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Labor History Articles

Memorial Day Massacre

Webtrax Admin

Ten demonstrators were killed by police bullets during the "Little Steel Strike" of 1937. When several smaller steelmakers, including Republic Steel, refused to follow the lead of U.S. Steel (Big Steel) by signing a union contract, a strike was called by the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).

As a show of support, hundreds of SWOC sympathizers from all around Chicago gathered on Memorial Day at Sam's Place, where the SWOC had its strike headquarters. After a round of speeches, the crowd began a march across the prairie and toward the Republic Steel mill. They were stopped midway by a formation of Chicago police. While demonstrators in front were arguing for their right to proceed, police fired into the crowd and pursued the people as they fled. Mollie West, a Typographical Union Local 16 member and a youthful demonstrator at the time, still recalls the command addressed to her: "Get off the field, or I'll put a bullet in your back."

The sculpture was created by Ed Blazak, a former employee of the Republic Steel company. It was originally sited on the property of Republic Steel near Burley.Ave. The sculpture, with its ten steel pipes, represent the smoke stakes of the ten steel mills within the area, now closed. They can also be Representative of the slain ten demonstrators.

A single frame from the Paramount newsreel of the Memorial Day Massacre. ILHS sells a video program containing the entire newsreel footage. See our bookstore link.

Directions:

By automobile, from the Chicago Loop to the former USWA local 1033 headquaters at 11731 Ave. O, take I-90/94 (Dan Ryan Expy) South and merge with the I-94 (Bishop Ford Fwy). Then, exit at 103rd .St and turn East to Torrence. Ave, and turn South to 106.St and turn East to Ave. O. Then, drive South to 117th .St and stop at 11731 Ave O, enter the parking lot. Memorial sculpture is to the North at 117TH. St by the fire station (this was dedicated in 2008).

From here you can reach the Pullman community in ten minutes. Backtrack to 103rd and Torrence. Ave and trun West on 103rd. Then, turn South on Cottage Grove. Ave and 111.St, the Florence Hotel is in site to the East.