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Rust to Renewal by Joshua Reichard
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's review
Jan 24, 2008

really liked it
Recommended to Solidarity by: Google
Recommended for: faith-based and other social activists
Read in January, 2008

Rust to Renewal:
A Case Study of the Religious
Response to Deindustrialization

Joshua D Reichard
Vision Publishing, 2007
180 pp, pb $12.99

Reviewed by Carl Davidson

‘Rust to Renewal’, as this book’s title implies, is about the decline of American steel towns in the 1970s and 1980s, the responses of their communities—most importantly, their churches—and whether there is still hope for the future in these places.

These are critical topics even in 2008, especially with an economic recession and growing unemployment on the horizon, along with debates over what does or does not constitute a proper ‘stimulus’ to the economy.

Author Joshua Reichard uses Youngstown, Ohio and the surrounding Mahoning River Valley as his case in point; and the story he tells may seem old news to many people still residing there. The Youngstown area, moreover, was only part of a wider region, stretching from Wheeling, W VA, through Pittsburgh, PA to Cleveland, OH. This was the country’s steel heartland, and by the end of the1980s, some 100,000 steel mill jobs were permanently abolished, with great distress to those concerned..

Back in 1977, on ‘Black Monday,’ after being told repeated lies and given false hopes, thousands of Youngstown area steelworkers were summarily fired. The mills were shut down, and a community lost what it perceived as a decent future.

The workers, however, and their community allies, mainly churches were hardly passive. During a series of protests, they formed the Ecumenical Coalition, which, together with the local Steelworkers Union, had considerable clout, at least for a time, and they forced the owners into negotiations. To make a long story short, they tried to buy out the failing mill, take it over, reorganize production, and run it themselves. They took the battle all the way to Jimmy Carter’s White House, but abruptly lost, sabotaged mainly by Beltway federal bureaucrats and rival steel bosses.

If you’re looking for a detailed critique of where the Ecumenical Coalition and the steelworkers went wrong, settling old scores, you won’t find it here. But if you think it important that workers and community allies waged a valiant battle, and want to look to the future with some fresh ideas to deal with ongoing problems, this slim volume is a good place to start....

Full review at

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