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School Custodians and Green Cleaners


Coalitions between labor unions and environmental organizations often dissolve in class tensions that appear to force unions to choose between job security and occupational or environmental health. This article examines a successful blue-green coalition that worked to substitute cleaning products used in Boston public schools with safer alternatives. The coalition succeeded in part through the role of bridge builders, who unified a diverse group of stakeholders, including community and environmental health advocates, labor activists and labor unionists, and school administrators, to discuss their individual and common interests in eliminating toxic chemicals from the school environment. This article also explores the framing strategies used by the coalition partners, especially the logic of the precautionary principle in bridging the concerns of the environmental activists with the safety and health concerns of the union. This case raises questions of how coalition strategies and tactics may bear on the success of blue-green coalitions. © 2007 Sage Publications.

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