Coalitions of community organizations and labor unions have played a central role in the recent expansion of municipal legislation regarding low-wage work. To date, most studies of community-labor coalitions have focused on their successes in meeting policy goals set by organized labor. This paper shifts focus to the challenges community organizations encounter when they participate in union-led campaigns. Analyzing survey data from a national study of community organizations, we show that collaborating with unions can inhibit community organizations’ resource-intensive strategies, local-level organizing, and mobilizing capacity. Using data from fieldwork with community-labor coalitions in Chicago, St. Louis, and Denver, we then explore three strategies community organizations use to mitigate these downsides: shaping campaigns, rationing participation, and not participating. Each strategy has distinct benefits and drawbacks. Regardless of the strategy community organizations adopt, our analysis shows that the experience of participating in union-led campaigns leads community organizations to reexamine their approaches to organizing, movement building, and public policy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Urban Studies