Organizing for regime change

Samonne Monique Montgomery
2011
Since the 1990s in Los Angeles, working class residents have crossed ethnic, religious, and spatial divides to form working class coalitions aimed at enacting social, economic, and environmental justice. This trend, referred to as community unionism, challenges elites' narrow distribution of scarce public resources by fighting for community-driven reforms that advance the interests of broadly-shared prosperity (Tattersall, 2010; Reynolds, 1999). Using document analysis and semi-structured
more » ... iews, I analyze three broad-based community-labor coalitions that emerged in Los Angeles between 2000 and 2010 to understand how urban governance has changed – both as a result of the progressive community's recent coalition building efforts and as a result of the ways in which L.A.'s broader power structure, itself, has evolved. Specifically, I ask the following questions: (1) what factors account for the three coalitions' emergence and relative success and (2) to what extent has a broad-based community-labor power bloc emerged, consolidated, and became robust enough to successfully challenge the agenda of L.A.'s historically-powerful elite regime? This case study of progressive, working class activism in Los Angeles conveys detailed interpretations of specific coalition phenomena and also offers broader theoretical implications about the contemporary nature of urban governance in America. I argue that a number of complex endogenous and exogenous factors significantly undermined the strength of L.A.'s elite governing coalition since the 1980s. Simultaneously, Los Angeles' progressive community organized diligently to become an active player in the region's governing coalition. There has not, however, been a distinct transition from an elite regime to a stable progressive regime. I conclude that L.A.'s progressive community may deepen its capacity to govern if it continues to: improve race relations, create a culture of authentic internal democracy, overcome resource constraints, coordinate progressive electoral politics, [...]
doi:10.7282/t3ft8kbz fatcat:ygc2npi6czgdvamni6r4gmq424