[Excerpt] At the core of labor's current crisis are deindustrialization, the economic collapse of major industrial cities, and the worsening working and living conditions of working people.

Massachusetts was one of the first states to experience these phenomena, with the decline of its older industrial base. In the decades following World War II, manufacturing employment dropped significantly. From 1963 to 1978, more than 600 plant closings were recorded, with almost 150,000 people thrown out of work.

Last year alone, more than 160 plants closed, affecting nearly 16,000 workers, and an equal number were affected by partial closings and mass layoffs. Upon reemployment, dislocated workers in Massachusetts suffered an average 13% decrease in wages. These industrial dislocations had a disproportionate impact on organized labor, as nearly two-thirds of all the plant closings in the state were union shops.

State government in Massachusetts has finally tried to combat some of these problems with its Mature Industries Act, passed in 1984. Though still in their infancy, the programs initiated by that legislation open new doors for organized labor to begin to deal with the crisis of deindustrialization.

This article gives a basic outline of some of these programs and assesses their significance.