Arthur Hochner


[Excerpt] Surely the bleeding of Philadelphia-area jobs — 140,000 fewer manufacturing jobs in 1980 than in 1970 — set the climate. Yet the plant closing ordinance could not have been passed without the skillful organizing efforts of the Delaware Valley Coalition for Jobs (DVCJ). Virtually all of the pro-ordinance testimony presented in City Council hearings was orchestrated by DVCJ. At the hearings, DVCJ arranged for statements from dozens of witnesses - unionists, unemployed activists, families of laid-off workers, community leaders, clergy, lawyers, and academics (like myself).

The victory in the Philadelphia City Council was a major accomplishment for DVCJ and the plant closing fight in general. But the new law is not being enforced by the city, and the anti-plant-closing movement is stalled. Partly, this situation arose because DVCJ is a defensively-oriented direct action group and not primarily a legislative lobbying group. The coalition paid less attention to the details of legislative processes and enforcement mechanisms than to rallying support for the idea of a law. DVCJ's strength has been in mobilizing mass actions against plant closings and in agitating for full employment policies.

Jobs coalitions such as DVCJ have great potential for changing the public agenda on job loss and unemployment, but they also have some inherent stumbling blocks. The example of DVCJ, one of the more successful jobs coalitions, illustrates some of the strengths and weaknesses of the movement against plant closings in general.