||Labor-Environmental Coalitions: Lessons from a Louisiana Petrochemical Region
Work, Health and Environment Series, Charles Levenstein and John Wooding, Series Editors
IN PRAISE OF
“Building genuine alliances between environmentalists, labor, and community-based movements is essential to improving the lives of working families in American society. In his richly detailed analysis of the Louisiana Labor-Neighbor Project, Thomas Estabrook exposes many of the challenges and opportunities confronting activists in their efforts to build such an alliance. In so doing, Estabrook provides important insights into the ways in which counter-hegemonic movements can be successfully built and expanded in the context of neoliberal capitalism. This book is an important read for all those concerned with labor rights, economic equality, and environmental protection.”
—Daniel Faber, Director, Green Justice Research Collaborative, Northeastern University
Labor-environmental coalitions bring together two central components of our democratic tradition and offer a powerful new social-movement synthesis that goes beyond just adding the two together. Thomas Estabrook shows us this through his excellent study of the Louisiana Labor-Neighbor Project, a milestone in inter-movement cooperation that succeeded in many aspects of factory and community health, environmental justice, tax policy, and community development. His decade of research on the Project is informed by a historical view of earlier efforts in sanitation, community public health, and occupational safety and health, as well as a glimpse at other current organizing. Labor-Environmental Coalitions is an exciting and important contribution to what increasing numbers of people will soon see as an extensive and prominent issue.”
—Phil Brown, Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies, Brown University
“Thomas Estabrook’s Labor-Environmental Coalitions: Lessons from a Louisiana Petrochemical Region provides a valuable in-depth analysis of a coalition of labor, community, and environmental groups that survived and even thrived in the South for almost twenty years. These are times when labor and community must band together to fight for the health of our land, air, and families. Estabrook’s story of the Louisiana Labor-Neighbor Project’s successes and ultimate demise is a must read for all who work for a better and more just future.”
—Susan Moir, Sc.D., Director, Labor Resource Center, University of Massachusetts Boston
“Labor-Environmental Coalitionsis a must read; it thoroughly explains labor-community coalitions, offering crucial lessons—valuable understandings—that coalitions are a necessary strategy to counteract the dominant forces of capitalist development. It shows how, if coalitions are to succeed, they must broaden their agenda and strengthen their coalition-building skills, thus broadening their base. The book targets public health and environmental professionals and students, labor historians and activists, political scientists, sociologists, geographers, and other social scientists and general readers.”
—Savannah Jones, Review Editor, SirReadaLot.orgSeptember Issue, 2007
"This book is, however, far more than a simple case study focused on the successes and
failures of a single labor-environment coalition. Indeed, only two chapters focus solely
on the case study. In other chapters, Estabrook building on social movement analysis and
Gramscian notions of counterhegemonic strategies to outline a thoughtful and well-developed
theory of labor-community coalitions and to provide a detailed historical analysis
of the successes and limitations of previous labor-environmental coalitions in the
United States from the mid-late 1800s to present day. The final chapter provides an
overview of other active labor-environment coalitions and engages the reader in a discussion
of the potential, the limitations, and the requirements of successful labor-community
Well-written and easy to understand, this book should be of considerable interest
to trade unionists looking to establish or to further develop existing progressive
coalitions with community organizations. It should be of particular interest to trade
unionists in the industrial and resource sectors looking to make links with environmental
groups, as well as health and safety activists in unions and environmental
groups. Furthermore, this book serves as a compelling case study for labor educators
interested in training organizers and activists on how to successfully build bridges
between labor organizations and community organizations."
—Bradley Walchuk, York University, Labor Studies Journal, March 2009
ABOUT THE BOOK
In 1984, the oil, chemical and atomic workers began a 5-year campaign to win back the jobs of its members locked out by the BASF Corp. in Geismar, Louisiana. The multiscale campaign involved coalitions with local environmentalists as well as international solidarity from environmental and religious organizations. The local coalition which helped break the lockout was maintained and expanded in the 1990s. This alliance is one of numerous labor-community coalitions to emerge increasingly over the past 20 years. Labor-Environmental Coalitions: Lessons from a Louisiana Petrochemical Region traces the development of the Louisiana Labor-Neighbor Project from 1985 to the present, within the context of a long history of divisions between labor and community in the U.S. The Project continued after the lockout, thriving during 1990s, expanding from one community to four counties to include 20 local member organizations, and broadening its agenda from the original jobs crisis and pollution problems to address a wide range of worker, environmental health, and economic justice issues.
Labor-Environmental Coalitions explores the dynamics of the Louisiana coalition to offer lessons for other coalition efforts. The book seeks to understand coalitions as a necessary strategy to counteract the dominant forces of capitalist development. The author contends that the Labor-Neighbor Project, like labor-community coalitions generally, created a unique blend of politics shaped by the geographic nature industry's politics; by the relative openness of government; and by the class experience of labor and community members. The Louisiana Project demonstrates that for labor-community coalitions to thrive they must broaden their agenda, strengthen their leadership and coalition-building skills, and develop access to multi-scale resources. The author argues that for labor-community coalitions to have longer term political impact, they should adopt an explicitly progressive approach by building a broader class and cultural leadership, and by demanding state and corporate accountability on economic, public health, and environmental justice issues.
INTENDED AUDIENCE: public health and environmental professionals and students; labor historians and activists; political scientists, sociologists, geographers, and other social scientists; and the informed general reader.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thomas Estabrook is a worker health educator with The New England Consortium, a hazardous waste worker training project based at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he also does clean production policy research. He received his Ph.D. in geography from Clark University in 1996 and currently is also adjunct professor of geography at Framingham State College. He has been active in labor-community coalitions since working as an organizer for the Louisiana Labor-Neighbor Project in the early 1990s. He is a member of the advisory board of the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, in Massachusetts, a broad coalition of environmental, public health, and labor groups promoting precautionary strategies. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife and two sons.
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