Cover image for Steelworker alley : how class works in Youngstown
Title:
Steelworker alley : how class works in Youngstown
Author:
Bruno, Robert, 1955-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Ithaca, N.Y. : ILR Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
x, 222 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780801434396

9780801486005
Format :
Book

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HD8039.I52 U522 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

For retired steelworkers in Youngstown, Ohio, the label "working class" fits comfortably. Questioning the widely held view that laborers in postwar America have adopted middle-class values, Robert Bruno shows that in this community a blue-collar identity has provided a positive focus for many residents. The son of a Youngstown steelworker, Bruno returned to his hometown seeking to understand the formation of his own working-class consciousness and the place of labor in the larger capitalist society. Drawing on interviews with dozens of former steelworkers and on research in local archives, Bruno explores the culture of the community, including such subjects as relations among co-workers, class antagonism, and attitudes toward authority. He describes how, because workers are often neighbors, the workplace takes on a feeling of neighborhood. He also demonstrates that to understand class consciousness one must look beyond the workplace, in this instance from Youngstown's front porches to its bowling alleys and voting booths. Written with a deeply personal approach, Steelworker Alley is a richly detailed look at workers which reveals the continuing strength of class relationships in America.


Summary

For retired steelworkers in Youngstown, Ohio, the label "working class" fits comfortably. Questioning the widely held view that laborers in postwar America have adopted middle-class values, Robert Bruno shows that in this community a blue-collar identity has provided a positive focus for many residents.The son of a Youngstown steelworker, Bruno returned to his hometown seeking to understand the formation of his own working-class consciousness and the place of labor in the larger capitalist society. Drawing on interviews with dozens of former steelworkers and on research in local archives, Bruno explores the culture of the community, including such subjects as relations among co-workers, class antagonism, and attitudes toward authority. He describes how, because workers are often neighbors, the workplace takes on a feeling of neighborhood. He also demonstrates that to understand class consciousness one must look beyond the workplace, in this instance from Youngstown's front porches to its bowling alleys and voting booths. Written with a deeply personal approach, Steelworker Alley is a richly detailed look at workers which reveals the continuing strength of class relationships in America.


Reviews 6

Booklist Review

The dominant truism about class in American society is that everyone is (or wants to be) middle class; the U.S. doesn't have, we are told, a true working class. Bruno, a professor in the Chicago Labor Education Program at the University of Illinois, begs to differ. Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, the son of several generations of steelworkers, and working in the mills during college summers, Bruno saw the working class firsthand. He went back to his hometown and interviewed 75 retired steelworkers (and often their spouses) to get a feeling for their sense of class. Their conversations covered the waterfront (or the open hearth furnace): all aspects of work, from management and safety to aches and pains and sense of achievement, as well as the interaction between work, union, family, and community. With an average job tenure of 31 years, Bruno's interviewees represent the same generation that inspired Tom Brokaw's best-seller: at work, as at war, their memories are powerful and involving. --Mary Carroll


Library Journal Review

Bruno, an assistant professor in the Chicago Labor Education Program at the University of Illinois, blends personal memory, oral history, and archival research to document the social, economic, and political ties that bound Youngstown steelworkers to their fellow workers, families, communities, and class. Bruno argues that the postwar academic picture of "highly paid" manual laborers contentedly assuming middle-class values does not square with the workers' own perception of their lives. His steelworker father and friends defined themselves as working classÄthey did hard physical labor, lived and socialized with other steelworkers in plant-gate neighborhoods, and had little in common with the middle-class foremen, plant managers, and owners. This book combines the immediacy of personal recollection with scholarly analysis to describe a working-class life that "unfolds on the plant floor, in the union hall, and throughout the neighborhood." Recommended for academic libraries with labor or oral history collections.ÄDuncan Stewart, State Historical Society of Iowa Lib., Iowa City (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Did a working-class identity exist among steelworkers who lived and worked in the Mahoning Valley of Ohio, and if so, what were its effects? Bruno answers affirmatively: social class was the major variable affecting how steelworker families lived, what they thought, and ultimately, why they did not support a community effort to buy a steel mill when Lykes shut down Youngstown Sheet & Tube in 1977. For this well-written ethnography, Bruno interviewed 75 retirees, wives, and other residents in Struthers, a working-class town near Youngstown. Readers see everyday working-class life: dirty, hot/cold, dangerous mills without bathrooms; small, carefully maintained homes; wildcat strikes to protest conditions; unions and social clubs. The workers had to act collectively; tightly knit communities prevailed. Bruno's argument dissipates when he states that class overrode race and ethnicity. He includes numerous exceptions, e.g., blacks had segregated jobs until the 1970s and "race often strained . . . the class dimensions of industrial production." This reviewer worked in Youngstown; racial, class, and educational conflicts abounded. Recommended for classes in stratification, social history, and work. All levels. S. D. Borchert; Lake Erie College


Booklist Review

The dominant truism about class in American society is that everyone is (or wants to be) middle class; the U.S. doesn't have, we are told, a true working class. Bruno, a professor in the Chicago Labor Education Program at the University of Illinois, begs to differ. Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, the son of several generations of steelworkers, and working in the mills during college summers, Bruno saw the working class firsthand. He went back to his hometown and interviewed 75 retired steelworkers (and often their spouses) to get a feeling for their sense of class. Their conversations covered the waterfront (or the open hearth furnace): all aspects of work, from management and safety to aches and pains and sense of achievement, as well as the interaction between work, union, family, and community. With an average job tenure of 31 years, Bruno's interviewees represent the same generation that inspired Tom Brokaw's best-seller: at work, as at war, their memories are powerful and involving. --Mary Carroll


Library Journal Review

Bruno, an assistant professor in the Chicago Labor Education Program at the University of Illinois, blends personal memory, oral history, and archival research to document the social, economic, and political ties that bound Youngstown steelworkers to their fellow workers, families, communities, and class. Bruno argues that the postwar academic picture of "highly paid" manual laborers contentedly assuming middle-class values does not square with the workers' own perception of their lives. His steelworker father and friends defined themselves as working classÄthey did hard physical labor, lived and socialized with other steelworkers in plant-gate neighborhoods, and had little in common with the middle-class foremen, plant managers, and owners. This book combines the immediacy of personal recollection with scholarly analysis to describe a working-class life that "unfolds on the plant floor, in the union hall, and throughout the neighborhood." Recommended for academic libraries with labor or oral history collections.ÄDuncan Stewart, State Historical Society of Iowa Lib., Iowa City (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Did a working-class identity exist among steelworkers who lived and worked in the Mahoning Valley of Ohio, and if so, what were its effects? Bruno answers affirmatively: social class was the major variable affecting how steelworker families lived, what they thought, and ultimately, why they did not support a community effort to buy a steel mill when Lykes shut down Youngstown Sheet & Tube in 1977. For this well-written ethnography, Bruno interviewed 75 retirees, wives, and other residents in Struthers, a working-class town near Youngstown. Readers see everyday working-class life: dirty, hot/cold, dangerous mills without bathrooms; small, carefully maintained homes; wildcat strikes to protest conditions; unions and social clubs. The workers had to act collectively; tightly knit communities prevailed. Bruno's argument dissipates when he states that class overrode race and ethnicity. He includes numerous exceptions, e.g., blacks had segregated jobs until the 1970s and "race often strained . . . the class dimensions of industrial production." This reviewer worked in Youngstown; racial, class, and educational conflicts abounded. Recommended for classes in stratification, social history, and work. All levels. S. D. Borchert; Lake Erie College