Remaking the Working-Class: Urban Service Workers and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees


Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships




Nearly one million urban service workers joined the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) between 1945 and 1985, transforming a tiny association of white professional bureaucrats into one of the largest and most racially diverse unions in the United States. This project asks why those mostly black and Latino workers turned to unionization rather than traditional civil rights organizations in the 1950s and 1960s, and how effective they were in countering the urban crisis caused by deindustrialization and racially exclusive suburbanization in the 1970s and 1980s. I argue that AFSCME represents not only working-class influence in postwar civil rights and urban politics, but also the emergence of a new racially diverse working-class in the twenty-first century.