AFSCME's Philadelphia Story

Municipal Workers and Urban Power in the Twentieth Century

Francis Ryan
Book Cover

PB: $30.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0279-0
Publication: Feb 12

HC: $66.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-0278-3
Publication: Nov 10

Ebook: $30.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0280-6
Publication: Nov 10

320 pages
6 x 9
2 figs., 30 halftones

A history of the largest union in the AFL-CIO and its growth in a major American city


In this video clip, Francis Ryan discuss his book AFSCME's Philadelphia Story.

Beginning in the 1920s and ending in the 2000s, AFSCME's Philadelphia Story provides a comprehensive account of the development of what is today the largest and most powerful union in the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Author Francis Ryan shows how sanitation workers and other blue-collar municipal employees formed an organization that successfully challenged the power dynamics of one of the nation’s largest cities, to become the model for successful municipal collective bargaining in the United States.

Ryan’s engaging story describes how AFSCME emerged out of Philadelphia’s notorious Republican political machine and how ordinary workers forged what would become the city’s most enduring interracial, working-class organization of the twentieth century. He provides new insight into the working-class origins of African American political power, as well as a thorough overview of the role the municipal state played in the Quaker City’s urban economy.

Ryan’s study offers a compelling, long-term analysis of the growth of a single union in a major American city and—by grounding his narrative in the experiences of municipal workers, from sanitation workers and crossing guards to clerical staff and administrative professionals—recasts how the history of government sector unionism is understood.

Table of Contents

1. Ward Politics and Municipal Labor in Philadelphia in the 1920s
2. The Founding of the Municipal Workers Union
3. Forging Municipal Unionism in Philadelphia, 1939–1945
4. The Challenge of Reform, 1946–1952
5. Working for America’s City, 1952–1961
6. The New Militancy in Philadelphia
7. The Stout Era, 1970–1986
8. Philadelphia Municipal Workers in a Global Age
Appendix: AFSCME Membership

About the Author(s)

Francis Ryan teaches at the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations in New Brunswick.