the classic question of how windows of political opportunity generate actual reform. Drawing on fieldwork with community–labor advocacy organizations in Chicago, we argue that maturing community–labor coalitions have developed a strategic repertoire capable of converting political opportunity into policy victories. First, activists have developed nationally networked policy communities that supply ready-made answers to the political problem of inequality. Second, these activists have developed a range of techniques to make interorganizational collaboration and shared political advocacy more effective. Third, community organizations and local labor unions have embraced long-term political change over incremental goals obtainable in the short term. These changes help to explain the successful passage of distributive economic reforms and will likely outlast the current political focus on inequality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)618-634
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Urban Affairs
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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