Tomorrow in Chicago there is a rally to commemorate the Republic Steel Memorial Day Massacre of 1937 when ten striking members of the Steel Workers Organising Committee (SWOC) were murdered by the Chicago Police Department, because they were on strike for the 8 hour day and the right to organise a union.
The CIO and the autoworkers had begun sit-down strikes in plant after plant.
Unprovoked beatings and killings were common. Workers and unions were still suffering the bloodiest labour history in the western world.
Police forces and the National Guard had been routinely used to attack strikers, break organising efforts, and break strikes.
The United Steelworkers were not yet a fully formed union. SWOC had begun the Little Steel strike to win contracts at the second tier of steel companies. The modern American labor movement was being birthed and it was a very tough delivery.
It was in that context that workers went on strike at Republic Steel and the massacre occurred.
It wasn’t the first massacre of workers and it wasn’t the last. We have not yet seen the last massacre of workers in struggle in America.
Most of the strikes and brutal repression of workers from the 1870′s to 1940 were over two main issues – the freedom to organize unions and the right to an 8 hour day.
As workers and union leaders said, we are not animals. We are human beings and we need enough time off to be parents, to read, to be human beings.