[Excerpt] "One word from me and the traffic lights don't work, the bridges don't open, the trash isn't collected and the heat in all the city buildings is cut off," boasted former AFSCME DC 33 President Earl Stout in 1975. At the time that statement was made, it accurately reflected the power and practices of District Council 33 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest blue-collar union in the City of Philadelphia.

In the 15 years since Stout's declaration, things have changed dramatically both for the City and the union. By the 1980s, the union faced a fundamental threat from the contracting out of bargaining unit work. This article will describe how DC 33 moved from a one-dimensional confrontational approach to its problems of the 1970s to a successful multifaceted fight against privatization.