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Steel City Solidarity

Andy Prisbylla | Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

Worker with United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America flag, May Day March for Immigration Reform - South Side - May 2013.

Steel City Solidarity chronicles this current state of labor activism and culture in Pittsburgh, PA; one of the strongest union towns in the United States.  It is this first installment in the multipart documentary series Citizens of Industry.  

While every city in the Rust Belt region has its own significance, Pittsburgh, PA represents the heart of resiliency. It seems to heal itself time and time again as the waves of industrial decline ebb and flow, but like many cities before and after, will continue to bear the transformative scars. Pittsburgh is a steel town, once was and shall remain so, and ingrained within that being is a blue-collar ethos palpable to the touch. It permeates almost everything, from the old school traditionals with the Pittsburghese accents – “Sup wif u?” or “Yagottabekidden!” – to the newcomers with their own stories to tell. It’s all about the work, you see. Work is what makes Pittsburgh go ‘round. That and solidarity. On July 6th, 1892, three hundred Pinkerton agents washed upon the shore of the Monongahela only to be confronted by a rage of angels. They advanced on the request of Henry Clay Frick, Carnegie Steel Corporation CEO who opposed union policy and had found himself in a bitter plant lockout with workers. Homestead workers and citizens banded together in armed struggle against the strikebreakers, leaving many hurt and dead on both sides. This became known as the Battle of Homestead. When the smoke from the burning barges cleared, the state came not to the aid of the working man, but to Frick and his anti-union agenda. When the landscape of a city is built on such explosive foundations, it creates a social osmosis of working class values that trickle down through the body and soul.

This standard not only effects the worker but effects the nature of work itself. Moving forward through the 21st century, the essence of work and organized labor will continue to change. The manufacturing industry, which was the identity of this nation for a long time, has been replaced by a service based economy, with healthcare, food and public service being the fastest growing sectors. This change has precipitated a new response from the labor movement; one where workers, activists and organized labor are seeking unique and alternative ways of organizing and engaging the public through the creation of community unions and outreach programs. Steel City Solidarity chronicles this current state of labor activism and culture in one of the strongest union towns in the United States.

email: info@andyp.org

personal website: www.andyp.org

project website: www.citizensofindustry.org

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