Just as the ride of mechanized textile production marked the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, its demise signaled the onset of deindustrialization. Once considered an aberration in an otherwise unblemished record of economic progress, the decline of New England's textile industry in the decade following World War II has been mirrored throughout other industries in the nation's heartland.
In this book, William F. Hartford examines that process from the perspective of union leaders who sought to save the textile industry while at the same time trying to improve conditions of work. He draws on the experiences of workers across New England but focuses on developments in three cities: Fall River, New Bedford, and Lawrence.
Challenging the view of deindustrialization as an inevitable process of decline, Hartford shows how textile unionists attempted to establish a bargaining structure that balanced wages, workloads, and investment. He explores as well the divisions among both manufacturers and rank-and-filers that complicated these efforts.
Where Is Our Responsibility? offers an informative case study of the postwar shift of the U.S. economy and provides a broader historical view of current union struggles to preserve the nation's manufacturing base.