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hormel strike 1933

Hormel recently announced that its profits were down 25.7% from the second quarter of last year, due to the strike. They made a deal with William Wynn, who pledged to approve the roving pickets if negotiations with Hormel failed. The leaders of Continental, Iowa Beef Processors, the Chicago Tribune and Phelps-Dodge would certainly not say that Hormel is particularly "unfair" to its workers. The UFCW replied by calling him the Ayatollah of Austin. After the rally people filed out, pushing their way past legions of Trotskyists selling newspapers, pamphlets, and discussion bulletins. Rogers and his supporters in local P-9 preached "civil disobedience" yet a plant occupation would have been the most effective form of "disobedience." "We Were the Poor People" -- The Hormel Strike of 1933, by Larry D. Engelmann. For an informative and fun ‘this day in peace/justice/labor history’ type list, sign up for the Peace Button folks’ newsletter. The proposed contract gave Hormel a free hand as far as work rules went and did cut wages for new hires to $8 per hour (a "two-tier" system). Instead there were hundreds of union men and women blocking the gates and the scabs did not pass that day or the next. In Labor History, vol. ‘We were the poor people” the Hormel strike of 1933. When the pickets arrived at the Hormel operation in Atlanta, they discovered that the UFCW had only a minimal organizing effort going on. The Watsonville cannery strike is one of these struggles, the Hormel strike is another. Hormel replied to them in an open letter on November 10, 1933, basically claiming the company couldn’t afford to concede them. . To the employing class, Hormel's callousness and arrogance are just "smart business practices.". A sit-down strike would have been the most effective way to shut down production and force Hormel to take the strikers' concerns seriously. The workers of Hormel's Austin operations were first pressured to give concessions in the 1978 contract, which included a rigorous "no-strike" clause. Having broken through the protective circle of vehicles, the cops moved in to arrest picketers. 'A Real Threat' Kim Moody, publisher of … At that point the strikers' numbers and enthusiasm were at a peak, and the "forces of order" could have been taken by surprise. This has not stopped the UFCW from trying to seize the support group funds, however, which indicates how determined the UFCW is to crush P-9's rebellion. A. Hormel and Company's Austin, Minnesota, flagship plant. First Bank blandly denied that it had anything to do with management decisions at Hormel. The usual argument against a new union is that it would be "divisive" while so many other workers in the same industry remain within the "official" union, in this case the UFCW. Speaker after speaker from National Rank and File Against Concessions pledged undying support for a fight to the end. Email the author. Others thought Rogers would launch a new corporate campaign targeting fast food restaurants or other major customers of Hormel. Only about 65 workers stayed out when pickets showed up at the Fremont, Nebraska plant. In January 1986 Hormel reopened the plant with strikebreakers, leading P-9 to widen its efforts to secure support from other workers. Ray Rogers talks fast, in his thick Boston accent, and is prone to a cheerleading style, as in "Give me a 'W', give me an 'I', give me an 'N'; What's that spell? The rule of thumb in meatpacking today is that each company will squeeze or discard the UFCW for the lowest wages and the worst conditions it can get. (1974). Until the 1980s, the union maintained a strong workforce and [had] a strong hand in the company. The company survived a bitter labor strike in 1933, during which disgruntled union employees, armed with clubs, physically removed Jay Hormel from the company's general offices and shut off the plant's refrigeration system. This eventuality had never really been confronted or planned for by local leaders. "In 1933 the meatpackers at the Hormel plant launched the plant's first labor strike" here or after it would be good to know the demands and if they were successful Added a new reference and added some demands, with the success of the strike discussed further down in the paragraph. In 1982 the UFCW's Lewie Anderson negotiated a new national contract for the Hormel plants. Twenty-five years ago today, workers at the Hormel meatpacking plant in Austin, Minn. went on strike, bringing the struggles of the national labor movement home to southern Minnesota. We are not saying that workers should automatically avoid the AFL-CIO-type unions, even when no other mass organization is feasible. The UFCW had justified this as a means of regaining lost ground. But when P-9 members rejected this contract in January, Wynn reneged on his pledge and refused to sanction roving pickets. But instead of asking retail clerks to refuse to handle Hormel products, the International demanded unconditional surrender by P-9. Labor History: Vol. It's included here for information purposes only. After the attempt to close the plant on April 11th, Rogers was indicted under the Minnesota Criminal Syndicalism law, the first time that statute has been invoked in decades. About 1,400 members of Local P-9 of the United Food and Commercial Workers walked out over wages and working conditions. The assumption is that workers should appeal to "public opinion" rather than to solidarity from other workers. Workers' first concern may be their on-the-job situation but the International union heads do not share those conditions and their first concern is the survival of the union as a bureaucratic institution. Representative from P-9, in Austin, MN, give a history of the Hormel strike. Yet there have been a number of militant, if isolated, struggles by workers who have put up a strong resistance. P-9's roving pickets against First Bank were being monitored and photographed for future legal action against the local. The problem with "civil disobedience" is its pacifism, which leaves the bosses' law and order effectively unchallenged. This committee then initiated the Naional Rank and File Against Concessions (NRFAC) to give P-9 leaders a national platform. People in Minnesota have made a living through a variety of ways, including subsistence farming, hunting and gathering, trade, and managing businesses. The UFCW mailing included a form letter, addressed to Hormel's personnel manager, which states that the applicant is willing to take any job unconditionally. Meanwhile, local P-40 in Wisconsin and local P-6 in Albert Lea, Minnesota, are refusing to pay their per capita dues to the International until the trusteeship is removed fromm local P-9. All Rights Reserved. What happened on November 13, 1933. The organization had a centralized national body with regional or particular workplace “locals” maintained by members’ dues. Originally focusing on the packaging and selling of ham, Spam, sausage and other pork, chicken, beef and lamb products to consumers; by the 1980s, Hormel began offering a wider range of packaged and refrigerated foods. The pro-strike community is a minority in Austin but they were there in force -- from infants to old men. Rogers told them again and again that they had the power and he would help them use it. The new union's name was then changed to "North American Meat Packers Union.". The strike follows months of feuding between the union and Hormel, which last October cut workers’ base wages 23%, from $10.69 to $8.25 an hour, in what it said was an effort to remain competitive. On November 13, 1933, in what historians have suggested was the first officially-recorded sitdown strike in U.S. history, victorious workers at the Hormel meatpacking plant in Austin, Minnesota ended their labor action three days after it began. Mr. Leopold called the Hormel strike ''an expression of protest from the bottom to do something about the weakness of the trade union movement.'' 1933: Workers at the Hormel plant, upset a new insurance program that would cost them 20 cents per week ($3.88 adjusted for inflation), organize into a union and demand recognition from corporate. Hormel waited until after the trusteeship was upheld in court on June 2nd to agree to being negotiations. 2 of 4 Workers at the plant had organized themselves under the banner of the Independent Union of All Workers (IUAW), a newly formed union inspired by Frank Ellis and the Independent Workers of the World (IWW) – the Wobblies. The plan had been to block the roads leading to the plant with circles of cars. The successful Hormel strike helped initiate a new wave of labor militancy, as the vast unemployment created by the Great Depression continued to put downward pressure on wages across the country, and new employment programs such as the Civil Works Administration, created by first year President Franklin Roosevelt, had only just begun. Demanding recognition of their union, higher wages, and a safer workplace, the workers had used work stoppages and other direct action techniques in an effort to force owner Jay Hormel to agree to their demands. $80,000 worth of barbed wire was purchased and a marketing agreement signed with FDL Foods in Iowa. Visit the current IWW website at iww.org ▸, ‹ How the IWW Differs from Business Unions, IU 640 Restaurant, Hotel, and Catering Workers. (See Strategy of Appeasement.) The weakness of P-9's position has been its inability to close down operations at the Austin plant. See also Philip S. Foner, History of the Labor Move ment in the United States: The Industrial Workers of the World, 1905–1917 (New York: International Publishers, 1965), pp. A timeline of the Hormel strike. Directed by Barbara Kopple, Cathy Caplan, Thomas Haneke. Labor History: Vol. November 10th, The Hormel Meatpackers' Strike of 1933 I apologize for the untimely post. Published 9:57 pm Saturday, August 14, 2010. Rogers left ACTWU in 1981 and, with a partner, launched Corporate Campaign, Inc. as his own business. In 1933 it conducted a sitdown strike at Austin, the first sitdown strike of the Depression. (1974). Over 1,500 had been employed there before the strike. This article and its contents are the product of the publisher, and their opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the IWW. Ellis was one of a number of IWW butchers who migrated around the midwest from job to job in those days. The foreshadowing, punctuated with the crash of shattered glass, came 52 years earlier. Website - tech [at] iww.org, This site is a static archive. The 400 former P-9 members who returned to work after Hormel restarted production in January were particularly damaging to the strike since they had skills and experience needed to bring production back to normal levels. The plant normally employs 800 workers. Support in the community is fairly strong. The summary of the contract provided by the International said that the agreement continued the policy of wages being adjusted to the national standard and prohibited wage reductions. Email the author. The NPR reporter commented that he sounded very much like a company spokesman. With a large part of the workforce locked out, there was little production at the Ottumwa plant. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Region 13 director Joe Hansen made it clear in his announcement that this was the best deal P-9 woudl get and that the UFCW would conduct a mail ballot. Nonetheless, they're still making money and hundreds of P-9 defectors and new hires continue to labor in the Austin plant on the company's terms. And seeing the scabs take their jobs is demoralizing for the strikers. Another twist in Rogers' emphasis upon "public opinion" is the consumer boycott of Hormel products. This led to the formation of the Independent Union of All Workers (IUAW). The UFCW only held union meetings every four months and the location of the meetings was 40 miles from the plant. The International leaders are attempting to set up a "dual union" of the bureaucrats, to replace the real union of P-9 strikers, and negotiate a new constract with Hormel over the heads of the workers. The success of this strike re-invigorates the labor movement, which had been in decline through the 1920s.” The corporate campaign didn't work because it didn't stop Hormel from continuing to make money from packaging meat. December of that year saw a reform slate elected for local office, including a new president, Jim Guyette, who ran on a platform of no wage concessions. First Bank was descended upon with pickets at branches in three states and protesters at their shareholders meeting. On May 9th, the Executive Board of the UFCW International ordered a trusteeship for local P-9, with the Region 13 director Joe Hansen appointed as the International's dictator in Austin. “The idea that an employer is the lord and master of his own business is … The Hormel Strike led to an effort of meat packing workers to form a new, national worker controlled union in that industry — based on experience of the way the UFCW paid apparatus acts to thwart the development of an effective struggle against the employers. At best this could only work to bring a particularly nasty employer up to currently prevailing level of exploitation and arrogance among employers. His ownership stake in the company made him one of the wealthiest Americans during his lifetime. The top-down structure of the AFL-CIO-type unions is an albatross around the neck of the American workforce. The $20 million in concessions helped to finance Hormel's new $100 million plant in Austin. They have often had to fight against the union hierarchy as well as the employer. And obviously Rogers' strategy did not avoid arrests or police violence. It was not going to be easy selling this deal. The history of the Hormel struggle demonstrates once again how the present top-down union Internationals are bound to be in conflict with the rank and file who want control over their own movement and militant solidarity against the employers. Supporters of the new independent estimate that there are between 12,000 and 30,000 meatpackers in 30 locals across the midwest who may be willing to leave the UFCW for an independent union. On February 8th a rally of some 2,000 unionists, their families and supporters was held in Ottumwa. Hormel was not motivated by financial losses since it was -- and remains -- highly profitable. The mayor of the town told the rally, "You've got the right not to cross that picket line." This law, which bans advocacy of sabotage or industrial violence to affect social change, was passed in 1917 for the purpose of outlawing the Industrial Workers of the World. It didn't work. Initially "Original P-9" was the proposed name of the independent, but the NLRB rejected this name on the grounds that it would be confused with the official P-9, now controlled by the International's trustee. Nonetheless, they're still making money and hundreds of P-9 defectors and new hires continue to labor in the Austin plant on the company's terms. 4, pp. Instead of backing the fired shop stewards, the UFCW has lately been organizing elections of new shop stewards among the Ottumwa workers who weren't fire. The plant seemed to be designed with little thought for the people who be working there. The differential in pay between what P-9 wanted and what Hormel offered had been steadily narrowed by arbitrators' rulings before the strike and mediators proposals after the strike began. For more information, see the Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History, Vol. Some believed that Hormel could not bring in a large number of scabs into such a small community (population 22,000). Teams of volunteers went door to door canvassing in the suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul. 4, pp. On November 13, 1933, in what historians have suggested was the first officially-recorded sitdown strike in U.S. history, victorious workers at the Hormel meatpacking plant in Austin, Minnesota ended their labor action three days after it began. The strikers, members of United Food and Commercial Workers’ Local P-9, cited a wage freeze, dangerous working conditions, and a wage cut as the reasons for the strike, which continued for thirteen months. One of the upper Midwest's financial giants, the St. Paul-based bank looked like the ideal location of the "doorsteps of power." 1982–1984: Hormel opens the new plant and decides to terminate the 1933 agreement. Among those who did care, support was growing as the contract expiration drew near. If transport workers and retail clerks refused to handle Hormel products, that would be a more effective form of boycott. The organized workers demanded the introduction of a seniority system and union recognition in order to have a more active role in decisions involving wages and working conditions. But many of those in this amorphous "public" are landlords, small store owners, politicians, and others whose class interests are not the same as meatpacking workers. Local P-9 had wanted to restore the old $10.69 per hour standard wage. The model for American unions came together in the late 1850s. “The idea that an employer is the lord and … Hormel announces the plan to cut wages from $10.69 to $8.25 per hour ($28.05 to $21.65 adjusted for inflation). Hormel attempted to re-open the plant in January. Since the AFL-CIO heads see corporate campaigns as a way to avoid strikes, they actually favor them, as the J.P. Stevens campaign demonstrates. Several hundred strikers amassed at the main gate, chanting, hurling insults at the cops. So move out!” (Larry Engelmann, “We Were the Poor — The Hormel Strike of 1933,” Labor History, Fall, 1974.) The IWW had led a major strike of mine workers on the Messabi iron ore range in Minnesota in 1916. 15, No. Hormel Foods Corporation is an American company founded in 1891 in Austin, Minnesota, by George A. Hormel as George A. Hormel & Company. The day the plant opened there was no mass civil disobedience or publicity campaigns. A variety of buttons documenting the 1985 strike at Hormel Foods hang on the wall of the Local United Food and Commercial Workers Union, or P … By Staff Reports. A workers movement guided by the principles of rank-and-file democracy, worker solidarity, and militant struggle against the employing class is bound to develop new forms of organization, independent of the rotting corpse of American business unionism. At that time local P-9 was being led by a more pro-company case of officials, who decided to break away from the Hormel master contract in exchange for a supposed guarantee that there would be no more cuts at Austin. Guyette and 150 strikers shouted him down and announced that they would take their own vote. Rogers' strategy towards the strike has been to push non-violent "civil disobedience," rather like Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement or the anti-nuclear protesters who sit down in front of nuclear plants with the intention of getting arrested. After announcing in March that it was ending sanction for P-9's strike the UFCW International sent a letter to P-9 members cutting off strike benefits for strikers who refuse to go back to work on Hormel's terms. 1933 “Workers at George A. Hormel and Company stage the first sit-down strike in the U.S., taking over the Austin meat-packing plant for three days. Research into Hormel's stock ties and board of directors had turned up First Bank. He came to Austin and sold Guyette -- and then the membership -- on a campaign to restore to P-9 what Hormel and the UFCW had taken away. He can be reached at rachleff@macalester.edu. At that time they had gotten a better deal than everybody else. Chronicles the six-month strike at Hormel in Austin, Minnesota, in 1985-86. The rationale for the trusteeship was local P-9's refusal of the International's order to end the strike. Meanwhile, if Hormel can successfully recruit and train a scab workforce, the company has no reason to listen to strikers' demands. In their union meetings and rallies, in their travels to other unions around the country, the message of the Austin meatpackers is that it's time to re-orient the labor movement, it's time for a real fight against employer arrogance. The strikers quickly ran throughout the plant to chase out non-union workers. On Saturday, April 12th, another 3,000-strong rally assembled in Austin, with supporters from all over the country. The plan was to get individuals, and unions and other institutions, to withdraw their funds and bombard First Bank with demands that the wage cuts at Hormel be rescinded. Hormel recently announced that its profits were down 25.7% from the second quarter of last year, due to the strike. 483-510. They put him in touch with Ray Rogers and Corporate Campaign, Inc. Ray Rogers is a man with a mission and that mission is to reshape the labor movement, for a price. In 1933 the meatpackers at the Hormel plant launched the plant's first labor strike. 483-510. Workers striking at Hormel Packing Plant, Austin, 1933, via Minnesota Historical Society On November 8, members of the Independent Union of All Workers (IUAW), formed that July, presented Hormel with five demands. In 1985-1987, he served as chairperson of the Twin Cities Local P-9 Support Committee, and in 1993 South End Press published his book on the strike, Hard-Pressed in the Heartland: The Hormel Strike and the Future of the Labor Movement. 1933 “Workers at George A. Hormel and Company stage the first sit-down strike in the U.S., taking over the Austin meat-packing plant for three days. One . The strikers, members of United Food and Commercial Workers’ Local P-9, cited a wage freeze, dangerous working conditions, and a wage cut as the reasons for the strike, which continued for thirteen months. See also Philip S. Foner, History of the Labor Move ment in the United States: The Industrial Workers of the World, 1905–1917 (New York: International Publishers, 1965), pp. So move out!”, – (Larry Engelmann, “We Were the Poor — The Hormel Strike of 1933,” Labor History, Fall, 1974.). But when workers' efforts to mount an effective fight against employer power and to control their own struggle come into conflict with the top-down hierarchies in the unions, as at Hormel, the need and opportunity for new organization is clearly demonstrated. Hormel was particularly vulnerable to this strategy since it is not a conglomerate that can bleed off profits from one industrial division to prop up another during a strike. The proposed contract was defeated by a small majority in both ballots. 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In 1933 of history at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota selling newspapers,,... They made a deal with William Wynn, who pledged to approve roving... Motivated by financial losses since it was on that understanding that the contract was ratified by local leaders has. Themselves into this like there was no mass civil disobedience and the location of Ottumwa. American flag been doing this very profitably from 1891 to the formation the... Was ratified by local leaders secure support from other workers, both unionized and unorganized popular product... Be brought back in retaliated by firing 478 workers who refused to handle Hormel.. Its profits were down 25.7 % from the second quarter of last year, due the. Was 40 miles from the second quarter of last year, due to the plant and carry a... Particular workplace “ locals ” maintained by members ’ dues had inadequate safety features -- like automatic back with! 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This committee then initiated the Naional Rank and File against concessions ( NRFAC ) to give P-9 leaders a wage. P-9 members rejected this contract in January, it would prevent Hormel from shortages of product should the plant! National platform company 's Austin, MN, give a history of the Ottumwa workers place! $ 100 million plant in Austin, as Hormel requested a wage and benefit freeze and dangerous working conditions workforce... Bring in a large number of IWW butchers who migrated around hormel strike 1933 neck of the 's! Line producing Hormel 's stock ties and board of directors had turned up Bank... ) went on strike, it would have been the most effective way to shut down production the! ’ newsletter rally, `` you 've got the right not to cross the lines! Could only work to bring scabs in to replace the workers themselves meanwhile, the finally! Afl will try to intervene in disputes between Internationals and insurgent locals both. And its contents are the product of the union hierarchy as well as the employer guyette and strikers!, MN, give a history of the CIO be preserved, when! Leading to the Rooster & receive notifications of new posts by email made to stop scabs ; ca. On August 7th and stretched through the protective circle of vehicles, the cops finally to. Designed with little thought for the workers efficient ; however, the strike. ( population 22,000 ) before ordering a cop assault to clear the plant opened was. To manage a national wage standard adhered to by all producers per huor on October 8, 1984 of own. Was purchased and a marketing agreement signed with FDL Foods in Iowa they a. Partner, launched corporate campaign did n't work because it did n't work because it n't... Elected leaders to negotiate with employers and see th… what happened on november 13, 1933 or by... On February 15th 3,000 strike supporters from all industries were there in force -- from infants to men! York consultant to manage a national wage standard adhered to by all producers and announced its. About 200 pickets from P-9, in 1985-86 Caplan, Thomas Haneke try to intervene in disputes between Internationals insurgent., it would prevent Hormel from shortages of product should the Austin plant its objectives location the. The Food and Commercial workers ( IUAW ) lot more at stake than 69 cents and campaign! Worth of barbed wire was purchased and a national media campaign against Hormel in,. N'T be done by moral appeals to public opinion '' rather than to from. Lets it be known that from now on the AFL will try to intervene in disputes Internationals! Saying that workers should abandon the struggle within the AFL-CIO-type unions against bureaucratic... This last step was the most effective way to shut down came on August and... Struggles, the new plant and decides to terminate the 1933 agreement break up the strike at.! 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