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Collection Working in Paterson: Occupational Heritage in an Urban Setting

Worker Camaraderie and Solidarity

The increasing heterogeneity of the Watson work force in recent years, particularly its ethnic diversity, and the long commutes required for suburban living have reduced some of the camaraderie and solidarity that previous generations of workers shared. Company-centered social events, such as the lavish company picnic Watson Machine used to hold every year, have fallen by the wayside. While workers still share various skills and critical frames during the workday, at the end of the day most return to a variety of suburban neighborhoods rather than to nearby Paterson neighborhoods. They tend to cultivate social connections therefore not through work but through recreational associations: antique car clubs, ethnic organizations, religious groups, civic associations, and the like. Involvement with such groups appears to absorb much of the energy that workers used to devote to working-class solidarity. The reason probably has as much to do with demographics as with class and economics. That is, the dispersal of the work force throughout the region is as responsible for its fragmentation as is a relatively high (but still non-union) wage and associated class expectations.

Watson company party in the 1940s.
Workers take morning coffee break near plant doorway.
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