20th Century, Business, Food, History, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, omnipresent history, Unions

First Sit-Down Strike in U.S.

history-1926-george-jay.1498491076

hormelfoods.com

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 tactic works; Hormel agrees to submit wage demands to binding arbitration. The success of this strike re-invigorates the labor movement, which had been in decline through the 1920s.” *

To offer a backstory, we must look at the character and practices of a father and son. George A. Hormel founded the company in 1891, and survived the Panic of the 1893-1897 by setting the standards for success himself. “People talked of Hormel’s passion for efficiency and quality and of his eagerness to work in the plant beside his employees.” Hormel often insisted on doing the key butchering operations himself.**

Jay Hormel was the only son, actually the only child of the G.A. Hormels’. He had an excellent education at Shattuck School for Boys and Princeton University. After schooling he pursued a career as a jazz pianist with some modicum of success. 

Though trained by his father through two years of work at the plant, perhaps he did not retain the personal identity with the town of Austin, his staff, or the business. He married a foreigner, and moved his family out of Austin to a large French style estate. 

Fast forward to the landmark strike. A group of workers at the hog killing floor were unsuccessfully persuaded to join the “voluntary” insurance program being pushed by management. At issue were the further loss of wages, 20 cents per week, and the expectation that those who didn’t join could be fired. The incensed workers shut down the killing floor for only 10 minutes, yet their exasperations had a ripple effect.

In response, hundreds of employees joined the newly formed International Union of All Workers (IUAW), and contributed $600 to achieve its aims. These are out lined below:

“1. An increase in the hourly rate for all workers who are members of the union of 20 cents an hour over and above the rate of November 1, 1933.

2. An increase in pay for those workers on a scale other than the hourly rates so they might receive an increase in pay equal to those on the hourly basis.

3. The abolition of the bonus system and the rate of those affected by the abolition be set by an hourly rate plus a bonus.

4. That when females replace males in the plant, the rate of compensation be the same as that paid to the male workers.

5. An agreement whereby either company or union may present each other with formal requests in writing, the receiving party acknowledging receipt of the request and arranging provisions for a conference within 24 hours of receiving it.” **

The occupation of the plant pushed Hormel into reaching out to both FDR and Governor Floyd Olson for help. Neither of these politicians were in the mood to enact a strike bust, but rather approaching the issue as mediators. Ultimately Governor Olson, without security, calmed the situation and led to the writing of an agreed plan between workers and management. 

Hormel’s attitude towards his employees did a complete u-turn. Instead of seeing workers as his opponents, he saw them as his team. His “Master Plan” was putting out fires before they start; a system of anticipatory welfare capitalism. This plan gained acceptance and trust of laborers so throughly that it pre-empted the necessity of union actions in most cases. When asked by other business men how to deal with labor, Jay Hormel replied; “labor troubles would not occur if business could understand labor.” **

Shall we pray? We give thanks to You, Lord of All Workers, because You truly understand the backstory of everyone who works. We thank You for Your intimate knowledge of each human’s psyche, work ethic, and motives. Will You enhance our watching of this event in history, and bring revelation to Your people everywhere?

Initially we see an example of a father and son, and their differing approaches to the same task of owning and managing a business. We thank you for the leadership style of George Hormel who: lived locally, married a girl from town, and was an active participant in all stages of his company. Will You bless Him, the Hormel family, and those like him in Minnesota’s food processing businesses? It is hard to fault one who leads by practical example. 

We also thank You for the leadership style of Jay Hormel who: thought outside his own town, loved music, and married outside his culture. We thank You that though he originally was known for his weakness to relate to his labor, he discovered that he could change. We give thanks that he was humble enough to learn from his failures in this strike, and grow as a businessman and human being. Will You bless his family and companions in the food trade, both past, present, and future?

We give thanks for the workers and strikers of this event. We recognize their pains and fears in this era. Will You remember those tasks that were done at an immediate and personal loss to them? Will You remember the days and years where they did not complain though they were increasingly chafed at the increase of employer demands with lack of job security? Will You remember how they were faithful to Hormel, and forgive the ways they weren’t? Will You bless them, their families, and generations in their labor to “do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men”? ***

We remember the insufficient nature of the “isms” at play in this event. Will You temper our collectivists to remember the individuals in their ranks? Will You protect our unions from judgments that can chain them to a permanent state of envy? Will You give the capitalist the humility to see that money doesn’t solve the problems of workers hearts and needs for respect? Have mercy on our business. Have mercy on our strikes. May we receive Your contentment whether on the killing floor on making a killing? Amen.

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

** Conatz, Juan (2014, July 21)https://libcom.org/history/we-were-poor-people-hormel-strike-1933-larry-d-engelmann

*** Colossians 3:23

 

 

Standard
20th Century, History, Industry, Intercession, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, Labor, Lake Superior, Mining, Minnesota, omnipresent history, Suffering, Unions

Iron Range Strike 1916

images

June 3, 1916 to September 17, 1916

“Forty miners walked off the job on June 3, beginning the 1916 strike. The unorganized miners soon realized they needed help. Unlike the 1907 strike, this time the Western Federation of Miners was not interested in organizing the miners. Instead, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies) responded, sending in some of their top organizers. Many of the strikebreakers from 1907, ironically, became instrumental in the 1916 strike. The number of strikers swelled to over 8,000. The 1916 strike was marked by violence and repression. Unlike 1907, strikebreakers were not as readily available and other tactics were employed to end the strike. The civil liberties of strikers were violated, mine guards and police used force to intimidate strikers, union leaders were jailed, economic pressure was exerted on merchants who extended credit to strikers, and finally, the Oliver Iron Mining Company refused to negotiate with the strikers. The strike was called off on September 17.” *

Even attempting to intercede for the Iron Range Strike of 1916 is unsettling, Lord. We can empathize with both the ones who own the business, create jobs and make useful products for society, (Oliver Iron Mining Co.),  and those who do the work, (the miners as represented by the IWW). Will You illuminate this moment of history, and lead our prayers and reflections this day, and leave us with a blessing for the future?

Your Word informs of the importance of both why we work, and how we work because it reflects both our character and our assessment of your character. To begin, we work because it is necessary for our survival, and provision for those in our care.

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ “ 2 Thessalonians 3:10 NIV **

Yet, You also challenge us to take joy in our tasks, and appreciate even the undesirable aspects of them?!

“And do all that you do with all your soul, as for Our Lord, and not as for the children of men.” Colossians 3:23 Aramaic Bible in Plain English ***

Perhaps You want us to take pride in work because it balances our employers reaction of our performance to the pleasure that a job well done gives You?

What’s in Your heart for the working man or woman? What of those who own nothing but their labor? What is the position of Your Kingdom towards their employers?

“Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. “Do not make your hired workers wait until the next day to receive their pay.” Leviticus 19:13 NLT ****

Your Word connotes that those of us who own a company are obliged by the Owner of All Property to account honestly and pay employees on time. 

So, what heart should a CEO have towards his staffers, laborers, hired hands, and factory workers? 

“For the Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and, ‘The worker is worthy of his wages.’ “ I Timothy 5:18 BSB****

In Your economic model, the boss is to remember those with noses to his grindstone are essential as employees, and people of infinite worth as human beings. These Scriptures are a counter-balance to the common lie both the executive and small businessman misbelieves while making payroll; “I’m paying these guys way too much.” 

With this in mind, we pray about  this strike. Lord, will You forgive the pain caused to Oliver Mining Company by the judgments of the Wobblies? Will You forgive the discontent of these miners towards their bosses, and indirectly with Your means of provision for their lives? Will You forgive their rebellions against Minnesota statute and the laws of Your dominion? Will You forgive their envy?

Conversely, we remember the sins and separations of the Oliver Iron Mining towards You and its workers. Will You forgive the injustices of the contract labor system? ******* No one should have to participate in graft or bribery to one’s boss to maintain employment! Will You forgive the pain caused to the miners and their unions? (IWW-Industrial Workers of the World and WFM-Western Federation of Miners) Will You forgive their failures as leaders to understand that right principles alone do not make right relationships or satisfy Your chesed?

Your Honor, will You change our defiance towards You in the maintenance of antagonistic relationships between labor and industry? Will You bless the future of mining in Minnesota, and create fellowships between companies and unions that enhance, not limit, the growth of the other? Will You break our strike against Your peaceful resolutions for our workplaces? Amen.

“Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.” Psalm 89:14 KJV

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

**http://biblehub.com/2_thessalonians/3-10.htm

*** http://biblehub.com/colossians/3-23.htm

****http://biblehub.com/leviticus/19-13.htm

*****http://biblehub.com/1_timothy/5-18.htm

******http://biblehub.com/psalms/89-14.htm

*******https://www.minnpost.com/mnopedia/2015/10/breaking-1916-iron-range-strike

 

 

Standard
20th Century, Culture, Environment, Faith, Great Lakes, History, Humor, Labor, Logging, Minnesota, outdoors

Paul Bunyan is “born” 1914

3675aa754daaa63dc4c0e9a41c453187--paul-bunyan-white-pines

1914
Paul Bunyan, the mythical lumberjacking giant who logged off most of North America, is created as an advertising gimmick by the Red River Lumber Company in Minneapolis.*

There’s something that makes me smile just reading the name, “Paul Bunyan”. His name is synonymous with the North Woods of Minnesota. For the past 100 years, most midwestern kids have heard about him at camp, at a summer cabin, or sitting around the campfire.

I won’t bore you with the breadth and depth of research as to the origins of his legend, but report a few quick facts. His stories came from the oral tradition of logging camps. They were most commonly credited to William B. Laughead writing promotional material for the Red River Lumber Company. Some researchers think his legend started with the French Canadian folk tales of Paul Bon Jean or Tit Jean. Bunyan phonetically is similar to the Quebec expression for surprise; “bon yenne”.**

So here begins my prayer, Lord, thanks for the legend of Paul Bunyan! Help me reflect on his folktales, and find their blessing.

Christ, I thank You for Your masterful parables. You chose to allow those who were looking for meaning to catch it, and for those listeners who were not, to breeze over its intent for their heart and remain relationally open to You. Stories seem to have a magic to get past our trip wires, and speak deeply and gently to us.

I thank You for the good these tales did for the loggers. They entertained, distracted from boredom, aches and pains, and maybe even planted seeds of inspiration. Who wouldn’t want to be the ultimate mans’ man in those rough work conditions? Paul laughed at fear and the elements, did an impossible workload each day, ate mountains of food, and maybe even created some mountain ranges playfully wrestling his giant blue ox. (Wink wink!)

So today, Creator of the Forests, I thank You for the gifts of hyperbole, folklore and camp stories. I thank You for the relationships born of telling and listening to “tall tales” like Paul Bunyan in Minnesota. I thank You for an example, though fictional, of a huge, happy man loving his hard work in Your outdoors!

May You enable this State to take to heart and to practice the rule of Saint Benedict to pray and work; “Ora et Labora”.**** May You bless us to practice contentment in our work until You come. May we forever return to You the free, yet costly gift of doing our best!

 

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23 ESV

 

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
**https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Bunyan
***https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pray_and_work
****http://biblehub.com/colossians/3-23.htm

Standard