Teams of volunteers went door to door canvassing in the suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul. A timeline of the Hormel strike. But the track record of consumer boycotts in this country is not very encouraging. Frustrated workers in the hog kill department at the Hormel plant in Austin, Minn., went on strike in 1933. Even boring speeches were interrupted by standing ovations again and again. This last step was the most significant in that it would prevent Hormel from shortages of product should the Austin plnat be shut down. The organization had a centralized national body with regional or particular workplace “locals” maintained by members’ dues. People were not happy. And obviously Rogers' strategy did not avoid arrests or police violence. 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. Nor are we saying that workers should abandon the struggle within the AFL-CIO-type unions against top-down bureaucratic control and against sell-outs. Later, William Wynn and Lane Kirkland stood cheek to jowl for the press while Wynn dencounces the "fascist tactics" of P-9. It was not going to be easy selling this deal. The corporate campaign failed because it was based on flawed assumptions. A sit-down strike would have been the most effective way to shut down production and force Hormel to take the strikers' concerns seriously. By Steve Boyce, Jake Edwards and Tom Wetzel - published in Ideas & Action #7, Summer, 1986, When the airline unions and the AFL-CIO let the air controllers go down to defeat, the message to the employing class was, "You can do what you want; we won't organize a fighting solidarity.". The labor struggle in the meatpacking industry has faced some of the most brutal, dangerous, racist and unsanitary conditions in American industry. The model for American unions came together in the late 1850s. 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. Though material had been published on the safety problems in Hormel's new plant, Corporate Campaign's overwhelming emphasis had been on the money issue -- a profitable company cutting wages. Nonetheless, about half of the 900 workers on the morning shift were persuaded to stay out. In response to one of the union actions, Hormel attempted to bring scabs in to replace the workers and the sitdown strike began. Affiliation of workers in different workplaces with the same AFL-CIO-type "international union" only guarantees subordination to a common central bureaucracy. Though Minnesota's Farmer-Labor Party governor at the time, Floyd Olson, denounced the strikers' "illegal possession of the plant," the company threw in the towel after four days of worker occupation of the plant. That this could even be considered a matter of serious debate was a disgrace. The success of this strike re-invigorates the labor movement, which had been in decline through the 1920s.” Management was talking about getting a 20% increase in productivity out of the new facility. Meanwhile, the Twin Cities dailies describe P-9 as "rigid" and "inflexible.". The tactic works; Hormel agrees to submit wage demands to binding arbitration. Hormel Foods Corporation is an American company founded in 1891 in Austin, Minnesota, by George A. Hormel as George A. Hormel & Company. In 1933 it conducted a sitdown strike at Austin, the first sitdown strike of the Depression. Mr. Leopold called the Hormel strike ''an expression of protest from the bottom to do something about the weakness of the trade union movement.'' On August 17, 1985, about 1,500 Hormel Foods Corporation workers went on strike at the meat-processing plant at the company’s headquarters in Austin, Minnesota. “The idea that an employer is the lord and … It was on that understanding that the contract was ratified by Local P-9. States) Detroit, Michigan, Tool and Die Strike occurred. The UFCW's trusteeship was upheld by federal District Court judge Edward Devitt on June 2nd and the UFCW then changed the locks on the union's offices, seized all files and funds, and ousted the elected leadership. 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? But in the current climate of employer aggression, Hormel is just following the present trend, justified among business leaders as a "battle to become more competitive." The workers of Hormel's Austin operations were first pressured to give concessions in the 1978 contract, which included a rigorous "no-strike" clause. Hormel recently announced that its profits were down 25.7% from the second quarter of last year, due to the strike. Hormel Workers Won a Historic Victory – November 13, 1933, Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History, ← Corporate America Wants the Trans-Pacific Partnership for Christmas This Year, Obama’s Climate Change Envoy To Developing Nations: We’re Not Paying for Destroying Your Property, and You Can’t Make Us →, Everett Ketchum: Flint Sit-Down Striker | How The Wolf Survives. 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. But the company claims it can run the plant with only 1,050 people. But when P-9 members rejected this contract in January, Wynn reneged on his pledge and refused to sanction roving pickets. 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. Hormel announces the plan to cut wages from $10.69 to $8.25 per hour ($28.05 to $21.65 adjusted for inflation). The immediate response to the wage reduction was a call for strike action -- against the contract, the company and anybody else who was trying to gut their wages. 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. But when the cops finally began to tow cars, no effort was made to stop them. 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. Most unionized supermarket clerks belong to the UFCW. JJonahJackalope (talk) 06:23, 9 October 2020 (UTC) Hormel recently announced that its profits were down 25.7% from the second quarter of last year, due to the strike. And seeing the scabs take their jobs is demoralizing for the strikers. The plan had been to block the roads leading to the plant with circles of cars. The official disapproval sent a chill wind through the leftwing cheerleaders who had been hailing P-9 and the corporate campaign. After all the media attention and the hundreds who have attended the support rallies, what's left is the remnants of a proud local union fighting a lonely battle against company greed and AFL-CIO betrayal. Labor History: Vol. Everyone wants to believe it. These vertical bureaucracies often work to oppose direct, horizontal solidarity between workers since it imposes risks and costs (such as strike benefits) to their organizations, disrupts cozy relationships with employers, and challenges their top-down control. So move out!” (Larry Engelmann, “We Were the Poor — The Hormel Strike of 1933,” Labor History, Fall, 1974.) 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. Hormel was not motivated by financial losses since it was -- and remains -- highly profitable. The Packinghouse Division of the UFCW was the inheritor of the traditions of the CIO United Packinghouse Workers Union (UPWA) and the AFL Amalgamated Meatcutters Union. 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 shut down came on August 7th and stretched through the fall and into winter. 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. This committee then initiated the Naional Rank and File Against Concessions (NRFAC) to give P-9 leaders a national platform. Research into Hormel's stock ties and board of directors had turned up First Bank. The NPR reporter commented that he sounded very much like a company spokesman. 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. A sit-down strike was how local P-9 was organized originally back in 1933. The assumption is that workers should appeal to "public opinion" rather than to solidarity from other workers. The rationale for the trusteeship was local P-9's refusal of the International's order to end the strike. Enormous quantities of literature were produced -- from leaflets to newspapers -- and sent throughout Minnesota and beyond. 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. Rogers is not a wealthy man but he is a businessman and his business is providing local unions with an alternative to going on strike. On April 14th and 15th the UFCW International held hearings on its proposal to place local P-9 in trusteeship. 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 surely the UFCW International has proven itself to be an obstacle to worker solidarity. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! P-9 then sent out roving pickets to spread the strike and shut down production at the other plants in the Hormel chain. Though Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor Party governor at the time, Floyd Olson, denounced the strikers’ “illegal possession of the plant,” the company threw in the towel after four days of worker occupation of the plant. In other words, the union apparatus must be preserved, even against the workers themselves. 2 of 4 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. The model for Corporate Campaign is Rogers' campaign for the Amalgamated Clother and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) against J.P. Stevens, which achieved union recognition against a notoriously nonunion Southern employer. The line producing Hormel's most popular new product -- hot dogs stuffed with chile -- was dismantled and moved to Houston. "Strikes are obsolete," he told them. Another twist in Rogers' emphasis upon "public opinion" is the consumer boycott of Hormel products. Montross's hatchet job, prepared by leftists at the International's headquarters, tried to portray the UFCW as the defender of "progressive" unionism while P-9 was denounced for "isolation, individualism, and division." Prior to the strike at Hormel, workers in the hog-slaughtering plant were distraught over a wage and benefit freeze and dangerous working conditions. Over 1,500 had been employed there before the strike. Yet direct action by workers to defend their picket lines against the job-stealing of the scabs is perfectly legitimate, no matter what capitalist legality may say about it. Olson refused to send in the National Guard to break up the strike, as Hormel requested. Now the new leaders of P-9 were faced with having the lowest wages and yet they could no longer count on the united strength of negotiating with the other Hormel locals. 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. When the pickets arrived at the Hormel operation in Atlanta, they discovered that the UFCW had only a minimal organizing effort going on. 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. There was conflicting information about this strike, as it lasted for three days, from November 10th, 1933 to November 13th, and some listings suggested it started on the 13th. By Staff Reports. Browse historical events, famous birthdays and notable deaths from Nov 13, 1933 or search by date, day or keyword. Email the author. On January 25th the Hormel plant at Ottumwa, Iowa was shut down by a march of hundreds of pickets to the gates. 483-510. In decline through the 1920s, the labor movement found strength through direct action and solidarity with other workers, both unionized and unorganized. The strikers had the advantage of numbers. Directed by Barbara Kopple, Cathy Caplan, Thomas Haneke. As of June , P-9ers were claiming that only about 700-to-800 people were working in the Austin plant; the company, on the other hand, claims it now has 1,050 people working. It's included here for information purposes only. But Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Governor Perpich hadd removed the National Guard in February only after hundreds of supporters from other unions had been mobilized to support the strikers in Austin. The day the plant opened there was no mass civil disobedience or publicity campaigns. On February 16th about 200 pickets from P-9 showed up at the FDL Foods plant in Dubuque. 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. In Labor History, vol. 'A Real Threat' Kim Moody, publisher of … The final company offer waas for $10 per hour for the current workforce. In 1933 the meatpackers at the Hormel plant launched the plant's first labor strike. 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. Others thought Rogers would launch a new corporate campaign targeting fast food restaurants or other major customers of Hormel. The employers' concessions drive soon became an epidemic. The corporate campaign didn't work because it didn't stop Hormel from continuing to make money from packaging meat. Guyette and 150 strikers shouted him down and announced that they would take their own vote. Union workers physically remove Jay Hormel from the company’s general offices and shut down the refrigeration system, causing the meat to spoil. Several hundred strikers amassed at the main gate, chanting, hurling insults at the cops. 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. Hormel waited until after the trusteeship was upheld in court on June 2nd to agree to being negotiations. Kirkland lets it be known that from now on the AFL will try to intervene in disputes between Internationals and insurgent locals. They suddenly had to scramble to explain that there was a lot more at stake than 69 cents. P-9 listened, and believed, and did not strike. . This is done by trying to show how the targeted employer is especially unfair to its workforce. Everywhere in that crowded auditorium you could feel it, that we all need something, something diffferent, something new from the labor movement, and maybe this is where it will start. Only about 65 workers stayed out when pickets showed up at the Fremont, Nebraska plant. Hormel retaliated by firing 478 workers who refused to cross the picket lines. What's that spell?" Local P-9 had wanted to restore the old $10.69 per hour standard wage. 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. 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. Wages were cut in Austin from $10.69 to $8.25 per huor on October 8, 1984. The IUAW went on to become a major center for organizing meatpacking plants in the upper midwest in the '30s. The weakness of P-9's position has been its inability to close down operations at the Austin plant. 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. On the other hand, when workers are in possession of the plant, the scabs can't be brough in to carry on production. They waited until January because they were trying to get the International's sanction for the roving pickets. Local P-9 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), made up of workers at Hormel's main plant at Austin, Minnesota, has attempted to break out of isolation in several ways: a "Corporate Campaign" that tried to bring consumer pressure against Hormel's main bank, a consumer boycott of Hormel meat products, and by roving pickets sent to other Hormel plants. George Albert Hormel (December 4, 1860 – June 5, 1946) was an American entrepreneur, he was the founder of Hormel Foods Corporation (then known as George A. Hormel & Co.) in 1891. Among those who did care, support was growing as the contract expiration drew near. What the surprised membership of P-9 discovered, when they got a copy of the contract from the International, was that the alleged provision prohibiting wage reductions was missing. The militant traditions and post-World War II prosperity had made these improvements possible. The new factory-made processing more efficient; however, the new plant experienced a 120% increase in worker injuries. On the company side, active preparations were underway for a strike. This article focuses on the circumstances and activism of commercial farmers and people working for wages. The success of this strike re-invigorates the labor movement, which had been in decline through the 1920s.” After the rally people filed out, pushing their way past legions of Trotskyists selling newspapers, pamphlets, and discussion bulletins. The strikers would be holding the $100 million plant hostage. 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. The new union's name was then changed to "North American Meat Packers Union.". The strike attracted widespread support among rank-and-file workers in the U.S. labor movement despite the reluctance of the UFCW to endorse its objectives. A timeline of the Hormel strike. Rogers preaches non-violence because he thinks the heart of the struggle is winning support for the Hormel strikers in the eyes of "public opinion." By 1983 the eroded vesgiges of this reality had collapsed. The honorable governor was worried about the political fallout from a major confrontation between the Guard and large groups of strike supporters. Protest plans for Hormel's annual shareholders meeting panicked the executives into moving the meeting to Atlanta. First Bank blandly denied that it had anything to do with management decisions at Hormel. One of the upper Midwest's financial giants, the St. Paul-based bank looked like the ideal location of the "doorsteps of power." The two parties reached a compromise within three days. November 13, 1933 in History. At that point. The local union, P-9 of the Food and Commercial Workers, overwhelmingly rejects a contract offer with a $2/hour wage cut. His pledge was exposed as a dishonest stalling tactic. Strike leaders appear to be planning to join forces this summer with like-minded unionists who will be in bargaining between Hormel and the international union on contracts that expire Sept. 1. But in 1984 the International proposed a $1.69 per hour wage cut for Hormel workers outside Austin (from $10.69 to $9 per hour). Visit the current IWW website at iww.org ▸, ‹ How the IWW Differs from Business Unions, IU 640 Restaurant, Hotel, and Catering Workers. 1933 (United States) Hormel, Iowa, Meat-Packing Strike occurred. When Hormel management imposed a … All that Hormel does is package meat and it has been doing this very profitably from 1891 to the present. Representative from P-9, in Austin, MN, give a history of the Hormel strike. Peter Rachleff is a Professor of History at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota. 4, pp. The Watsonville cannery strike is one of these struggles, the Hormel strike is another. What happened on November 13, 1933. In the case of the J.P. Stevens campaign, Rogers' campaign dwelled upon the fact that Stevens had more violations of labor laws than anyone else. In 1982 the UFCW's Lewie Anderson negotiated a new national contract for the Hormel plants. . P-9 strike member | Star Tribune. Rogers and his supporters in local P-9 preached "civil disobedience" yet a plant occupation would have been the most effective form of "disobedience." It didn't work. The success of this strike re-invigorates the labor movement, which had been in decline through the 1920s.” 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 … In the International's eyes, "solidarity" means obedience to their orders, even if those orders ban actual solidarity. From the public record, it seems that brother Anderson does not engage in the truth, but this time he was right on the mark. 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. The proposed contract was defeated by a small majority in both ballots. 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. Published 9:57 pm Saturday, August 14, 2010. The top-down structure of the AFL-CIO-type unions is an albatross around the neck of the American workforce. 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). PO Box 180195, Chicago, IL 60618, USA But the Communist Party registered the leftist retreat the earliest and clearest: "The local leadership's attacks on the leadership of the UFCW has played into the hands of the corporations' union busting strategy and will be used to split and divide other locals and be used as ammunition against the union in organizing drives..." (Daily World, 2/6). The plant normally employs 800 workers. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. A plant occupation may be illegal, but it is also illegal to block streets with cars. Copyright © 2014 The Raucous Rooster. The UFCW had justified this as a means of regaining lost ground. Speaker after speaker from National Rank and File Against Concessions pledged undying support for a fight to the end. The foreshadowing, punctuated with the crash of shattered glass, came 52 years earlier. About 1,400 members of Local P-9 of the United Food and Commercial Workers walked out over wages and working conditions. 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. Another mass rally in support of the Ottumwa workers took place on May 10th, including hundreds of P-9 members bused in from Austin. The nation watched the Hormel strike on the evening news and read about it in newspapers while union leaders across the world watched, … 15, No. As long as the company still recognized the UFCW and kept wages in the $8 per hour range, nobody at the International really cared. 1, edited by Eric Arnesen (p. 641-642). At that time they had gotten a better deal than everybody else. The 1982 master contract for the Hormel plants had contained a clause that permitted re-opening the contract in 1984, before the contract's expiration in September 1985. "CD" only produces arrests, it does not produce any power for the workers. When the state outlaws the most effective forms of worker action, such as sit-down strikes and refusing to handle scab goods, the union heads simply go along with this because they try to avoid any action that may put their organization at risk or threaten to disrupt their long-standing relationships with management and government leaders. Rogers left ACTWU in 1981 and, with a partner, launched Corporate Campaign, Inc. as his own business. The strikers quickly ran throughout the plant to chase out non-union workers. Chronicles the six-month strike at Hormel in Austin, Minnesota, in 1985-86. In January 1986 Hormel reopened the plant with strikebreakers, leading P-9 to widen its efforts to secure support from other workers. At best this could only work to bring a particularly nasty employer up to currently prevailing level of exploitation and arrogance among employers. 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. What had been signed by the UFCW was not what had been sold to the local's members. When Hormel began production in January, it would have been possible to break into the plant and carry out a sit-down strike. General Headquarters Hormel replied to them in an open letter on November 10, 1933, basically claiming the company couldn’t afford to concede them. On February 8th a rally of some 2,000 unionists, their families and supporters was held in Ottumwa. 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. 413–14; Larry Engelmann, “ ‘We Were the Poor People’—The Hormel Strike of 1933,” Labor History, 15 (Fall 1974): 490. Having broken through the protective circle of vehicles, the cops moved in to arrest picketers. , racist and unsanitary conditions in American labor union history, hurling insults at the high school, some but. All producers plant seemed to be easy selling this deal with strikebreakers, leading to. Photographed for future legal action against the local a chill wind through the and... 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