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Yesterday I spoke to the Michigan AFL-CIO Community Services Conference. We all had such a great time. Today I am driving from the UAW’s Black Lake Education Center in upstate Michigan to Chicago.

I will speak at a rally in Chicago to commemorate the Republic Steel Massacre of 1937 when 10 striking members of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) were shot down by the Chicago Police Department, because they were on strike for the 8 hour day and the right to organize a union. They were murdered for striking for an 8 hour day and the right to organize a union.

Workers were organizing and striking all over industrial America. The National Labor Relations Act had been passed, but it had yet to be upheld by the Supreme Court. The CIO and the autoworkers had begun sit-down strikes in plant after plant. Unprovoked beatings and killings were common. Workers and unions were still suffering the bloodiest labor history in the western world. Police forces and the National Guard had been routinely used to bust heads, break organizing efforts, and break strikes. The United Steelworkers were not yet a fully formed union. SWOC had begun the Little Steel strike to win contracts at the second tier of steel companies. The modern American labor movement was being birthed and it was a very tough delivery.

It was in that context that workers went on strike at Republic Steel and the massacre occurred.

It wasn’t the first massacre of workers and it wasn’t the last. We have not yet seen the last massacre of workers in struggle in America.

Most of the strikes and brutal repression of workers from the 1870′s to 1940 were over two main issues – the freedom to organize unions and the right to an 8 hour day. As workers and union leaders said, we are not animals. We are human beings and we need enough time off to be parents, to read, to be human beings.

Last week Republicans in Congress introduced legislation to destroy the 8 hour day. Let that sink in.

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Originally posted to StewartAcuff on Fri May 17, 2013 at 05:53 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I know you didn't mean this, (0+ / 0-)

    but this sentence is bothersome to me.

    As workers and union leaders said, we are not animals.
    It implies that non-human animals should be treated poorly, that such a thing is okay. Even as we have become more enlightened with regard to the treatment of people over the centuries, seeing a proliferation of rights and an ending to slavery and the worst practices of the past, the treatment of our animal friends has just gotten worse. When one says "we're not animals" it implies that those millions of animals suffering right now in factory farms, where they are treated completely as if they are inanimate objects, deserve such a fate. Here's the thing - we ARE animals, all of us, and we can and should make efforts to improve the lives of all animals, human and non-human.
  •  We're Not Going to Stop the Pushback to the Past (1+ / 1-)
    Recommended by:
    Hidden by:

    without returning to the tactics our predecessors used to create their future.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri May 17, 2013 at 06:55:02 AM PDT

  •  the fight for the 8 hour day (0+ / 0-)

    could not be won by the joke that masquerades as the "Left" in the USA today.

    Kossaks,  of course,  would have much to say about it, including detailed critiques of the tactics and strategy,  and lots of advice for those hotheaded radicals bleeding in the streets.

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Fri May 17, 2013 at 08:06:41 AM PDT

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