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Illinois Labor History Society

Hall of Honor

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2017 Union Hall of Honor



Adolph Germer

Both a strong Socialist and union organizer, Adolf Germer (1881-1966) was a German immigrant who came to Illinois as a child.   At age 11, he was working in a coal mine in Stauton, Illinois.  He became active in the United Mine Workers (UMW) and held office in Illinois District 12.  From 1910 through the 1930s, the Illinois Mine Workers continually challenged the national union leadership, which they considered un-democratic.   In 1914 Germer was organizing Colorado miners in the UMWA.  Colorado had the nation’s highest mining fatality rate and as workers joined the union, they faced brutal repression, culminating in the April 20th Ludlow Massacre, when the miners’ tent colony was machine-gunned and burned.

A strong Socialist, in 1916 he was Secretary of the U.S. Socialist Party.  He was staunchly anti-war and in 1919 was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his dissent.  He was freed on bail and was later acquitted.  In 1919, he led the “loyalist faction” of the Socialist Party that expelled the groups that coalesced into the U.S. Communist Party.  The U.S. Socialist Party never fully recovered from this split.  He then worked as a party organizer in New York and Massachusetts.  In 1923 he left the Socialists, working in the California oil fields, helping organize those workers.  In 1930, he returned to Illinois and became a coal miner in Mt. Olive, he was again elected a UMW officer.   An Illinois based faction, including Germer, challenged UMW President John L. Lewis’s leadership.  When the Mt. Olive mine closed, from 1931-33 he edited the Rockford Labor News. Despite their political differences, Lewis knew Germer was a skilled organizer and in November 1935, John L. Lewis hired Germer as the first field representative of the CIO.   He roamed the Midwest during the early and fast developing organization of CIO unions.  When Toledo rubber workers staged the first sit-down strike he was there, and again, in December 1936, with the fledgling United Auto Workers when they sat down in Flint, Michigan.  “Germer labored around the clock in Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland and other auto production centers to spread industrial unionism among auto workers and to encourage hitherto independent unions in the industry to merge into a large, all-inclusive international union.” 1

Germer remained with the CIO until the 1955 merger with the AFL.  He died in Rockford in 1966.

1 Dubofsky, Melvyn and Van Tine, Warren, John L. Lewis: A biography, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1986, page 172.


Mary Marcy

   American socialist Mary Marcy was born on May 8, during the year of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. Raised in Belleville, Illinois, Mary and her siblings were orphaned. As a teenager, she worked as a switchboard operator and stenographer to support herself and her siblings. Mary married socialist Leslie Marcy and together they moved to Kansas City, Missouri. She joined the Socialist Party and soon found work as a secretary to meatpacking executives at Swift and then Armour. Her 1904 investigative series, “Letters of a Pork-Packing Stenographer,” published in the International Socialist Review, revealed the inner workings of the “Big Five” trust. Marcy described how the packinghouse bosses manipulated markets; set rates and prices, and created an industrial monopoly. She also exposed low wages and dangerous working conditions in the industry. Months later, she provided testimony and secret correspondence of executives to a Grand Jury investigation. The case made a big splash in the press, though packers would win immunity from prosecution a year later. Mary lost her job and hired on with the Associated Charities of Kansas City. There she became critical of philanthropic forces that lectured the poor on morals rather than provide concrete aid. She serialized her experiences in the fictional account, Out of the Dump. 
     Returning to Chicago, Mary worked as managing editor to the International Socialist Review. Her wildly popular book, Shop Talks on Economics, served as a primer on socialism. It was translated into several languages, including Japanese, Greek and Finnish. It sold more than two million copies. As well, she penned pamphlets, short stories and poems with themes that centered on working life and the need for a socialist society. Her comrade and eulogist, Jack Carney notes, “Whether it was the lumberjack in the bunkhouse, the miner out in the wilds of Australia, the railroader, the longshoreman, sailor or man counting the ties, the boy in the penitentiary, they all knew Mary through her letters.”When many socialists joined the pro-war fervor in 1914, Mary took a hard stand against it. She published a series of articles in the International Socialist Review that would re-appear in the form of an 80-page pamphlet titled, You Have No Country!
     She wrote, 
“Your” country has protection only for the powerful, the rich, the idle; she has no care for those who are hungry, cold, and sick. The flag of “your” nation is borne by the troops sent into districts where the hosts of poverty congregate, to drive them from the sight of the wealthy. 
“Your” country has no place for you after you have built the railroads, harvested the crops, produced the food and clothing for more than your own numbers. For when your work is done your pay ceases. All that you have made, all that you have produced, has been kept by your employers and you are turned out upon the mercies of “your” country in your old age, penniless and homeless, to starve. 
You have no country! Every national flag in the world today means protection for the employing class, who appropriate the things produced by the workers. It has no message for those who toil. There is only one flag worth fighting for and that is the red flag, which means universal brotherhood of the workers of the world in their fight to abolish the profit system." 
     Mary threw her lot in with the IWW in 1918, though the split in the Socialist movement soon after affected her deeply. Her home was ransacked by the Department of Justice during the Red Scare. Jack Carney noted that the sight of hundreds of fellow workers, many of them her own personal friends going to jail played havoc with her. She and her husband lost their home after mortgaging it to provide bail for numerous Wobblies, including Bill Haywood, then swept up in Red Scare conspiracy trials. The period proved too much for her and in 1922 she took her own life. When Eugene V. Debs learned of her death, he wrote, “she was one of the clearest minds and greatest souls in all our movement, and her passing into the great silence will be such a loss as will leave an aching void to those who knew her.” 


Illinois 8th Regiment
370th Infantry

The Eighth Regiment and the Fight for Democracy at Home and Abroad

When W.E.B DuBois called on African-Americans in 1918 “to forget our special grievances and close our ranks shoulder to shoulder without our own white fellow citizens and the allied nations that are fighting for democracy,” he reflected the thoughts of thousands of black men who joined the U.S. military. Although most “fellow white citizens” did not forget their racism and sought to replicate Jim Crow in the armed forces, African-American men stepped forward to take a role for their country in which full democracy was still a promise.

Since 1894, Chicago’s black community had supported a military unit which had fought for the U.S. in Cuba and Mexico already and which had been reorganized as the Eighth Regiment of the Illinois National Guard.  As the U.S. entered the European war, the regiment became the 370th Infantry of the 93rd division of U.S. Army in 1917, led by an African-American colonel Frank Denison and composed entirely of African American soldiers from Chicago, Springfield, Peoria, and Bloomington.  

American racism reared its ugly head as the 370th Infantry and the four other black infantries were subjected to Jim Crow: while mostly assigned service and grunt jobs, the soldiers who did fight were placed under French command as white military leaders refused to believe that blacks had the courage and tenacity for battle. The highest-ranking colonels were not allowed to serve. The U.S. army also sent to the French military a “Secret Information Concerning Black American Troops” communique that stated that blacks were cowardly and lazy, the officers could not lead their men, and it also warned that the French--especially women—should keep their distance from the black soldiers.  The French ignored it and embraced in the African-

American soldiers.  The 370th battled under French command from March to November 1918, playing decisive roles in the battles of St. Mihiel, the Argonne Forest, and the Oise-Aisne and Lorraine offensives in which the Germans were pushed back. The French treated the men of the 370th as heroes, and awarded 68 Croix de Guerre medals. Eventually, the U.S. Army recognized 22 soldiers of the regiment for “distinguished service.”

When the soldiers returned to Chicago in February 1919, they were greeted by tens of thousands of Chicagoans, feted at the Chicago Coliseum by overflow crowds, and cheered during a triumphant march up Michigan avenue. Amidst the triumphant return, the Chicago Defender editorialized, “If you have been fighting for democracy, let it be a real democracy, a democracy in which the blacks can have equal hope, equal opportunities, and equal rewards with the whites. Any other sort of democracy spells failure.” Months later, these same men helped defend the African American community from white violence during the July riot.  Twenty years later—during World War II--African Americans were again fighting to secure democracy for all citizens at home as well as across the world. 

In 1927 the Victory Monument was dedicated at 35th and King Drive to honor the bravery, sacrifice, and patriotism of the 370th, fondly known as “the Old Eighth.”  Paid for by the state of Illinois, it was the first monument in the U.S. to honor black soldiers and it stands proudly today at the same corner.  So, too, the regiment’s armory still exists at 35th and Giles Avenue—just a few blocks from the monument.  It is now the CPS Chicago Military Academy of Bronzeville.  We can honor service and sacrifice of the 370th by visiting these sites—and working to keep our democracy alive every day.


Beatrice Lumpkin

Born in 1918 and raised in The Bronx by Russian immigrant parents, Beatrice Lumpkin launched her life’s mission as a union and political activist at an early age. Her first factory job was in 1933, the summer she was 14. Bea lied about her age to get the fifteen-cent-an-hour job assembling radio tubes. Not long afterwards, Bea authored her first workplace flyer, “Are you satisfied?” She became a member of the Metal Workers Industrial Union, soon to become a part of the newly burgeoning Congress of Industrial Organizations… the CIO. As a Hunter College student Bea became an member and organizer for the Laundry Workers union, following the path laid down by her parents who had owned a small laundry during her childhood. 

The ‘30’s were tumultuous; workers faced unemployment on a massive scale. Both the Socialists and Communists were active in organizing the unemployed, leading hunger marches, and recruiting workers into the militant industrial unions.  Bea jumped right in. In analyzing this period, Lumpkin describes President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “He was a great President but only because he responded to the pressure of the organized masses. Nobody gave us the social safety net.”

In 1939 Lumpkin, a recent college graduate, found herself a member of the United Electrical Workers, working as a radio technician. In the early years of the war, she and her first husband had two children. During a period in Buffalo, New York Lumpkin met Frank Lumpkin, an African American man who soon became her second husband and the father of her younger children. They moved together to Chicago where they were confronted by tremendous hostility as a mixed race couple.  During the War years and their  aftermath, much of her work focused on rent strikes and tenant organizing. At one point the family was evicted and, in court the landlord told the judge that he Lumpkins were Communists and he upheld the family’s eviction. 

In 1950 Frank got a job at the far south side Wisconsin Steel Mill; the family settled in Gary, Indiana and Bea worked as a copy writer for the Gary Post- Tribune. She later worked at National Tube where she became a member of the United Steelworkers.  She returned to school to study electronics but that career was brought to an abrupt halt by the company president who fired her saying, “For what I’m paying you… I can get a man.”  Lumpkin has been a fighter for women’s rights throughout her life and, in 1974, was a founding member of CLUW, the Coalition of Labor Union Women.

Bea began her teaching career after that. She taught at Chicago Public Schools and then became a math instructor at Malcolm X Community College. Later she returned to CPS, finally retiring at age 72.  During the 1950’s and ‘60s, she was a participant in the civil rights movement including marching with MLK in Marquette Park and she actively assisted the Black Panthers in their community work on the west side of Chicago.  She was also active in the fight against U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Lumpkin continues her activism on a daily basis. Current projects include the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, an organization whose mission is, “to mobilize retired union members and other senior and community activists into a nationwide grassroots movement advocating a progressive political and social agenda.” A part of their work that Lumpkin particularly enjoys is the building of intergenerational dialogue and projects, working with such groups as the Chicago Young Workers, SEIU Future Fighters and others. 
Lumpkin said that she is particularly honored to be an ILHS Union Hall of Honor Inductee. When asked why, she replied, “If you don’t study labor history, you really haven’t studied history at all. Studying history will help us understand the present and the future we can create by working together.”

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2015 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

Elizabeth Maloney

Elizabeth Maloney was born in 1880 in Joliet, Illinois.  The Irish American organizer was one of the founding members of the Chicago waitresses union Local 484.  She served as the Financial Secretary of the union.  She was instrumental in growing the union membership and was involved in several strikes.  One of her greatest causes was the fight for the ten-hour day.  When she became involved in the profession waitresses were frequently required to work thirteen or fourteen hours a day, seven days a week.

Her championing of the ten-hour day extended beyond her work at the waitresses union. Elizabeth Maloney was also active in the Women’s Trade Union League of Chicago. Elizabeth served on the WTUL Executive Board from 1907-1916. While she was chairwoman of the League’s legislative committee, Elizabeth worked closely with Agnes Nestor on the passage of the 1909 law for a ten-hour law for women workers in Illinois.  Not content with ten hours, Elizabeth continued to fight for an eight-hour day for all workers.

Elizabeth Maloney was the first woman to serve as a vice-president of the Hotel and Restaurant Employee’s International Union. She was a very active delegate to the Illinois State Federation of Labor.  Besides her life-long commitment to improving the lives of women in the workplace, she also fought for women’s suffrage.

The most significant strike that Elizabeth Maloney was involved with occurred in 1914 when the Chicago Waitress Local 484 and the Chicago Cooks Union 864 went on strike against Henrici’s, a restaurant located on Randolph Street.  The strike started in February and wore on for eleven months. Women on the picket line faced harassment by the police. The action expanded to twenty more restaurants that were part of the Restaurant Keepers Association.  It was supported by Hull House, the WTUL and the Chicago Federation of Labor. The strike eventually collapsed due to a series of injunctions leveled against the waitress picketers.  However, it gained considerable attention by the press.

Due to the attention garnered by the Chicago waitresses’ strike, Elizabeth testified before the Commission on Industrial Relations.  Also known as the Walsh Commission, it was charged by the US Congress to conduct a sweeping investigation of the condition of work in the United States.  They conducted 740 interviews,     including labor leaders “Big Bill” Haywood and Mother Jones, and Clarence Darrow.  Her selection to testify before this body, speaks to Elizabeth’s important role in labor organizing. During her testimony she said, “When you look at the profit side of the concern and look at the wage column, and see the wages as low as two or three or four dollars a week, and you know that industry is piling up millions of dollars at the expense of the girls, that side of the table should be equalized a little more, and I think a girl should be entitled to live decently and properly and enjoy some of the things in life that her employer wants his children to have.” When Elizabeth died in 1921, a “guard of honor” attended her funeral.  It included Jane Addams and Ellen-Gates Starr of Hull house, and WTUL activist Alice Henry.

Olgha Sierra Sandman

A true champion for farm workers is Olgha Sierra Sandman, who for over 40 years has worked to improve conditions for migrant farmworkers. Olgha, a Mexican native, came to Chicago in the early 1950s to attend the Baptist Missionary Training School.  During those summers, she did outreach work to farm workers in east central Illinois and met her future husband, the late Rev. Dr. Robert Sandman of the United Church of Christ.  She was active in the National Council of Churches' Migrant Ministry.

Seeing that sad conditions of farm workers, Olgha continued working with the Migrant Ministry.  In 1970 United Farm Workers’ president Cesar Chavez (1927-1993) came to the Ministry and asked them to support his union efforts, saying improving workers’ wages and conditions was more important than charity.  The organization rechristened itself as the National Farm Worker Ministry and became active supporters of farm workers organizing themselves for better conditions.  Olgha became an over 40-year board member, plus serving as the NFWM’s interim director and President.

Olgha and Bob became steadfast Chavez supporters, also working with Baldemar Valesquez and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and Florida’s Coalition of Immokalee Workers. 

In 1974 Bob Sandman took a pastor’s position in Peoria.  Olgha became the first director of the Illinois Council of Churches’ Illinois Farm Worker Ministry (IFWM), a position she served in until 1992.   Besides supporting Chavez and union boycott activities, the IFWM actively reached out to farm worker communities in southern Illinois apple and peach orchards, cannery workers, vegetable workers and nursery workers. 

Olgha helped Onarga farm workers launch the Illinois Farm Worker Service Center in 1981.  The IFWM also helped pass Illinois’ 1982 Field Sanitation Act, requiring clean drinking water and portable toilets for farm workers.

Olgha commented about the farm workers, “You learn to love the people, and you begin to appreciate that the food that comes to your table would not come to our table unless you had people in the fields, bending over and bending over, day and day out, sun up to sun down.”

In 1992 Bob and Olgha retired and spent a year working with refugees in Turkey.  Olgha continues her service with the NFWM board and remains active in supporting farm workers and “la causa.”

Ruben Ramirez

Ruben Ramirez spent over four decades as a member and an officer for United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 100A. His lifelong efforts on behalf of working families have been recorded in various publications, including the 2012 New York Times Best Seller “Fast Food Nation,” by Eric Schlosser.

Ruben came to the United States from Guanajuato, Mexico, with no understanding of the English language. In 1956, at the age of 17, he began working at Swift & Company in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. At the time, Mexicans were looked down on, so Ruben was only given the menial tasks, such as general labor and sanitation. He was not allowed to do anything that involved knife skills. According to the book, “Fast Food Nation,” Ruben “carried heavy boxes and barrels of meat, getting soaked in blood that hardened and froze to his clothing in the winter.” After a few years, Ruben went to work at a rival processing company, Glenn & Anderson, where he worked in sanitation and was eventually promoted to butcher.

Throughout his time at the packing houses, he and his friends suffered severe injuries on the job. While lugging beef off a trailer, Ruben slipped on frozen blood; the heavy carcass landed on him, knocking him unconscious, and the sharp bone of the carcass severed his middle finger. Ruben knew he and the other workers deserved better. They struggled to unionize their workplace in the 1960s, and in the end, by standing together, they secured a union contract that offered better wages, benefits and safer working conditions.

Ruben was active in his Union, starting as a Shop Steward, then working his way up the ranks. In fact, prior to becoming a Business Rep, he sacrificed his time with his family and organized while he still worked on the shop floor. As a Business Rep, when Ruben would service the members, he worked tirelessly to make sure he was available to workers on every shift. When the workers would go on break at the plant, they would ask Ruben to help them not just with union issues but personal ones as well. He would help them read and understand letters that were sent home from their children’s schools, issues with utility bills, filling out amnesty applications, or any other kind of correspondence because he knew the difficulties of living as an immigrant in the United States. Ruben also learned enough “shop-Polish” to be able to communicate with the workers who did not know English. He got the entire family involved by sitting them around the kitchen table to rewrite his notes from the plant visits on to grievance forms. Even with the help of his six kids and his wife, Sarah, they were still “under-staffed.”

In 1985, he saw the workers of the American Meat Packing Corporation through a grueling 15-month strike. He endured the harsh winter and sweltering summer, standing side-by-side with the strikers at all hours of the day and night. His six children would take turns standing on the picket line with him, with his sons Javier and Jorge often entertaining the picketers. At its conclusion, the Union won a hard-fought battle against the company and later won a lawsuit for lost wages for unfair labor practices.

Ruben also successfully negotiated many contracts to ensure members had good insurance, pension and a livable wage. The respect for Ruben was not just from his members, but his counterparts across the table. Those employers that did not know him, and saw only a short Mexican with an accent, quickly learned why he was respected. Ruben was able to establish high-functioning relationships with employers, and today, most would call him their friend.

For decades, Ruben faced the same systemic racism that many in our society have faced over the years. However, he was able to affect change in his Union when he became the first and only Latino to head Local 100A in 1993. As President, he made sure the leadership of Local 100A was reflective of the members they served by including African-Americans, Latinos, women and other minorities on the Union’s Executive Board. During his time with UFCW he was able to forge strong bonds with other minority leaders, like Jacqueline and Robert Vaughn, Charlie Hayes, and Addie Wyatt.

What made Ruben so successful is his trustworthiness, empathy and work ethic. He was a leader within the Latino community, as well as the community at large. It did not matter where he went, whether it was his Church, a community group, or the union, he ended up in a leadership role. As he traveled around the City of Chicago, people knew “Don Ruben,” with “Don” being a term of respect in the Latino culture, and he was regularly stopped to request his assistance or perspective.

Ruben’s faith is a huge part of who he is; so much so that no matter what was happening, Ruben and Sarah made sure their family was at Church every Sunday, taking up the entire first pew. He was active in his Church and used that as a way to connect with workers. He understood the profound connection between Catholic Social Teaching and the rights of workers on the job. Most weeks he would attend more than one Sunday Mass, set up a table afterward and spend his time answering workers’ questions, union or non-union.

Ruben and Sarah always instilled in their children the ideals of respect for all people and taking care of one another. They encouraged their children to take advantage of what was there and to work hard. Ruben would always tell them, “There may be people smarter and more talented than you, but there should never be anyone that works harder than you.” Even though Ruben has retired from the labor movement, his principles and standards live on through the work of his children. After seeing the positive impact Ruben was able to make for workers, all six of his children have gone on to work within the labor movement. Ruben, Jr. is a member of the Policemen’s Benevolent Association; Javier is a federal mediator; Liz works for a union health and welfare fund; Leticia (Tish) is the Director for UFCW Region 6 and an International Vice President; Alicia serves on the Executive Board of UFCW Local 1546; and Jorge is the President of the Chicago Federation of Labor and a Vice President of the National AFL-CIO.

Ruben has always focused his energy on providing a better life for his family and the members of UFCW Local 100A. Coming to the United States, he faced adversity and discrimination, but he always rose above it and never became bitter. He used it to fire himself up, and with the support of his wife, he kept moving forward, striving for something better.

2014 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin


After graduation from Granite City High School, Bob Gibson served in the Coast Guard in World War II. He then took a job at Granite City Steel. He moved into a staff position in the CIO and was leading a community services program when the AFL and the CIO merged in 1958. Gibson remained a vocal leader in providing union supported community services throughout his tenure at the AFL-CIO, and today an annual banquet bestows the Robert G. Gibson Community Service Award to union members who uphold this legacy of community service

Bob Gibson was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Illinois AFLCIO in 1963 and served for 15 years. He then served as President for a decade until 1989.

Bob Gibson was instrumental in winning the long battle for public sector union rights which culminated in the 1983 collective bargaining laws for public employees. In 1978 the AFL-CIO resolved to make public sector unionism their top priority. Under Bob Gibson’s leadership Illinois labor union members mobilized an effort to talk to every legislator in Springfield. Then, in June 2, 1981, 20,000 angry union workers poured into Springfield on buses and trains, and held the largest ever rally at the Illinois State Capitol. Gibson worked with Republican Governor James Thompson and Democratic Mayor of Chicago Harold Washington to overcome three decades of opposition to public sector unionism. Governor Thompson signed the Illinois Public Employee collective bargaining bill on September 23, 1983 with Gibson at his side.

This growth of public sector unionism became even more important as attacks on private sector unions mounted during the 1980s and beyond. Today the public sector accounts for half of all union membership in the United States, and public sector unionism is a bedrock of the labor movement, especially in Illinois, and this is in part Bob Gibson’s legacy.

Public sector unionism was not the only cause that Gibson championed. Starting in 1975 the Illinois AFL-CIO actively supported the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, holding rallies in support of equal rights for women as a labor issue. In 1980 Bob Gibson testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on behalf of the ERA.

In 1982, Bob Gibson helped organize 40,000 union members to march along Michigan Avenue in the city of Chicago's first Labor Day parade in 41 years. The march demonstrated the unity and power of organized labor—a power that grew with Bob Gibson’s leadership.

Regina V. Polk

Regina Polk was born on a farm in Casa Grande, Arizona in 1950. She attended Mills College in San Francisco on scholarship, and did graduate work in Industrial Relations at the University of Chicago. From 1974, until her untimely death in 1983, she was with Local 743 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. She was very proud to be a Teamster. Regina Polk’s entry into the labor movement was anything but auspicious. While studying Industrial Relations at the University of Chicago, she worked part-time as a waitress. Like many non-union establishments, the restaurant’s pay and working conditions were deplorable. Gina soon concluded that what she and her fellow workers needed was a union. She personally contacted Local 743 because of its reputation as a progressive union, one that emphasizes “organizing the unorganized”. When she began signing up her co-workers at the restaurant as members, Gina was promptly fired.

While the union was appealing her firing as illegal, they employed Gina part-time as a labor organizer. By the time the case was decided in her favor, she had found her career with the labor movement. She began as a labor organizer and later was promoted to serve as a Business Representative.

When Gina returned to the University of Chicago in 1978, it was not to finish her masters’ degree, but to help organize its 1,800 clerical workers, and serve as their Business Representative. Gina also played a key role in organizing Blue Cross/Blue Shield Illinois, and Governor’s State University. In 1982, Alden’s, a large mail order company, closed its doors. Two thousand, six hundred union workers from local 743 were let go. Gina was assigned the job of organizing retraining programs for the laid off workers.

In recognition of her activities in the labor movement, she was appointed by Governor Thompson as a member of the Illinois Employment and Training Council. On a trip to attend a meeting of the Council, Gina was killed in a plane crash on October 11, 1983.

Regina Polk was interviewed and quoted by various publications including The New York Times and Time Magazine on the subjects of white collar organizing, and the role of women in the labor movement.

The Regina Polk Scholarship Fund for Labor Leadership was established in 1983 in Gina’s memory. The fund sponsors an annual conference for women in the labor movement, and funds a program that teaches high school students about the labor movement.

Connell F. Smith

Connell F. Smith served as Business Manager/Secretary Treasurer of Laborers’ Local 773 from 1942 to 1976. It was his vision that guides Local 773 to this day in organizing, political action and service to the membership. He provided a strong foundation for one of the most respected Local Unions in the entire International Union. His philosophy of “Who can I help today” guided him as the longest serving business manager in Local 773 history.

Mary Jewel graduated Diehlstadt High School at the age of 16, and was the only one of her mother’s children to graduate from high school. She later worked at Brown Shoe Company in Charleston, Missouri, and then at the munitions plant in Cairo, Illinois during World War II. It was at this job, working on the assembly line, that she met her husband, Connell F. Smith, a union representative for workers at the plant. While they were dating, she often told him she would rather dance than eat. Mary Jewel and Connell were married on December 8, 1945. Connell shared his passion for hunting and fishing with Mary Jewel, and she was soon out-shooting and out-fishing him. They were married until he passed away in 1988. “

Local 773 Local 773 was chartered on March 11, 1940 in Cairo, Illinois. Local 773, since its original charter, has grown into the largest Local Union in the Midwest Region covering a geographic area of the thirteen southernmost counties in Southern Illinois and representing over 4,000 members. The membership of Laborers’ Local 773, one of most diverse in the United States, is comprised of members employed in the construction, health care, industrial, manufacturing, public sector and environmental industries. Also unique to Local 773 is its representation of over 800 railroad maintenance workers, covering 41 states in the United States. 

2013 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

Mark Rogovin

Growing up in his childhood home in Buffalo New York, Mark Rogovin was raised by parents who taught him the struggle for worker's rights, and the value of organizing and union membership at an early age. Mark's father Milton organized optometric workers (he organized his future father in law's eye glass store, which endeared him to Mark's mother Anne but not his boss). Anne joined a teacher's union in suburban Buffalo. Together they shared with Mark a love for art, theater and music that highlighted the accomplishments of working people, including Milton's own documentary photography of steel workers and miners.

Mark attended the Rhode Island School of Design, and worked in Mexico with world famous progressive muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros on his last mural, the March of Humanity. In 1968, Mark came to Chicago to attend the Art Institute of Chicago, and after completing his graduate degree, he opened the Public Art Workshop on the city's west side in 1972. Bringing art education to children, at a time when resources for these programs were being slashed in schools, was a priority for the center. Besides painting murals he co-authored the book, Mural Manual, the only step-by step- guide to painting community and classroom murals.

In 1981, Mark co-founded Chicago's Peace Museum and was the museums first director. The organization not only created a home for celebrating peace and justice, but defined the very nature of justice — economic justice, and those who work to create it in our society.

Mark was later a champion for the Paul Robeson 100th Birthday Committee, not only in Chicago, but the campaign that resulted in resources for classroom teachers across the US and a postage stamp honoring this hero of working people who fight for justice and freedom. Mark worked for four years with the committee and co-authored Paul Robeson Rediscovered: An Annotated Listing of His Chicago History from 1921 to 1958. Mark serves as the curator of the photography of Milton Rogovin. In this role he plans, organizes and executes exhibits, films, publications and educational initiatives utilizing his father's photos, which highlight the daily lives of working people in America.

In collaboration with the Illinois Labor History Society, since 1994 Mark has worked on publications, projects, research and events relating to the Haymarket Martyrs monument and other historic monuments and markers of working class heroes in the Forest Home cemetery, These projects include two versions of the publication The Day Will Come, a smart phone tour of the Radical Row, assisting with website improvements, spearheading a fundraising drive for rubber molds to ensure that historic monuments will be safe from theft, contacting organizations to help with the restoration of headstones and monuments, and identifying records and burial sites of key Haymarket family members.

He continues to develop projects to protect the history and the legacy of the people buried at the Haymarket monument and in the area surrounding the martyrs to ensure that visitors are aware of the stories that their lives represent.

And on a sunny day, when he's driving by and he sees someone standing at the Haymarket monument taking pictures or wondering around, he'll turn into the cemetery and offer an impromptu tour. He just can't resist the lure of another convert, to the history of the eight hour day.

Refugio Martinez

Refugio Roman Martinez was born in 1903 in a town called Villa Cecilia, on the outskirts of Tampico, Tamaulipas in Mexico. Martinez had relatively little formal schooling before beginning work as a tinsmith, but over the years, he took part in a variety of self-education activities. He moved to the United States in 1924, where he settled in Chicago, married an American citizen, and went on to have two American-born daughters.

His entry to the country in 1924 was part of the migration of approximately one million Mexicans into the United States in the period between 1900 and 1930, many of whom were coming in response to the demands of American employers. He worked for some time in the meatpacking industry at Swift and Company in the Union Stockyards before losing his job when the depression hit. Mexican immigrants began working in large numbers in the Union Stock Yards as early as the 1920s, mostly as laborers in the packinghouse freezers, and on the killing floor butchering livestock. Many of them, like Martinez, lived and worked in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

While Martinez had gained a political mindset in Mexico’s political upheaval before migrating to the United States, much of his radicalization and orientation toward labor activism came out of the Great Depression and his experiences working to try and provide relief to struggling communities. In 1932, he joined the Communist Party through his involvement with the Unemployed Councils, whose efforts to provide aid to those seeking relief during the Depression were important to the working class and immigrant populations of the city.

In the course of his activism with the Unemployed Councils, Martinez often clashed with the police, and ended up arrested on multiple occasions. However, finding himself dissatisfied with the Communist Party, Martinez dropped out after only seven months of membership, although he continued his work with the Unemployed Councils. Over the following years, he was involved with a wide variety of political, labor, and community organizations, including the Frente Popular Mexicano, which tied Mexican nationalism in Chicago to demands for immigration and labor improvements.

While Martinez was active in politics on a large scale, much of his most important activism took place on the neighborhood level, where he was an important presence in the community. He was a co-leader of the Mexican Civic Committee, which worked with neighborhood people on various issues, including problems with the immigration service. Along with Jose Rodriguez, Martinez, he organized Mexican packinghouse workers in the Back of the Yards, and expanded their reach through working with community organizations such as the University of Chicago Settlement House, the Catholic church, and the YWCA.

After being active in the labor and organizing community for years, Martinez joined on as a staff member for the Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee in 1938. As a staff organizer of the PWOC, Martinez was part of their efforts to coordinate between different ethnic communities and institutions for the purposes of union organizing and CIO recruiting. In his new position, he worked alongside varied immigrant, African American, and native-born workers to found an organization which represented Chicago’s diverse working-class population.

As a PWOC organizer, he began by working with Swift Company activists, including numerous Mexicans who worked on the loading docks and pickling departments. Although Martinez and many of his fellow Mexican labor leaders were inspired to get involved with labor unions in the United States because of their political grounding in Mexican radicalism, working with the SWOC brought Martinez more deeply into American life and led to his close relationships with a variety of multi-ethnic allies. Because of his meatpacking experiences working at Swift, close ties to community organizations, and language skills, Martinez was a particularly strong organizer for the UPWA, as well as an influential leader in Chicago’s Mexican American community.

Just as immigrant union leaders today are a critical force in the labor movement, working to gain respect and dignity for working-class communities, Martinez and his fellow UPWA activists were important in the fight for better conditions for immigrants and laboring people in the 1930s and 1940s.

In spite of Martinez’s lifelong commitment to working with diverse communities to build a better and more equitable society in the United States, with the advent of the Cold War, he came under extreme repression. During the Cold War, the Immigration and Naturalization Service aggressively targeted the CIO through its immigrant leaders, who they persecuted strategically. Martinez’s harassment by immigration services began as early as 1938, continuing until his eventual deportation in 1953 under newly restrictive immigration legislation which introduced new anti-radical provisions for deportation.

In the process of being interrogated by the INS for potential deportation, Martinez pointed to his family and long years of residence in the United States, and argued that “I am willing to prove my loyalty through my activity.” The Chicago labor community echoed this sentiment, and were eager to come to the defense of one of their strongest fighters. When his deportation was ordered, his community and union rallied around his cause and sought to defend him, stating in a leaflet that, “Martinez has proven himself a good American by his devotion toward a better world for everyone.”

Martinez’s deportation was part of a broader effort to clamp down on progressive CIO unions and to dissuade more radical labor activists from standing up for workers’ rights. As the Martinez Defense Committee of the UPWA explained, “The real aims of the Department are to weaken the packing-house workers union and to intimidate Mexican American and foreign born workers from being active union members.” However, because of the anti-radical culture of the Cold War, Martinez’s case, like that of other labor and community leaders, was met with a great deal of resistance by those who believed his activism to be “un-American.” The UPWA hired labor lawyer Eugene Cotton to defend Martinez, but in spite of strenuous efforts on his behalf, Cotton lost the appeal.

In December 1951, Martinez suffered a stroke which left him partially mute and paralyzed. After 12 years of harassment and court proceedings with the United States government over his deportation case, Martinez was deported in 1953. Martinez’s lawyer and friend Eugene Cotton informed the INS a week after his deportation that as a result of the hardship suffered by deportation after a recent stroke, he had died in Mexico after his arrival.

While Martinez’s legacy of union activism was exceptional, his deportation was not—between 1951 and 1954 the INS deported over one million immigrants, including many for their labor activism. Although the official records stated that he was deported for his past involvement with the Communist Party, the government was largely motivated by his union organizing in the Chicago meatpacking industry. Others active in his union faced arrests and police harassment, but immigrant labor leaders were particularly vulnerable to repression from the police and the immigration service.

As we look to the intersection of labor struggles and immigrant rights in today’s political landscape, we can proudly remember the brave activism of Refugio Martinez, a labor and community leader who devoted his life to improving conditions for working people, both native-born and immigrant. A big thank you.

-Written by Emily Pope Obeda

2012 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

Ed Sadlowski

A tribute to Ed Sadlowski by his son, Ed Jr.

I am a fourth generation trade unionist. My Dad is a great labor leader, educator, a mentor, a true "Pal," the best kind of friend -- an instant champion of your cause. Knowledge is power. Ed Sadlowski lhas spent his lifetime fulfilling his calling that everyone "know the score," "who is screwing who." My father never gives anyone a "bum steer" when advice is sought, or more commonly, when his counsel is "passionately" proffered.

His people were forged and tapped from hard living in and around the coal mines of Southern Illinois, and from tehe intense heat of the steel making furnaces which lined Lake Michigan's Southern shoreline. His father worked the ore bridges at Inland Steel in East Chicago, Indiana. "Load" was a militant, a true believer. The Congress of Industrial organizations was his thing. He was a Steel Worker Organizxing Committee activist, a founding member of USW Local 1010. With a culture of direct action by workers on the shop floor, the local union cultivated loyalty of the membership and the active participation of the rank and file in the day to day functions of the union. Democratic trade unionism has become the hallmark of our family heritage. Load was a trade unionist's trade unionist. My Dadalways made it his business to ensure the elder generations spent time with the younger crowd. Life's hard lessons have been handed down.

In 1956, our Dad landed a job as an oiler in the machine shope at United States Steel South Works. His identity was quickly shaped by his work environment. Like many in the mills, like his father before him, he picked up a handle along the way -- "Oilcan Eddie." Our parents were high school sweethearts from the proverbial different side of two millgate community tracks. A river also runs through it. He, a South Chicago working class kid. She hailed from the neighborhood farthest east in the city. Somehow it is a perceived "step up" across the Calumet River, known as the "East Side." Ed and Marlene Sadlowski were married on January 31, 1959.

In 1964, at the age of 24, by Dad led a diverse coalition of rank and file workers to victory, upsetting an entrenched incumbent to become President of USW Local 65. With her calm wisdom, deep compassion, and profound love for others, Marlene was not the woman behind the man, but she remained standing by his side. In the early days, our Mom was active in the Women's Auxiliary, which meant social gatherings, political rallies, parades, and countless meetings at the Local 65 Hilding Anderson Union Hall. They began taking on responsibility for the good and welfare of 14,000 steelworkers, and at the same time my sisters Susan, Patty, Diane and I were part of the scene.

In 1975, Ed Sadlowski beat the hand-picked successor of the "official family" by a 2 to 1 margin to become Director of USW Distreict 31. This was steelworker insurgency -- Steel Workers Fight Back. At the time, it was the largest district in the USW. The victory followed an earlier election for the directorship was was wrought with charges of fraud against the "official family" of the union. The Department of Labor re-run is considered the most supervised election in U.S. labor history.

In 1976 Steel Workers Fight Back slated our father to head a ticket challenging the International Presidency of the union. During the campaign leading up to the 1977 election, our family hit the road, attending union functions around the country. Ben Corum was shot in the neck handing out Steel Workers Fight Back literature at the Hughes Tool Plant in Housing, Texas. Fight Back was organizing delegates to the International Convention to gain tlhe right of union members to vote on their own contracts, regain the right to strike and have a say about their union dues. These hard won democratic rights are taken for granted by many in the labor movement today. It was a hotly contested election for the Presidency of the union. Without question, the Steel Workers Fight Back insurgent movement has changed the culture of the USW for the better.

"I guess maybe I am a romantic, but I look at the American labor movement as a holyi crusade, which should be the dominant force in this coutnry to fight for working people and the underdog and make this a more just society." -- Ed Sadlowski

Alice Peurala: Woman of Steel

Written by Bob Simpson

The fires of steelmaking burned all along the southern shores of Lake Michigan when Alice Peurala entered U.S. Steel's South Works in 1953. Today most of those fires have gone out and with them the thousands of jobs that were once the economic support system for the Southeast Chicago-Gary region, a region that has still not recovered.

Steelworker Alice Peurala was the daughter of Armenian immigrants. Born in 1928 in St. Louis, she grew up in a family that was pro-union and politically involved in trying to recover Armenian lands from Turkey, as had been promised by President Wilson after World War I. Like the children of most immigrant families, Peurala was well acquainted with hard work, taking her first job at 14. Later she moved to Chicago where she took a number of jobs and worked as a union organizer. A socialist, she had to contend with the redbaiting of the McCarthy period and there were periods of unemployment when she was fired for union organizing.

Whlen Peurala entered Chicago's South Works steel mill in 1953, there were few women employed there. Most of the women who had steel jobs during WWII had dreturned home when the men came back from the war. The women who remained faced gender discrimination in hiring and promotion. Still, Peurala found that most of the male steelworkers were pretty decent guys who taught her the tricks of the steelmaking trade.

Active in the civil rights movement, Alice knew that the 1964 Civil Rights Actd covered gender as well as race., So ion 1967, when she was denied a promotion from her job in the Metallurgical Division to a better position in a product testing lab, she decided to fight. The promotion would mean that Peurala, a single mom, coulod be with her daughter in the evenings. She was told that since the job required overtime and heavy lifting, she was ineligible as a woman. The union would not take her case so she went to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC determined that the company had lied about the heavy lifting, the onerous overtime, and the education requirements. They recommended that she sue.

She found a lawyer, the young Patrick Murphy, who knew little about civil rights law, but dedicated himself to the case. After much foot-dragging, and many objections from US Steel attorneys, the judge issued a compromise solution. Peurala would be next in line for a product tester's job. Then when US Steel tried to cirdcumvent the settlement, the judge was so furious that Peurala finally got her promotion in 1969. It was a victory for all women in manufacturing and avictory for democracy in the workplace. Cases like those of Alice Peurala helped make the 1974 Consent Decree to end discrimination in the steel industry a reality. The Decree was signed by nine major steel companies, the steelworkers union and the EEOC.

Soon afterward, Peurala joined Steelworkers Fight Back, a rank and file steelworker insurgency group which developed a large following in Districtd 31 of the USW. Led by a third generation steelworker named Ed Sadlowski, Steelworkers Fightback introduced a democratic militancy into the steel industry that had not been seen since the early days of the CIO. Alice Peurala was one of the tough, smart working class leaders emerging in the 1960s who were determined to challenge the iron-fisted dictatorial control of company owners. They also challenged the leadership of their unions and fought for democratic reforms. 

Despite the 1974 Consent Decree, women were being forced to take sick leave for pregnancy and made ineligible for unemployment oir medical insurance. There were reports of women feeling compelled to have abortions to survive economically. Women steelworkers suspected that the companies were using pregnancy to rid themselves of women they never wanted to hire in the first place. There were also problems with promotions. After she was elected as a grievance handler, Peurala came to believe that the company was hiring inexperienced women to do jobs they couldn't handle as a way to dismiss these new hires, instead of promoting experienced women from inside the plant. The new hires were being set up to fail. Alice's response: "We can't allow men to decide what women's rights are. They aren't the ones who will get hurt, we are. If those bastards try that trick again, tell them where to shove it. The men never put up with this shit."

Peurala helped organize the Local 65 Women's Caucus. Steelworker women activists plunged into a wide variety of campaigns from fighting for stronger affirmative action enforcement to improving the decrepit state of the women's washrooms. They formed alliances with feminist groups across the region, refuting the rightwing smear that feminism was only a movement for privileged white women. They became active in the newly formed Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW). District 31 made a major push for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), sending hundreds of steelworkers, both men and women, to state legislatures to lobby for equal rights. While some local media tried to make a joke out of "burly male steelworkers" campaigning for women's rights, steelworker women and men didn't think that was funny at all. They understood the iimportance of working class solidarity against social injustice. 

Once dubbed "Alice in Wonderland" by men who thought a woman could never lead a largely male steelworker local, Alice Peurala won the presidency of Local 65 in 1979 because of her solid record of achievement. "I did not win a a woman. I campaigned as a candidate who would so something about conditions in the plant that affect 7500 people -- men and women. ... People in the plant looked on me as a fighter. I think it demonstrates that the men in the plant will vote for someone who is going to work for them, make the union work for them." -- Alice Peurala

But Peurala's victory came when the American steel industry was about to collapse in an atmosphere of fear caused by mass layoffs. She was narrowly defeated for re-election in 1982, but was re-elected in 1985. But by 198 5, the local was down to 800 members and Alice Peurala faced a new enemy -- cancer. On June 21, 1986, her steelworker's heart went silent and the working class lost one of its finest and most steadfast leaders. 

Frank Lumpkin, Steelworker Leader, Fighter for a Better World

Written by Beatrice Lumpkin

Born the third of ten children on October 13, 1916, Frank Lumpkin is known for winning a 17-year fight against a steel mill, but he also participated in numerous other struggles for social justice. His family, sharecroppers in Washington, GA, moved to Florida to pick oranges when Frank was six years old. At age 13, he lost two fingers when others dared him to touch a power line. Two years later, Lumpkin left school to pick fruit full-time. 

As a young man, Lumpkin boxed well enough to fight professionally. He also worked in the orange groves and as a chauffeur. Following a brother who found better pay as a steelworker, Frank moved to Buffalo, NY, and gotr a job at Bethlehem Steel in 1941. Joining the merchant marine in 1943, he took part in a strike organized by the integrated National Maritime Union and his belief in communism took hold. In 1949, Frank Lumpkin moved to Chicago and married Beatrice.

The Wisconsin Steel Mill hired Lumpkin in 1950, and he quickly led an unsuccessful movement to bring a national union to his workplace. Lumpkin continued at the plant until 1980, when it closed down in a currupt scheme to cheat its workers out of their last paychecks, pensions and benefits. The in-house union refused to fight, and Lumpkin organized the Save Our Jobs Committee. Under his leadership, the group picketed offices in Illinois and Washington, DC. Fighting hard and long, Save Our Jobs finally succeeded in wining multiple court settlements that totaled $19 million. Although this represented a small monetary victory for the 2,500 workers the committee rdepresented, Lumpkin succeeded in showing that, united, people are strong.

Lumpkin has fought throughout his life for such causes as racial justice, living wages and peace. Mayor Harold Washington appointed him to task forces on hunger and dislocated workers. Frank and Beatrice Lumpkin have traveled internationallly, visiting Eastern Europe and Russia behind the Iron Curtain as well as Africa and Latin America. Frank was a lifelong member of the Communist Party USA and active in many other economic and social justice organizations.

"Racism is a business. When they were organizing the packinghouses, they brought in these Black guys from the South to break the strikes. What happens? Some of these Black guys become the main organizers of the union.  The backbone -- it's Black and white." -- Frank Lumpkin

2011 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

John H. Walker

Miner, state federation president, gubernatorial candidate

 John H. Walker tromped through coal camps with Mother Jones, led the Illinois Federation of Labor, ran for Illinois Governor and gave the United Mine Workers’ John L. Lewis his first full-time union position, only to become a bitter enemy of Lewis. Walker was born April 27, 1872 in Binnie Hill, Stirlinghsire, Scotland.  On his ninth birthday his family arrived in Braidwood, Illinois and within the year the boy was working in Coal City mines.  At age eleven he joined the Knights of Labor and also participated in the short-lived Miners’ Federation and the Mine Laborers.  His father was blacklisted for union activity and the family migrated to Oklahoma.

 In 1896 he organized United Mine Workers of America Local 505 in Central City, Illinois. That same year he married Phoebe Fox of Mason, Illinois, a Welsh miner’s daughter.   In 1897 he worked closely with UMWA President John Mitchell during a nine-month Illinois strike.  In 1900 Mitchell appointed Walker as an organizer to assist Mary “Mother” Jones in organizing the West Virginia mines.  He then worked his way up in the union ranks, becoming Illinois Mine Workers President in 1905.  He lobbied for mine safety laws, workers’ compensation and successfully negotiated four statewide contracts. He served on the Illinois Mining Investigation Committee after the 1909 Cherry mine disaster, which resulted in new safety laws.  Walker gave John L. Lewis his first full-time union position, as a lobbyist after the Cherry disaster.

 Elected President of the Illinois State Federation of Labor in 1913, Walker led Illinois labor’s legislative agenda, most importantly a law limiting court injunctions against strikes.  Under his leadership the Illinois Federation became one of the nation’s largest.  The Federation supported inclusion of occupational diseases under workers’ compensation, child labor laws, public ownership of utilities, teachers’ rights, cooperative stores, a state old-age pension program, credit unions and guarantees on bank deposits.  In the early 1920s, when business promoted its anti-union, open shop “American plan,” the Federation’s lead defensive efforts against the business agenda.

 During World War I Walker served on the State Council of Defense and served on President Woodrow Wilson’s Labor Mediation Commission, where he helped settle strikes and lock-outs in the western states and mediated the 1917 Chicago stockyards agreement.  When the war ended the State Federation supported the 1919 steel strike.

 Walker was a Socialist Party member and activist until 1916, when he supported President Woodrow Wilson.  In 1919 the State Federation and the Chicago Federation of Labor organized an Illinois Farmer-Labor Party.  In 1920 Walker was its candidate for Governor, with Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL) President John Fitzpatrick running for the U.S. Senate.  Both candidates fared badly in the general election.  After the dismal 1920 showing and fearing that a competing party would stymie labor’s Springfield agenda, most Illinois unions abandoned the Party, which was taken over by a Communist faction headed by William Z. Foster in 1923.

 In 1922, unions and sympathetic groups re-organized the Joint Labor Legislative Board, which forged a united front on Springfield legislation.   AFL affiliates, the railroad brotherhoods, the CFL, the State Teachers Association and the Farmers’ Educational and Co-operative Union were amongst the members.  This united front helped pass labor’s key legislative agenda in 1925, an anti-injunction bill, limiting court injunction in labor disputes.  As a union democracy advocate, under Walker’s leadership the State Federation officers were elected through a popular vote by union members statewide.  He ran on the Socialist ticket for State Representative in 1904 and for Congress in 1906.   He strongly advocated workers’ cooperatives and in 1915 was elected the first President of the Illinois State Co-operative Society.  Walker unsuccessfully ran for the UMWA presidency in 1908, 1916, and 1918.  These were close races and Walker’s advocates charged fraud in his 1916 loss.  He resigned as President of the State Federation in 1918 to run for UMWA President and came back in 1919 to re-win his Illinois AFL position.  While out of office in 1919 he toured the nation, promoting U.S. membership in the League of Nations.  In 1928 Walker made his last UMWA effort, but Lewis successfully denied Walker’s candidacy, claiming he was not “actively working at the trade.”

 1930 turmoil in the UMWA ended Walker’s Federation leadership.  There were two UMWA conventions that year, one in Springfield held by anti-Lewis factions, and another in Indianapolis, led by Lewis.  Walker was elected secretary-treasurer by the Springfield convention; the AFL then forced Walker to resign as Federation President.  The dispute went to the courts, where Lewis’ leadership was upheld, but so was Walker’s election as UMWA Illinois District 12 President.  In 1932 dissidents launched the Progressive Mine Workers; Walker was still a UMWA officer, but the Illinois UMWA was so impoverished from these battles and the Depression that they asked the national organization to take over the Illinois District in 1933 and Lewis supporters gained control. Reuben Soderstrom had successfully filled Walker’s position at the State Federation in 1930.  Without his UMWA base, Walker then began his final career position, business agent for the Men’s Teachers’ Union in Chicago.  In 1930, Eugene Staley wrote of Walker, “Walker is a man of strong emotions; feeling, not logic, is the key to his spirit.  …John H. Walker feels and talks of ‘decency and humanity,’ leaving the subtleties of constitutional law to others.  …A likeable personality and an emotional nature make him an effective lobbyist; he can mix with politicians of all complexions in a free and easy way; he can win over wavering support to his cause; or he can flay his adversaries verbally in a committee hearing.”

Charles White

Charles W. White began painting as a child growing up poor on the south side of Chicago. Although denied entrance to different art schools due to discrimination in the 1920s and 30’s, White finally received a scholarship from the School of the Art Institute, one of the few schools that accepted African Americans.  As a painter in the WPA Federal Art Project in 1939, White was the only African-American on the murals staff (only 5% of Illinoisans hired in the FAP were African-American).  His murals for the George Cleveland Hall Branch Library—now lost, History of the Negro Press for the1940 exhibition of the 75th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and other murals testified to the contributions of African-Americans leaders, activists, and workers.  White painted the lives and history of African Americans workers—from sharecroppers to musicians to neighborhood people at a time when African-Americans were silenced or only portrayed negatively in art, history books, and the media.  He was among the group of artists that organized the South Side Community Art Center, which was supported by the Roosevelt administration and the pockets of people in Bronzeville, along with Margaret Goss Burroughs, Gordon Parks, Eldizer Cortor, and Archibald Motley.   Leaving Chicago in the 1940s, White never wavered from his commitment to using his art as a weapon for social justice. He said, “Paint is the only weapon I have in which to fight.” In honoring Charles White, the ILHS also pays homage to the other WPA artists in Illinois that painted murals portraying workers in Chicago and across Illinois, particularly, Mitchell Siporin, Edmund Britton, and Edward Millman.

Alejandro Romero

Alejandro Romero began his studies in 1967 at the Academy of San Carlos of the National School of Fine Arts and finished his studies at the Art Institute of Chicago. Growing up in Mexico, he was influenced by his neighbor and mentor, the David Alfaro Siqueiros—a key influence for all muralists, and in England, he was profoundly affected by the muralist Charles Spencer who depicted the British industrial workers.  Moving to Chicago in 1976, Romero has created art for unions, community organizations, and other concerns.  His murals’ strikingly vivid colors bring joy, power, and life to his portrayals of communities, working people, and revolutionary leaders. His labor murals for the Central States Council, Chicago Federation of Labor, and Joliet Community Public Arts program feature workers in the service, steel, construction and trades, cultural arts, medical, and transportation industries. Each Romero mural is a celebration.

Kathleen Farrell

Since the 1970s, Kathleen Farrell has painted murals that portray the lives of communities and working people from the walls of Joliet to the halls of international unions in Washington, D.C.  Whether the mural is for the Will-Grundy Counties Central Trades and Labor Council or Jobs with Justice, Farrell’s unique use of realism and rich colors seem to shine rays of light upon her subjects and do honor to the dignity and craft of men and women on the job: poultry workers, bricklayers, printers, laborers, electricians, service workers, stonecutters, canal workers, and musicians. Often not overtly political, the beauty of the workers and community people in the murals explicitly challenges the viewer to recognize the real builders of this country.  Mentored by Mark Rogovin (who help to form Public Art Workshop and Chicago Muralist Group),  Farrell teaches others to make murals through the Labor Heritage Foundation Great Labor Arts Exchange and the Friends of Community Art in Joliet, and consistently brings members into the experience of painting. She says, “Workers in general have not been exposed to the pleasure and power of art, and by bringing them together to paint the mural, they found it was fun, exciting, and interesting…It was something that enriched their lives, something they’d never thought about before.” In 1991, Farrell co-founded the Friends of Community Public Art with Kathleen Scarboro and others which has transformed Joliet’s walls into a testament to the history of this this important working class city.  The ILHS also recognizes the instrumental collaborative work of Katherine Scarboro.  Farrell lives in Joliet.

Mike Alewitz

The ILHS Union Hall of Honor recognizes the mural work and other artistic agiprop for justice of Mike Alewitz.  Most known in Chicago for his “Teamsters Power” mural, Alewitz has created murals, banners, puppets, and memorials to promote and be part of the struggles for human rights, dignity, and liberty.  Unlike the WPA murals that could not depict any overt political message, Alewitz’s powerful murals do not hide and take any prisoners.  Alewitz says, “I don’t paint murals that are easily understood.  Art must be challenging.  And the labor movement must be challenged and we must be challenged.” In his murals for international unions, Alewitz’s work has taken have him to Chernobyl in the Ukraine to Mexico.  Like, Farrell, Alewitz brings the community into the powerful activity of painting murals that he has created. He teaches at Central Connecticut State College and co-runs the Labor Art and Mural Project. The ILHS also recognizes Daniel Manrique Ariras, a Mexican muralist that made the UE hall mural and collaborated with Alewitz on a UE Chicago-Mexico project.

2010 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

irving abrams.jpg

Irving S. Abrams (1891-1980) 

Skilled cloth cutter; anarchist; IWW member; attorney-at-law; early member of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers at Hart, Schaffner, & Marx in Chicago; and founding member of the Illinois Labor History Society.

 Irving S. Abrams became a member of the Pioneer Aid and Support Association, which was founded in 1889 to undertake the support of the widows and orphans of the Haymarket Martyrs. It was that association which also undertook to erect the magnificent monument to the Haymarket Martyrs in what was then German Waldheim Cemetery (now Forest Home Cemetery) in Forest Park, Illinois.  In 1942, Abrams was elected President of the Pioneer Aid and Support Association. By 1960, the membership had aged and dwindled to the point where Abrams was both the President and the sole surviving member of the organization. In 1971, concluding that the ILHS might have a future, Abrams presented the deed to the monument and cemetery plot to the ILHS in a solemn ceremony in the presence of the statue. Indeed, Abrams turned out to be the sole survivor of and “clean-up man” for several expiring organizations, including the Emma Goldman Memorial Committee, which had assumed responsibility for the upkeep of the Goldman Memorial, which stands about 50 feet from the Martyrs Monument. Moreover, Abrams found himself bankrolling much of the cost of Goldman’s burial and memorial expenses.

 Born in England of a Polish mother and a German father, young Irving was taken to Germany at the age of 3 by his parents, and moved again to Rochester, New York at age 10. After getting work in a tailor shop as a young man, he became a skilled garment worker and got involved with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) as an organizer in several upstate New York cities. When Big Bill Haywood took over the leadership of a strike in Little Falls, New York, Abrams moved on to Chicago and a job as a cutter at Hart, Schaffner, & Marx. During the long 1915 strike by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union to establish its dominance in the industry, Abrams functioned as a strike leader. He later declared with apparent pride that during the 15 weeks of that strike, he was arrested 39 times!

While still working at the Hart, Schaffner, & Marx factory, Abrams decided to become a lawyer. Lacking in the required formal education and credentials for law school, he nevertheless prepared himself for the examinations through self-studying in English and American Literature, Ancient Medieval and Modern History, Civil Government, Political Economy, Anthropology, Sociology, Industrial History of the United States, English Composition and Rhetoric. He was accepted into John Marshall Law School in 1917, receiving his law degree in 1920. As an attorney, he specialized in civil rights and civil liberties issues.

In his personal life, Abrams was devoted to the magic of poetry. He says as much in his memoir Haymarket Heritage,published by the Charles Kerr Company in 1989: “Poems and songs have played an important part in developing our concepts and aspirations. They shake us out of our complacency and waft us into a world of dreams that enriches our lives.”  The ashes of Irving Abrams are interred, along with those of his wife Esther, a few feet from the Martyrs Monument and adjacent to the marker for Lucy Parsons. He was honored in 1980 through a memorial service held at the monument.

The Haymarket Martyrs' Monument

The magnificent sculpture known all over the world as the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument has been a beloved inspiration to the hosts of visitors who have made the pilgrimage to Forest Home Cemetery (once known as German Waldheim Cemetery). Dedicated on June 25, 1893 it was certainly a focus of attention by the Labor Movements of the world.

Look at this simple, yet majestic woman cast of bronze; how she presses with one hand the laurel wreath on the brow of the fallen hero, while, without halting, she steps forward into the great storm laden figure whose lightening now causes the world to tremble. Look at this image and your hopes will be nourished, your sense will become keener, your hearts will be steeled! From the address by Dr. Ernest Schmidt at the dedication ceremony

Eight thousand people attended the dedication. Many of them had come to Chicago to attend the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. Others were drawn to the event in order to hear a much heralded speech by Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld. Surely, no one was disappointed because Altgeld denounced the conduct of the trial and the absurd verdict which resulted in the execution of martyrs Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel, and Adolph Fischer and the imprisonment of Oscar Neebe, Michael Schwab, Samuel Fielden. Louis Lingg escaped execution by apparently committing suicide in his cell. Altgeld signed his famous pardon message on the following day, June 26, 1893.

The creation of this monument might never have occurred had it not been for the decision in 1888 by leaders of Chicago’s business community to commission and erect a statue depicting a Chicago policeman with his hand held high in a gesture commanding the famous Haymarket meeting of May 4, 1886 to disband, thus perpetuating the false impression that the meeting was a “riot” of some kind. Indeed, the Pioneer Aid and Support Society which had been created to raise money for the support of the widows and orphans of the Martyrs had explicitly rejected the idea of a monument on the grounds that the money would be better used in support of the families. Reminiscing about the issue many years later, famous anarchist Emma Goldman wrote:

My thoughts wandered back to the time when I had opposed the erection of the monument. I had argued that our dead comrades needed no stone to immortalize them. I realized now how narrow and bigoted I had been, and how little I understood the power of art. The monument served as an embodiment of the ideals for which the men had died, a visible symbol of their words and their deeds.

As we gather tonight at the Union Hall of Honor of the Illinois Labor History Society we can attest to the correctness of Emma Goldman’s second thoughts about the value of historic memory and the power of a visual image to project an inspirational and historically correct message throughout the generations.

According to Art Historian Melissa Dabakis in her article Martyrs and Monuments of Chicago: The Haymarket Affair,which appeared in the Journal of American Cultural Studies, October 1994:

In January of 1888, a committee of twenty-five businessmen and civic leaders, headed by Robert I. Crane, met to oversee the erection of a monument to the 180 Chicago police officers involved in the Haymarket incident. The Chicago Tribune sponsored the competition, offering a prize of one hundred dollars for the best design. The committee raised ten thousand dollars by public subscription, receiving much support from the Commercial Club and the Union League Club as well as businessmen from Aurora, Elgin, and Rockford who opposed unions and the eight-hour day campaign.

Continuing with Melissa Dabakis’ previously quoted remarks:

Responding to the dedication of the Police Monument in 1889, anarchist sympathizers began planning a monument comparable in scale and value, but which would offer an alternative commemoration of these historical events......On July 18,1889, the Pioneer Aid and Support Association inaugurated a monument fund to which all progressive workers in the country were asked to contribute.

On February 14,1892, the committee awarded the commission and $5,130 to Albert Weinert, a German educated sculptor and recent immigrant. In her article, Dr. Dabakis refers to a conversation with former ILHS Vice President William Adelman, June 2, 1992 as follows: “Facing east, the monument evokes the dawning of a new and more hopeful day.” The principal figure is a woman dressed in a peasant costume apparently referencing the French Revolution. In fact the French National Anthem, La Marseillaise was a favorite song of the German immigrant workers who dominated much of the Chicago labor scene. The figure striding forward with great resolve to create a better future almost casually lays a laurel wreath on the brow of a fallen hero, thus paying tribute to his sacrifice without stopping to weep and worship. This is a thought echoed not long afterward by the famous singer, songwriter, Joe Hill, who upon his execution by the state of Utah, declared to the public, “Don’t waste any time mourning - organize”.

But who would have supposed that on May 3, 1998, 1,000 would come to Forest Home Cemetery at the call of the Chicago Federation of Labor under then president Don Turner to celebrate the designation by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, of the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument as a National Historic Landmark. At the same time, the Illinois Labor History Society was declared to be its official steward. That was a natural consequence of the fact that ILHS had been presented with the actual deed to the property on May 2, 1971 by Irving S. Abrams, then the sole surviving member of the Pioneer Aid and Support Society and its only officer.

We have done much over the past few months to bring the Martyrs’ Monument back to the magnificence of its initial appearance when it was introduced to the world by Dr. Schmidt in 1893.  Nevertheless the ravages of unknown metal thieves who stripped the monument of its’ metal plaques and the intricate palm frond basketry used by visitors as a repository for floral gifts which they had brought from around the world have yet to be restored. This is because of the great expense involved. This important work has been deferred until a major fundraising effort to reach the organized labor movements of the world could be launched on the occasion of this very Union Hall of Honor Event. The Labor Movements of the world are still to be reached, although we are confident that the response will be positive.

2009 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

James. C. Petrillo

Into the conplex and turbulent organizational stew of early musicians’ organizations and their relationship to the burgeoning labor movement stepped James C. Petrillo, a young son of the rough and tough Chicago West Side. Petrillo had taken trumpet lessons at Hull House and headed a dance band which had joined a musicians group closely associated with the Chicago Federation of Labor. In 1914 at age 22 he was elected Vice President. Defeated in 1917, he switched over to Local 10 of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) where he was assigned the job of organizing musicians in the Chinese restaurants. With that mission accomplished, in 1919 he was elected Vice President of Local 10. Following a lengthy period of internal conflicts within Local 10, Petrillo was elected President in 1922. Foresaking his trumpet, Petrillo turned all his energies to solving the issues confronting Local 10. The first issue was a demand on radio stations to pay wages to musicians who were performing on the air. The stations claimed that the musicians were receiving free publicity, and hence did not deserve cash pay as well. Ultimately, the radio stations bowed to the union’s pressure. Soon after, in 1924, the front porch of Petrillo’s home was wrecked and the windows blown out by a bomb.

 In 1927, the Chicago local went on strike against the moving picture palaces. An injunction was sought against Petrillo in Federal Court but it was blocked by union lawyers, among them Clarence Darrow. After four days the union’s demands were accepted. In 1931, the threat of a strike brought an agreement between Local 10 and Chicago’s major hotels. The union then went on to win wage increases at restaurants, theaters, the Opera and the Symphony. With Local 10’s success at the bargaining table, rival groups began affiliating, including the union group which Petrillo had joined as a youngster.

With the coming of the Great Depression, overall employment of musicians fell drastically. In order to deal with unemployment, Petrillo conceived the idea of free concerts in public parks, but the City was not interested in such “extravagances.” Petrillo continued to press the political front by securing an appointment to the West Park Board and then through Mayor Kelly an appointment to the Chicago Park District Board. In 1935, this Board did respond favorably to Petrillo’s idea of concerts in the park, but declined to finance the project. So Local 10 appropriated many thousands of dollars from its own treasury to launch the free Grant Park summer concerts. The phenomenal public attendance convinced the Park Board to underwrite future concerts. Even so, the union had to pay for any soloists.

Still concerned about unemployment among musicians as a result of “canned” music on the radio, Local 10 announced that union members would not be permitted to make recordings as of February 1, 1937. Although this action might result in a shift of recording work to other cities, Petrillo argued that someone had to start the ball rolling. At the national convention that year under President Weber, it was agreed to call on industry to negotiate the issue of canned music. After fourteen weeks of intense negotiations a two-year agreement was reached under which radio stations would increase employment of staff musicians in exchange for continued use of recorded music. Also, the recording industry agreed to use only union musicians. Weber retired at the 1940 convention after 40 years as president. Petrillo was elected unanimously to suceed him. His hand thus strengthened, Petrillo repened his campaign against canned music. In June 1942 the union announced that after August 1, AFM members would no longer make recordings. This action was supported by the AFL convention in October.

The ban on recordings ran into intense political opposition in the name of supporting the war effort. In February 1943 the union proposed that companies pay small fees for each record produced. These fees would be put into a fund to reduce unemployment among musicians. The companies refused. Finally in November 1944, Columbia and RCA yielded and agreed to a three-year contract that accepted the recording fee concept. This settlement laid the basis for the Music Performance Fund of today, an independent non-profit organization which administers funds to support free public concerts. Unfortunately, due to changes in the recording industry, this fund is no longer receiving adequate contributions from the industry.

Bucky Halker

Bucky Halker was born in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, in 1954 and raised in Ashland, Wisconsin, a declining blue-collar, iron ore, and lumbering town on the shores of Lake Superior where fishing, hunting, taverns, polka bands, and fish fries held sway. The region was home to second-generation Swedes, Finns, Norwegians, Serbs, Poles, Croatians, Anglos and a large Indian population. Like fellow “jackpine savage” Bob Dylan, Bucky learned the meaning of class, race, and ethnicity in this environment. However, he credits his grandfather, a Chicagoan and long-time stockyard worker, and his aunt, a Chicago teacher and life-long union activist, for his strong sense of labor history, democratic reform, and history “from the bottom up.”

At the same time, he blames his mother and girls for leading him down the wayward path of a musician and his father for his deep distrust of centralized authority. Bucky did pursue an interest in labor and history as far as a PhD (University of Minnesota). He also has a long record of scholarship, including reviews, essays, fellowships, awards, and guest lectures in the US, Canada, and Europe. He is the author For Democracy, Workers, and God: Labor Song-Poems and Labor Protest, 1865-1895 (University of Illinois Press, 1991) and “Local 208 and the Struggle for Racial Equality” (BMR Journal, 1988).  Nevertheless, Bucky left his tenure-track job more than twenty years ago in an effort to take both labor songs and his own music into a larger public arena.

At 13, Bucky began writing songs, playing the guitar, learning folksongs, and performing with his own rock band. He tours extensively in the US and Europe and has released seven original-song recordings, most recently Wisconsin 2-13-63, Vols. 1 & 2. He has also recorded renditions of labor protest songs, including Welcome to Labor Land, a collection of Illinois labor songs recorded for the Illinois AFL-CIO. To date, he has presented more than 300 concerts of labor protest and Woody Guthrie songs. He also produced the critically acclaimed three-CD series, Folksongs of Illinois (University of Illinois Press). He is a member of American Federation of Musicians Local 1000 and serves on the board of directors for the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives in New York City (

Local 208 Chicago Federation of Musicians

When the American Federation of Musicians was founded in 1896 and Chicago’s Local 10 in 1901, thousands of African-American musicians sought membership in the union.  Excluded by the national and local union because of their race, however, Chicago’s African-American musicians formed Local 208 in 1902. Under those segregated condition, Local 208 nevertheless grew and established itself as a powerful and influential voice in the music community. By the end of WWI the local owned a three-story office and practice building on south State Street. Years later it was also own an apartment building in Hyde Park, which offered reduced rent for professional musicians. The local was also able to enforce a wage scale among theaters, social clubs, organizations, and larger clubs where musicians performed.  The leadership also enjoyed cordial relations with the white Local 10, even as it continued to press for equal membership throughout the 1930s and 40s, particularly after the rise of the C.I.O. and its integrated unions.

The list of Local 208’s membership over the years is a testimony to the talented musicians in its ranks. The list reads like a Who’s Who of Chicago music and included Louis Armstrong, Bo Diddley, Nat King Cole, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Ahmad Jamal, Lil Armstrong, Howlin’ Wolf, Reverend Thomas Dorsey, Cab Calloway, Milt Buckner, Buddy Guy, King Oliver, Erskine Tate, Eddie South, Red Saunders, and many more.As the Civil Right Movement gained momentum and African-American music began their own national movement to integrate the AFM, pressure increased end segregation in the Chicago ranks as well. Finally, in January of 1966 Local 10 and 208 were merged and equality finally came to the Chicago AFM.

2008 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

Betty Balanoff

History Professor at Roosevelt University (Retired)

Betty Balanoff, wife and mother of a labor family with deep roots in the steel workers union, retired in 1991 from her career of 28 years as a professor of History at Roosevelt University. She had a particular interest in labor and immigration history. In fact during the early part of her career, she introduced the first labor history course open to undergraduates at a Chicago college. For some time both Roosevelt and the University of Illinois had provided labor education under the sponsorship of labor unions, but labor history, as such, was not available to the general student population. Oral history in labor was another of her pioneering programs. The library at Roosevelt University holds her collection of over 60 interviews with both rank and file union members and labor leaders. This work was supported by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in celebration of the American Bicentennial. The transcripts have been digitized and are available on-line to all. Among those interviewed are:

• Irving Abrams and Fred Thompson of the IWW who were among the founders of the ILHS.
• Mollie Levitas, long-time secretary to famed John Fitzpatrick and Edward Nockles, president and secretary-treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL).
• Lillian Herstein, beloved delegate from the Chicago Teachers Union to the CFL.
• George Patterson, spokesperson for the demonstrators at the Memorial Day Massacre of 1937. 
• Addie Wyatt, International Vice President of the United Food and Commercial Workers and previously a staff member of the Packinghouse Workers, CIO .

Leon Depres

Attorney and from Alderman of Chicago's 5th Ward

In 1929 as the Great Depression took shape, a freshly minted lawyer, Leon Despres, began his first job in a large Chicago law firm. Unhappily for this young socialist, Leon (Len as his friends called him) found that his principal assignments involved the foreclosure of delinquent home-mortgages. Accordingly, he soon set up his own law firm and began hanging out with a like-minded young attorney Joe Jacobs, who was developing strong labor union connections, and, in 1969, became the founding chairman of the ILHS.

Len turned mostly toward civil rights and other social justice issues. One of his clients was the newly forming Chicago-based International Brotherhood of Red Caps (IBRC), which was under the leadership of Willard S. Townsend with whom he developed a close relationship.

Len was among the lawyers who took depositions from the many witnesses to the carnage inflicted by the Chicago police at the 1937 Memorial Day Massacre at Republic Steel. Later, Len helped the La Follett Congressional Investigating Committee to gather information used in its scathing criticism of the police conduct on the field that day. At the subsequent public protest meeting, which filled the huge Civic Opera House, Leon Despres was a principal speaker. Studs Terkel recalled having wept in response to Despers’s oratory as he called upon City Hall to give full support to labor’s struggle to organize.

Elected Alderman of the 5th Ward, Leon Despres provided the City with a visible demonstration that a single person can “speak truth to power” as he defied the Mayor’s frequent demands that he shut up and sit down, a television City Council drama, which occurred again and again. In much the same spirit, Len joined hands with author and historian Timuel Black to organize a group of Chicagoans who flew to Alabama, where they joined the historic march with Dr. Martin Luther King from Selma to Montgomery.

2007 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

Reg Weaver

President, National Education Association

Born to an Illinois coal mining family in 1939, Reg Weaver has devoted his life to education and organizing educators. He spent 30 years in the Harvey school system and served as president of the Illinois Education Association from 1981 to 1997. Weaver led a 15 year struggle for a comprehensive collective bargaining law for all public education institutions in Illinois. That bill was passed and signed into law by Governor Thompson in 1983 and remains the foundation of collective bargaining today. Now in his second term as President of the National Education Association, Weaver maintains a world wide reputation as an effective champion of public education. In addition to his leadership in the NEA, Weaver also serves as the Vice President of Education International, an organization that represents 29 million teachers and education workers in 169 countries.

Ella Flagg Young

President, National Education Association, 1910

Born in 1845, Ella Flagg Young became an elementary school teacher in Chicago at the age of 17. For the rest of her life she was at the forefront of the struggle to empower the teaching profession towards the goal of educating the whole child and the creation of a democratic society. Young rejected the Board of Education model for the school in which the teacher was in the role of an assembly line worker, merely pasting prescribed bits of information into the heads of the children as they passed through the school house. She became the first woman to head a great metropolitan school system as Chicago’s superintendent of Schools from 1909 to 1915. She saw clearly that teachers needed union organization if they were to be heard, and proved her mettle as a valiant defender of teachers, including their right to organize. As the Chicago Federation of Teachers grew in power under Margaret Haley and Catherin Goggin, Young tried to mediate in the increasing tensions with the Board of Education. But in 1915, after the enactment of the “Loeb Rule” by the Chicago Board of Education, resulting in the discharge of 68 teachers for refusing to withdraw from the Chicago Federation of Teachers, Young resigned from her position as superintendent.

The Loeb Rule

(Named for Jacob Loeb, President of the Chicago Board of Education)

“Membership by teachers in labor unions or in organizations of teachers affiliated with a trade union or a federation or association of trade unions, as well as teachers’ organizations which have officers, business agents, or other representatives who are not members of the teaching force, is inimical to proper discipline, prejudicial to the efficiency of the teaching force, and detrimental to the welfare of the public school system.  Therefore, such membership, affiliation, or representation is hereby prohibited.”

2006 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

Richard Rowe

"Historian of his union, teacher of Apprenticeship Trainers, Business Agent/Organizer of Local 63."

One of the most important accomplishments of the Iron Workers Union has been in their establishment of a comprehensive training program for apprentices, which has helped to keep the industry and the union vigorous throughout their 110 years of existence. The Iron Workers have played an important role in the study and preservation of labor history, and Richard Rowe, Business Agent and Organizer for Local 63 of Chicago has provided the momentum behind labor education in his organization. Rowe teaches Apprenticeship Trainers from around the country yearly, educating on the history of the Iron Workers, but also on the general history of the labor movement, recognizing the importance of an understanding of industrial relations for all workers. In addition, Rowe teaches at apprenticeship programs throughout the year, and is working on updating the History of the Iron Workers, which he originally authored with William Adelman in 1996.

George W. Geary

"Organizer at the 1896 founding of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers, Chicagoan is known today as 'founding father'."

With the 1896 founding of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers, a collective organization was born for the purpose of bargaining with the U.S. Steel Corporation and the American Bridge Company, and George Geary of Chicago led its efforts as International Organizer. Now expanded and in existence for over 110 years, the Iron Workers have overcome many obstacles to leave their mark on labor history as a strong and spirited force for workers. The union survived an extended period of conflict with the steel erectors, beginning in 1906, and maintains its power today through mastery of the skills required by evolving construction technology.

2005 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

Joe Hill

"Itinerant organizer for the IWW and labor ballader for the ages."

Hill was an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a radical group aiming to mobilize and serve unrepresented industrial workers. The confrontational, colorful organization had its own distinctive culture, and it found its most famous voice in Joe Hill, a Swedish immigrant with a talent for writing provocative and inspiring song lyrics to familiar tunes. The songs Hill penned spread throughout the country and even after the Palmer Raids severely weakened the IWW, these verses remained classics of labor struggles and are widely sung to this day.

Upton Sinclair

"Author of the 1905-06 classic, The Jungle, an account of the deadly exploitation of Chicago’s immigrant workers."

Although published more than 100 years ago, Sinclair’s monumental work The Jungle is still widely read today, and continues to provide inspiration for those confronting oppressive and unsafe conditions. The Jungle details the story of a meatpacking plant worker. Its expose of unsanitary conditions and distribution of meat products caused so great of an uproar that the federal government was forced to impose universal inspection mechanisms on meat processing. The book dealt a severe blow to the unimpeded power of corporations and not only made sanitation and workplace conditions part of the American consciousness, but also brought to light issues of oppressive treatment of workers and the ensuing social deterioration.

Franklin and Penelope Rosemont

"Faithful stewards of the Charles H. Kerr Company, publishers of labor and radical classics since 1886."

The Rosemonts have brought the Kerr imprint into the 21st century by continuing to expand their list of radical, socialist, and labor publications. The Kerr Company was created in 1886 to provide public access to imperative books on these subjects, and over the years has helped countless voices for justice to find an audience. The Kerr courageous venture is being carried on, enhanced by recent reprintings of classic Kerr works on radicalism and labor, such as the Autobiography of Mother Jones.

2004 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

Father Martin B. Mangan

"Eloquent spokesman for human rights; resolute defender of social justice; pastor to the labor movement of Decatur."

During the struggles of organized labor in Decatur throughout the 1990s, there was no figure more committed to justice and unionism than Father Mangan, beloved priest and voice of the people. A native of Springfield, Illinois, Father Mangan chose to devote his life to activism and labor causes, and served various communities throughout Illinois before settling in Decatur. There he was active in neighborhood groups and community programs, and served as a leader in labor confrontations with corporations such as Caterpillar Tractor and Bridgestone-Firestone. He resisted attempts by corporations at silencing him, and became an avid student of labor history, staying involved in the struggle for workers’ rights until his death in 2001.

Leslie F. Orear

"A lifetime committed to working people; making labor history as eloquent voice for The Packinghouse Worker and preserving labor history as guiding light for the ILHS."

Les Orear began working in the meat packing industry in Chicago during the Great Depression, and was one of the first workers to sign up to be represented by the Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee of the CIO in 1936. He became the editor of its national newspaper The Packinghouse Worker in 1937. He was sent to work on the organizing staff of the union and returned as assistant to the vice-president in charge of organization. In the early 1950s he returned to the editorship of the national newspaper where he remained until the merger with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters in 1968. Orear stayed on as a staff assistant to the national officers until his retirement after 40 years of service to his union. In 1969, he founded the Illinois Labor History Society and was elected as president, a role he served until 2006, then becoming president emeritus.

2003 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

Herman Lilien

"Elected in 1903 to be the first President of the newly formed International Hod Carriers and Building Laborers Union."

An immigrant from Belgium, Lilien was elected president of the International Hod Carriers’ and Building Laborers’ Union of America at its founding in 1903. During Lilien’s service as President of Local 4 in Chicago, AFL President Samuel Gompers called the handful of existing local unions to convene in Washington D.C. to create a national union. Under Lilien’s leadership following the convention, the union experienced a period of tremendous growth.

Peter Fosco

"As its President from 1968 to 1975, transformed LIUNA into a union ready for the 21st Century."

Over the course of his years of service as its president from 1968 to 1975, Fosco helped to transform the Laborers’ International Union of America into a modern organization. Fosco immigrated from Italy as a young man of remarkable talents, and soon rose to the presidency of his local union, the Sewer and Tunnel Miners, Local 2 of Chicago. He entered politics with his election to the Senate of the Illinois Legislature. After serving as the General Secretary Treasurer to the International Union, he became General President. Under his leadership, key national agreements were reached, union benefit programs were expanded, the Laborers’ National Pension Fund was created, and a national training program was established.

2002 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

Mother Jones

Grand Icon of American Labor

Known from America's east coast to west coast as "Mother Jones", Mary Harris became American Labor's heroine from the 1890's until her death in 1930. Buried with her "boys" in the Union Miners Cemetery, Mount Olive, Illinois, she remains a potent symbol of labors on-going struggle for the fruits of its labor. She was an organizer and champion of the working people. While in her eighties, she was court-martialed and jailed by the State Militia of West Virginia. During the famous coalmine strike of 1913-14 she was "deported" from Colorado by the military of that state! A West Virginia prosecutor called her "the most dangerous woman in America".

Mollie Lieber West

A Life in the Struggle.

While still a teenager she experienced a baptism under fire during the citywide demonstration in support of the Republic Steel strikers, where ten died in the Memorial Day Massacre of 1937. Radicalized by that event, Mollie West plunged into labor politics and union building. As a mature woman she entered the printing trade, becoming an expert proofreader and union activist. She was elected to the Executive Board of her union, and has been a Delegate to the Chicago Federation of Labor, and to the Illinois State AFL-CIO, as well. She was a founding member of Chicago CLUW. She has been the Administrative Secretary and full-time volunteer at the office of the Illinois Labor History Society for over twenty years.

2001 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

Marvin Gittler

A Chicago attorney whose labor union practice began in 1967.

A youth from the garment district of New York City, who graduated from the University of Chicago in 1963, Marvin Gittler began his practice of law at the National Labor Relations Board. He left the board to join an important firm with a broad labor clientele, ranging from the Building Trades to the Teamsters and Meatcutters.

Irving Friedman

Long the legal counsel for both the Farm Equipment Workers and the United Auto Workers in the Illinois region.

Graduating from New York University Law School, this son of Polish immigrants became a staff attorney for the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago. In 1952, he was the Government's lead attorney in a famous case involving the UAW and the Koehler Company. In partnership with Harold Katz, Friedman was connected closely with the UAW and the Farm Equipment Workers. In more recent years, he has been Counsel to Chicago's Longshoremen and the Illinois Education Association.

Eugene Cotton

General Counsel to the United Packinghouse Workers of America

Cotton's legal career reaches back to the precedent-creating era of the New Deal with its passage of a wide range of reform legislation, including the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, then hailed as "labor's magna carta". With his legal degree from Columbia University in 1936, Cotton moved swiftly through a variety of new government agencies, before becoming Assistant General Counsel of the newly formed Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). He moved from Washington to Chicago in 1948 to become General Counsel of the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA). There he was plunged into a two-month long national strike. At the UPWA, he helped the union to create a system of nationwide agreements which brought about new wage and benefit provisions. Among his other clients were unions in the printing and aviation industries.

2000 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

John Brown Lennon

“A national officer of the early AFL, a Labor Party candidate, and skilled tailor.”

Lennon advanced the cause of workers through a number of offices which he occupied. A tailor by trade, Lennon joined the Journeyman Tailors Union in 1871 where he soon rose to a position of leadership. Lennon sought to promote the rights of all organized workers on a national level as AFL treasurer during 1890-1917. He worked to improve working conditions of the US Department of Labor during World War I.

Patrick H. Morrissey

“An immigrant’s son who rebuilt the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen after the Pullman Strike.”

Morrissey was instrumental in rejuvenating the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen. In 1894 he became this union’s Grand Master, increased membership, financial standing, and stressed solidarity with other unions on a national scale.

Studs Terkel

Brought the voices of workers to the public through print, radio and television.

In his early career as an actor, Studs clearly knew he was a fellow worker. In fact, he was a charter member of the Radio Actors Union (AFRA), which subsequently became the American Federation of Radio and Television Actors-Screen Actors Guild (AFTRA-SAG).

The tools of his trade for the last fifty years have been the portable tape recorder and trusty microphone. Through his weekly radio program, PBS documentaries and best selling book WORKING, it has been his skill to evoke from his subjects their true feelings about their lives and the social realities in which they carry on.

1999 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

Joyce Miller

“Spokesperson for the working women; bringer of human services to a union setting.”

Miller began her career as the education director of the Midwest Joint Board of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers. She initiated weekend classes, conferences, and week-long summer schools all aimed at empowering workers toward political action. As vice-president of the AFL-CIO during 1980-1993, Miller sought programs for the retired, family stability, childcare facilities, and low income housing.

Jane Addams


Preeminent Reformer of her time, whose Hull-House with its Jane Club nurtured and developed many young women into union leadership.”

Addams was a social reformer, suffragist, and pacifist active at the turn of the century. She was the founder of Hull House which provided social and medical services to the impoverished of Chicago. Addams served as vice-president of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association in 1911. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 as an advocate for world peace throughout her life.

Bessie Abramowitz Hillman

An immigrant sewing girl whose bold acts launched the great men’s clothing strike of 1910, and the birth of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union.”

Hillman actively promoted workers’ rights in general and the rights of women in particular. She was instrumental in the United Garment Workers strike in 1910 against Hart, Schaffner, and Marx. Hillman sought female solidarity as an organizer for the Women’s Trade Union League. In 1919 the clothing industry had become unionized due to her efforts in organizing the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.

1998 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

Alma Washington

"For many years we have applauded the passionate embrace of labor’s cause by Lucy Parsons as performed by Alma Washington.”

Throughout the 1990s Washington has portrayed Lucy Parsons, a key figure, in Come Along with Me by Kathlyn Miles. This performance is part of the Women’s Labor History Theatre Project which performs before school groups. Washington is active in the Actors’ Equity organization.

William Walker

“For his powerful gifts to public art in Chicago, and especially his great mural, The Worker.”

Walker painted the great mural of working class history on the exterior south wall of the Charles Hayes Family Investment Center. Although the mural depicts packinghouse workers in particular, Walker believed that his work was universal to all workers which stressed labor empowerment.

Paul Robeson

“Ever ready to offer his many talents to the service of peace, justice, and labor.”

As an artist, Robeson has sought to create works which empower organized labor. He was a singer as well as an actor who became a supporter of labor and civil rights. Robeson’s compositions inspire worker solidarity and is prominent among the United Packinghouse Workers.

1997 Union Hall of Honor

Webtrax Admin

Governor John Peter Altgeld

“Elected governor with strong support from labor and genuine friend of labor.”

As governor of Illinois during 1892-1896, Altgeld worked to make the Democratic Party more responsive to the needs of organized labor. He signed the first workplace sanitation law and child labor law in Illinois. Altgeld recognized the right of workers to protest through strikes, and therefore, denounced President Cleveland’s sympathy for employers in the Great Pullman Strike of 1894. In addition, he pardoned the imprisoned Haymarket Martyrs.