Saturday, February 13, 2016
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A teacher's regiment? Are the students that out of control? The American Civil War (1861-1865) was viewed by many as a fight over labor rights
How To Make Labor History Are you a working person? Are you laid off, but desire work? Are you retired or too young to have a job? No matter what your status, you can make labor history.
Payment: 3 3/4 cents per button This spontaneous strike was a critical catalyst for forming the Amalgamated Clothing Workers (known today as UNITE) in 1915.
How is labor often represented in the media? This famous drawing is an artist's conception of May 4, 1886, in Chicago's Haymarket Square.
Are these men really all named George? George Pullman hired former slaves as his car attendants. It became popular for people to address them as "George."
Are these people attacking the police? Memorial Day, 1937: Workers and supporters marched to the Republic Steel plant to establish a picket line.
"Unite & Fight" for what? These men and women are Chicago Stockyards employees, once the largest meat butchering and processing facility in the world.
On strike for what? Labor struggles and stories are not just history. In Chicago, hotel workers at the Congress Hotel have been on strike for over seven years.
Why is this man giving a thumbs up in a police van? Until 1982 it was illegal in Illinois for public employees to organize a union.
Union-building for builders Construction trades workers were some of the first to organize in the United States, beginning at a city level in the 1830s.
Unionize? We can do it! Women have long been leaders in organizing workers and fighting for better conditions. Illinois has a strong tradition of women who took early leadership
Health & Safety is no Accident Illinois coal miners have traditionally been among the leaders in the occupational health and safety movement.
5-12 researchers teachers
today in labor history


Battle for the Forty-Hour Week: Fighting Unpredictable Schedules and Hours

Saturday, February 20th

 8:30 –9 am Light Breakfast and Coffee

 9 am– 12:30 Panels and Conversation

   Roosevelt University

 425 S Wabash, Wabash Room 1016  



Joins us for this FREE event.
Over a century ago, Chicago’s labor movement was at the heart of the historical struggle for the 40-hour work week. Chicago-based labor movements, like the Fight for Fifteen and the Chicago Teachers Union, continue the fight for more worker friendly wages, hours and conditions. In addition to livable wages, workers are fighting against unpredictable work hours and schedules in ways that renew the demand for a 40-hour work week. The ongoing struggle for a 40-hour work week is multifaceted. On the one hand, unpredictable schedules and minimal weekly work hours trap people in uncertain part-time work, and undermine the security of working people’s daily lives. On the other hand, long unpaid hours and mandatory overtime create unpredictable family lives and are often the hidden culprits of wage theft. We invite all workers seeking full-time, predictable 40-hour work week schedules and community members and students who want to learn more about this struggle to join us in a dynamic discussion on renewing the demand for the 40-hour week.

40 Hour Week Logo


8:30 -9 Light Breakfast

9-12:30 Panels and Conversation
History of the Struggle for the 40 Hour Work Week Illinois Labor History Society

Panel 1: Working Over 40 Hours Moderator, Dr. Emily Twarog, University of Illinois, Labor Education Program
Panelists from Chicago Teachers Union, Ain't I A Woman Campaign, Warehouse Workers for Justice, Arise Chicago

Panel 2: Working Under 40 Hours Moderator, Marc Doussard, University of Illinois, Urban and Regional Planning
Panelists from Worker Center for Racial Justice, Latinos Unidos, Faculty Forward Chicago/SEIU 73, Fight for $15

Where do we go from here? A discussion led by Chicago Jobs with Justice

Holiday Open House

34th Annual Union Hall of Honor Awards Dinner

Justice from Farm to Table

Honoring Elizabeth Maloney, Ruben Ramirez, Olgha Sierra-Sandman


UHH 2015

Rachael Brumleve (accepting the award for Elizabeth Maloney), Olgha Sierra Sandman, Ruben Ramirezand Linda O'Neal (accepting the award for Elizabeth Maloney)

- photo courtesy of Mike Matejka


THANK YOU TO EVERY ONE WHO HELPED MAKE THE 2015 Union Hall of Honor A Success!

Web-Ready 2015 UHH Art

Click here to make donation or payment via paypal.

Click here to make a donation or payment by check.



How often do we think about the labor that goes into the food that is on our tables?  From farm labor, to food processors and packers, to the wait staff at restaurants, and clerks at grocery stores, each a day thousands of Illinois workers put in long, hard hours along every step of the food chain.  The Union Hall of Honor is proud to celebrate the lives of three of these workers. They stood up for dignity at their workplaces, fought for a voice at the bargaining table, and remind us that from the farm to the table, these are important spaces for labor organization - past and present.




Joe Hill T-Shirt

In order to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of labor activist and song writer Joe Hill, the Illinois Labor History Society has commissioned a limited edition t-shirt.  The t-shirt was designed by Chicago Teachers Union member and artist Jesus Sanchez. 

Place your order:  here   (please enter the quantity, size and color of t-shirts in the box labeled "purpose").  You can also pay for your order with a check sent to:

Illinois Labor History Society, 430 S. Michigan Ave, Room AUD1851, Chicago, IL 60605

Colors:  Red or Gray

Available Sizes: small - XXXL

Cost: $15 per shirt (If you would like you can make an additional donation, all extra donations will go toward the Illinois Labor History Society Guthrie Fund--a dedicated fund to pay for labor music programs, workshops and performances).

   T-Shirt Front                                                                          T-Shirt Back

Jo Hill T-shirt Front               Joe Hill T-Shirt Back

Do You Want to Learn More About Labor History AND receive 7 hours of CPDU Credit?

Chicago Labor History Workshop and Tour: Wednesday, July 8, 2015, 9am-4:30pm

Sponsored by the Illinois Labor History Society, the Chicago Metro History Education Center, and the Teaching with Primary Sources Program at DePaul University

REGISTER HERE:  Space is limited, so register today!

Location:  DePaul University Lincoln Park Campus, Chicago (room to be announced)  Find driving and public transportation directions: here

Cost:  Free to all teachers who are members of the Illinois Labor History Society.  Membership costs $30.  Membership will help pay for the bus tour, lunch, a packet of primary source documents, a map of Chicago Labor History Sites, and includes a one year membership to ILHS.


Morning Session:  Sources

The Teaching with Primary Sources program at DePaul University will join the Illinois Labor History Society to provide an interactive workshop for teachers to learn about the availability of primary sources that can support their teaching of Illinois Labor History.  Participating teachers will have the opportunity to explore the Library of Congress’s rich collection of millions of digital primary sources, and participate in an interactive discussion and activities designed to use these materials to engage students, promote critical thinking, and construct knowledge about our State’s labor history.


Afternoon Session:  Chicago Labor History Tour

Teachers will board a bus, and embark on a tour led by Dr. Jeff Helgeson to some of the most important sites of labor history in society, including Haymarket Square, the Haymarket Memorial, the Stockyard Gate, and more.  Teachers will receive a labor tour map of Chicago that will include even more sites they can visit on their own after the tour.  At each stop the teachers will receive a copy of at least one primary source relating to that location.  By the end of the tour, teachers will have built a packet of primary sources about Illinois Labor History to use in their classrooms.


Meet the Instructors:

David Bates, Teaching with Primary Sources, DePaul University

Dave Bates earned his PhD in history from the University of Illinois in 2012.  His dissertation examined labor organizing in Chicago stockyards in the early 20th century.  Before coming to TPS-DePaul Dr. Bates served as an online teaching assistant for the University of Illinois’ School of Labor and Employment Relations and a summer instructor for the University’s Labor Education Program.

Jeffrey Helgeson, Texas State University

Jeff Helgeson received his PhD in U.S. history from the University of Illinois in Chicago in 2008.  His book Striving in Black Chicago: Ambition, Activism, and Accommodation from the New Deal to Harold Washington, examines how black Chicagoans developed a unique political culture through the everyday struggle to access housing, job opportunities, and political power in a city that was both “the capital of black America” and one of the most segregated and unequal places in the nation.  Since 2002 he has been the administrative director of the Labor Trail, a collaborative project of the Chicago Center for Working Class Studies.

Stephanie Seawell, Illinois Labor History Society

Stephanie Seawell is the Executive Director of the Illinois Labor History Society (ILHS).  She graduated from the University of Illinois with her PhD in 2014.  Her research focuses on African America, Urban, Labor and Environmental History.  Since joining the ILHS this past fall, Stephanie has helped lead Illinois labor history workshops and tours for teachers and union members.



A May Day to Remember

Thank you to the Chicago Federation of Labor, Chicago Jobs With Justice, the Chicago Federation of Musicians, and everyone who made May Day 2015 a day to remember.  

Here is a link to a video of the rally at Haymarket Square, courtesy of CAN TV: video

Thank you to ILHS Vice President, Mike Matejka for taking wonderful photos of the rally.


May Day Rally 2   May Day Rally 3

  Unveiling of plaque-Sweden LO   May Day Rally 8

  May Day Rally   May Day Rally 6

Workers high above New York   

Do you have two minutes a day to learn about labor history? 

The Illinois Labor History Society has partnered with the Rick Smith radio show out of Pennsylvania to create a daily labor history podcast.  In just two minutes you can learn about what happened on that day in the history of the labor movement and working people.

The program is called “Labor History in 2:00.”

It kicked-off on January first of this year, and already thousands of people have tuned in.  You can listen to the podcasts online here.  You can also follow on Facebook here and on Twitter @laborhistoryin2

Already in the first three months of the program, the Labor History in 2:00 has covered a wide range of topics, including:

  • Events in Illinois labor history from the founding of the IWW and CLUW in Chicago to the Diamond Coal Mine Disaster in Braidwood, and more.
  • Boeing workers striking in Seattle to the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York, from farm worker boycotts in California to sit down strikes in Detroit, and many more topics in between.
  • The labor movement across the world from Argentina to Australia, India to Canada.
  • The creative ways that workers share their stories from the film “Salt of the Earth” and songs such as “Solidarity Forever” and “This Land is Your Land.”
  • The back stories behind laws such as Social Security, FMLA, prevailing wage, and Weingarten Rights.
  • Labor history being made today from the Fight for Wisconsin, to the OUR Walmart Campaign, to the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina.

There are still many more days and many more topics to cover this year.  Be sure to tune in to get your daily two minute dose of labor history!

President Obama Designates Pullman a National Park    

On February 19, President Obama was in Chicago to designate parts of the Southside Pullman community as a National Monument, making the site part of the National Park system.  The photo above was take by ILHS Vice President, Mike Matejka at the signing ceremony. The ILHS has been part of the team working on National Park designation for this important site of labor history.  

You can read a full transcript of President Obama's remarks here.

Here are some thoughts from ILHS President Larry Spivack about the significance of Pullman becoming part of the National Park System:

"President Obama’s historic action in authorizing National Park status for the Pullman District comes at a time when honoring the struggles of all working people to keep a vibrant middle class is needed more than ever. The history of the Pullman Porters, the workers who built the Pullman Palace cars and the courageous actions taken to improve their working conditions for themselves, their families and their community will now be honored as a national heritage.

National Park Status for the Pullman District will create vitality in an area that so desperately needs it. Additionally, and just as important, is the role National Parks play in telling the story of America. The Chicago area is the richest in the nation with respect to the rich diversity of race, immigration, and workers’ struggles to win decent working conditions, and the relationship to the industries in which they worked. In telling this story we can teach current and future generations how we became such a great city and such a great nation. With National Park status the Pullman community will be history’s greatest teacher in an urban environment.

The Illinois Labor History Society has been telling the worker's story since 1969. We are proud to be partners in the coalition that helped bring Pullman to the fore of America's consciousness."

Larry Spivack, President
Illinois Labor History Society

It is with heartfelt gratitude that we are pleased to announce, the Woody Guthrie Foundation has donated $5,000 to the Illinois Labor History Society.

For more than seven decades the songs of Woody Guthrie have been the ballads of working men and women and the music of the labor movement. Since 1972, the Guthrie Foundation has focused on its mission to “promote, perpetuate, and preserve the social, political and cultural values that Woody Guthrie contributed to the world through his life, his music, and his work.” 

The ILHS is truly honored to be entrusted as part of this important mission.  We will put this generous donation toward music programs and performances, celebrating the labor movement and the spirit of Woody Guthrie.


May Day Music

 Bucky Halker and Yahvi Pichardo lead the crowd in singing at the 2014 May Day Celebration at the Haymarket Monument.


Thank you all of our sponsors, to every union local that placed an ad, purchased a table, or bought a ticket, to every individual who volunteered or attended the 2014 Union Hall of Honor--because of your support we had a tremendous evening!

Read a transcript of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka's speech here.

Singing Solidarity Forever with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka, and the guests of Union Hall of Honor dinner sing Solidarity Forever

(photo courtesy of Mike Matejka)


Click here to make donation or payment via paypal.

Click here to make a donation or payment by check.

For information on our 2014 Hall of Honor inductees, click Read More.


Haymarket Martyrs Monument Protected

In the early 1980's, the floral decoration from the front of the Haymarket Martyrs monument was stolen. The job of recreating the bronze object from old photographs was given to conservator, Andrzej Dajnowski of the firm Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio. Before it was installed on the monument in 2011, a mold was made to insure that if damage was done in the future that it could be recreated for far less money.

The ILHS launched an online fundraising to create a rubber mold of the Governor Altgeld bronze plaque on the back side of the monument. The mold took 6 days to complete and was finished on the 25th of October.  The photos below from left to right show the conservation team setting up the scaffolding, Andrzej Dajnowski preparing the plaque to make the mold, and the Altgeld plaque during the mold-making process.

                            Preparing for work           altgeld plaque preparation          altgeld plaque mold

                                                                                                                                                            Photos by Mark Rogovin and Alexis Ellers


Below the Altgeld plaque  is a small missing plaque that had the names of Martyrs, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe and Michael Schwab. They were granted an absolute pardon by Gov. Altgeld and the date of their natural death followed their names. We hope to have the bronze plaque and mold created and installed in the near future. Also, the precise location of the burial site of Nina Van Zandt Spies has been determined. Soon a gravestone will be made and placed at the site of the widow of Martyr August Spies.

Prepared by Mark Rogovin

rooseveltweb The Illinois Labor History Society Has a New Home at Roosevelt University
See photo at left. We're there, on the 13th floor of the Tower in the historic, 125-year old Auditorium Building (sharply contrasting with Roosevelt's new, glass structure behind it).

Our new address and phone:
430 South Michigan Ave.
Room AUD 1361
Chicago, IL 60605
NEW PHONE NUMBER is 312.341.2247
Our email remains This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

The Roosevelt University Library will now house and organize the archival materials of the ILHS, a parternship that will make our materials and collections more accessible to those studying the history of labor's struggles in Illinois. The Illinois Labor History Society, in turn, has a new office at Roosevelt where we will carry on organizing and expanding the programs, publications and tours that are the backbone of our Society's work. All in all, a partnership that will strengthen the ILHS and help esure its continuing contribution to the preservation of labor's story in our state.


Labor Murals in Illinois

Many of Illlinois' labor battles and landmark events are portrayed in an array of stunning murals in Chicago and around the state. In a world surrounded by billboards and advertisements, we can turn to murals to tell us of the lives of people that built our movements and communities. We're sharing the list of labor murals the ILHS developed for our 2011 Union Hall of Honor, when four working-class artists and muralists joined the roster of our inductees.

Now on special sale at our online bookstore: The re-released ILHS DVD "When Art Speaks Labor's Language," a tour guided by President Emeritus Les Orear of three iconic Chicago labor murals. Order your copy today.


Labor Monuments of Illinois

mother-jones  union-cemetary  cherry-monument  cherrysmsq  haymarket  haymarketsmsq  stockyard  diamond  more2
To see what each memorializes, hover mouse over each image.

Labor Heroes

Albert Parsons  Lucy Parsons  chavez  Randolph  Debs  Lewis  Addams  Joe Hill  gompers
To see each labor hero's name, hover mouse above each image.  To learn more, visit the Labor Heroes page.

The Illinois Labor History Society

The Illinois Labor History Society wants to share an amazing story with you. It's the story of how working people built this state. Not just by the work of strong hands and strong minds, but with the ideals of democracy, equal opportunity and human solidarity.

It's the story of the labor movement in Illinois. It's the story of some courageous amazing people Like Mary Harris "Mother" Jones who defied the powerful coal bosses and A. Phillip Randolph who taught the railroad bosses how to respect their own employees. It's also about those people whose names we will never know, but through struggle and sacrifice, made a big difference.

Much of this labor story is unknown to the general public. Some has been deliberately hidden by the wealthy and powerful. Some has never been told. Some has been lost, but perhaps will be found again.

The Illinois Labor History Society wants to share with you as much of this labor story as we can. We also want to hear your part in the labor story, because it's only history if you share it.

Through our website resources, our labor bookstore, our labor videos, our public events, our tours of labor monuments and sites and our media appearances, we want to bring this labor story to life. Not only because it is exciting and uplifting, but because it will help working people build an even better Illinois for tomorrow.


Just some of what we do: 

What does labor want?

"What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures"
~ Samuel Gompers
First President of the American Federation of Labor

"And I long to see the day when Labor will have the destiny of the nation in her own hands and she will stand as a united force and show the world what the workers can do." --- Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, 1830-1930

Get Involved



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Chicago, IL, 60605

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