Two dates in May, 2012, represent the anniversary of two major historic labor events. One is the 70- year anniversary of the founding of the United Steelworkers of America in Cleveland, Ohio. The other is the 75-year anniversary of the May 30, 1937, Memorial Day Massacre, at which time ten brave Steelworker members of Local 1033 were killed by Chicago police, while peacefully marching and picketing for a union contract at the Republic Steel Mill on the South Side of Chicago. Nine died of gunshot wounds and one from being beaten, and over a 100 others, including woman and children were injured. The sacrifices made by those injured and killed at Republic Steel, at what became known as the “Memorial Day Massacre,” was a major contribution to the formation of our union and the improvement in the working conditions, rights, wages and benefits that workers enjoyed for decades thereafter.
Statesman, Edmund Burke in the eighteenth century stated: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” As we reflect on the history of the formation our union and the sacrifices made by so many such as at the Memorial Day Massacre so that so many of us enjoyed the status of the middle class, we see those accomplishments attacked on a regular basis by the extreme conservative Republicans today.
Let’s not allow history to repeat itself. The 2012 elections will be critical to our future and that of our children and grandchildren. We must be educated about the issues and policies and talk to our friends and family to make sure we vote and support worker friendly candidates that believe in workers’ rights.
For those that can make it, SOAR Chapter 31-9, USW Dist. 7, USW 1010 and the Illinois Labor History Society are sponsoring a special Memorial Day Commemoration event on May 26, 2012 at 10:00 am at the George Washington High School, 3535 E 114 St. Chicago, IL. The day will include great speakers including USW President Leo Gerard, panel discussions on union and workers’ rights, yesterday, today and tomorrow; food and music.
Bill Gibbons, Pace Retirees Representative and Board Representative of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR)