Justice at Work

The Rise of Economic and Racial Justice Coalitions in Cities

2022
Authors:

Marc Doussard and Greg Schrock

A pathbreaking look at how progressive policy change for economic justice has swept U.S. cities

Justice at Work examines the mutually reinforcing roles of economic and racial justice organizing and policy entrepreneurship in building power and support for policy changes. Bridging urban social movement and urban politics studies, and through case studies in cities including Chicago, Seattle, and New Orleans, it demonstrates how economic and racial justice coalitions are collectively the critical institution underpinning progressive change.

In the 2010s cities and counties across the United States witnessed long-overdue change as they engaged more than ever before with questions of social, economic, and racial justice. After decades of urban economic restructuring that intensified class divides and institutional and systemic racism, dozens of local governments countered the conventional wisdom that cities couldn’t address inequality—enacting progressive labor market policies, from $15 minimum wages to paid sick leave.

Justice at Work examines the mutually reinforcing roles of economic and racial justice organizing and policy entrepreneurship in building power and support for policy changes. Bridging urban social movement and urban politics studies, it demonstrates how economic and racial justice coalitions are collectively the critical institution underpinning progressive change. It also shows that urban policy change is driven by “urban policy entrepreneurs” who use public space and the intangible resources of the city to open “agenda windows” for progressive policy proposals incubated through national networks.

Through case studies of organizing and policy change efforts in cities including Chicago, Seattle, and New Orleans around minimum wages, targeted hiring, paid time off, fair scheduling, and anti-austerity, Marc Doussard and Greg Schrock show that the contemporary wave of successful progressive organizing efforts is likely to endure. Yet they caution that success is dependent on skillful organizing that builds and sustains power at the grassroots—and skillful policy work inside City Hall. By promoting justice at—and increasingly beyond—work, these movements hold the potential to unlock a new model for inclusive economic development in cities.

Marc Doussard is associate professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is author of Degraded Work: The Struggle at the Bottom of the Labor Market (Minnesota, 2013).

Greg Schrock is associate professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University.

Contents

Introduction

1. The Upside of Globalization: City Power in the Urban Age

2. Economic and Racial Justice Coalitions: Diverse Social Movements Challenge Inequality

3. Urban Policy Entrepreneurs: Networked Policy Change from the Grassroots

4. Organizing for Better Jobs: The Fight for $15 Transforms Urban Politics

5. Good Jobs for All: Targeted Hiring Combats Racism at Work

6. Justice beyond Work: Sick Days, Fair Schedules, and the Politics of Social Reproduction

7. “Wall Street Is a Racist Conspiracy”: Racial Justice and the Fight against Austerity

Conclusion: The Promising Work of Justice

Acknowledgments

Notes

Bibliography

Index