Working-Class Solidarity; Rebuilding Youngstown
Undoubtedly work and place influence its surroundings. Youngstown, Ohio is emphasized as one in particular. As a result “steelmaking fueled the area’s economy and defined its identity” (68). The city was represented in newspapers, art work, postcards, and many texts as both “impressive and attractive” (75), as well as “imposing, confusing, and uninviting” (86). Considering the conflicting representations, steelmaking “also suggest(s) a key element of conflict in the community” that it was so clearly creating an identity for (69).
At the end of chapter two in, Steel Town U.S.A., the authors, Sherry Lee Linkon and John Russo, define the importance of steelmaking in Youngstown, Ohio “as an important element of community life, a source of identity and solidarity, an activity that brought pride and fulfillment to individuals and the community (129).” The author’s proclaim, “… steelwork as almost synonymous with Youngstown,” defining itself by organized labor and steelmaking” (68). Linkon and Russo, convey ideas about hard physical labor, with a glimpse of insight into the steelworkers anguish using words like virtue, pride and a sense of belonging, which for a typical situation would convey positive representations. Though most would think of these words, virtue, pride, and belonging as associations of working-class solidarity, clear identity and value, the author’s instead use these words to allow for the reader to better understand the misery that steelworkers faced. Making the connection between the workers lack of control to that of social conflict in their own community, the authors want the readers to understand both sides, allowing to bridge the gap of struggle by mending Youngstown’s identity in the future.
Hidden within the poetry of Carl Sandburg and Michael McGovern, lies tension between individual identities shared between work and place solidarity. Working class solidarity binds people together as one, surrounded by shared interests, ideas, and values. Harmony in any environment produces equality. Michael McGovern referred to himself as, “the puddler poet” placing his identity dependent on his work. The work men do in McGovern’s eyes, “defines their social position but also their opinions, their behavior and their identity” (90). The authors suggests the consequences of McGovern’s perspective “separated him from other men” (90). A descriptive image used by McGovern in his poem “My Workingman,” set “the toiling puddler” against “the moneyed men” (90). The authors are telling the reader that McGovern is creating a sense of working class solidarity consequently it can also be looked at with more of a sense of exclusiveness. McGovern had a narrow defined ideal of the steelworker, creating a gap between him and his fellow working class characters. Demonstrating the authors passion for rebuilding Youngstown’s solidarity, Linkon and Russo state, “… the individual whose virtues are extolled in ‘My...