We're living through the greatest miracle in the history of
our species -- the doubling of life expectancy since the In
dustrial Revolution -- but we prefer to believe that our trou
bles are growing.
The Work Connection was inspired, in part, by Peter DiCicco's conviction that labor unions needed to think bigger, to range beyond the narrow objective of improving contracts for their members. They needed to become involved in strengthening the community and in standing up for the disenfranchised. The failure to do so, he was convinced, would mean marginalization. And as a vice president of the International Union of Electrical Workers (IUE) and head of its New England District Council representing workers at the Lynn, Massachusetts, General Electric plant, DiCicco was in a position to act on this conviction.
However, it was a personal experience as much as anything that sparked The Work Connection idea. DiCicco's nineteen-year-old son was in a car accident and ended up in court. At the hearing, DiCicco came forward to ask the judge for a community service sentence rather than a fine. "My son wasnt' working," the union leader recalls. "He couldn't pay. So the court was fining the parents -- not the boy. It isn't that I was unwilling to pay, but I was concerned because it didnt' hold my son accountable for what he did." The judge agreed -- but was simply too busy to get involved with creating new programs.
So DiCicco took on the idea himself, and soon the local electrical workers union was preparing to create what would become The Work Connection. In technical terms, The Work Connection was an "alternative sentencing program." Young people in trouble with the law for nonviolent crimes were