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

First Sit-Down Strike in U.S.

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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

 

 

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19th Century, Architecture, History, Intercession, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, Minnesota, omnipresent history, State Government

Capitol Construction 1898

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1898

“Alexander Ramsey, the 83-year-old first territorial governor of Minnesota, lays the cornerstone of the new state capitol. The building is completed after eight years of construction and a cost of $4.5 million. It is occupied in 1905. The building has been designed by local-architect-made-good Cass Gilbert, who also laid out the U of M campus and will draw up tall buildings in New York city.” *

Capitol buildings are symbols. They are designed for utility, but also to exude the authority and permanence of the state, the government, and the people they represent. Gilbert saw us as inheritor’s of Greek and Roman forms of representational government, and designed a capitol that reflected those influences.

It is easy to imagine that the farmers and loggers looked up and wondered, “What does all that marble have to do with lumber? The rotunda looks like a grain silo, but nothing is in it!?!” ‘Permanence’ to Gilbert may have looked like ‘opulence’ to citizens of the North Star state. Most were still recovering from the Panic of 1893.

“The Panic of 1893 was a serious economic depression in the United States that began in 1893.[1] Similar to the Panic of 1873, it was marked by the collapse of railroad overbuilding and shaky railroad financing, resulting in a series of bank failures. Compounding market overbuilding and the railroad bubble was a run on the gold supply. The Panic of ’93 was the worst economic depression the United States had ever experienced at the time.” **

In any regard, Lord, will You honor the heart of the architect Gilbert? Will You bless those Minnesotans’ who follow in his passion for designing our buildings and structures? Will You bless the workmen, both here and around the world, who provided their excellent labor and skill to create such a building?

Lord, will You forgive any judgments of the cost of the building during a time of economic  struggle? Will You forgive the politicians’ their excesses and pride in their workplace? Like the silo analogy, will You fill the rotunda with Your substance and vision, and not just a grandiose view?

** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1893

*** Delve into the life of Cass Gilbert. http://www.cassgilbertsociety.org

 

 

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19th Century, Governors, History, Intercession, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, law, Minnesota, omnipresent history, Politics, Prayer, Social Studies, State Government

Clough Becomes Governor 1895

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January 31, 1895 to January 2, 1899

“Lieutenant Governor D. M. (David Marston) Clough becomes the state’s 13th governor on Jan 31, 1895, when Governor Knute Nelson resigns to take a seat in the U.S. Senate. Clough’s first administration was notable for the ratification of significant amendments to the state constitution, including those establishing a Board of Pardons, withdrawing the right of aliens to vote, and authorizing municipalities to frame “home rule” charters. During his second term, narrowly won in 1896, the legislature raises taxes on several private industries and enacts child-labor laws.”* 

Governor Clough seems to be a reformer,** and it is no wonder given the times he lived in. The Panic of 1893, started in European markets, and spread to the United States until 1897. It rocked everything, but Minnesotans probably felt it most in commodities: lumber, ore mining, farming, and the rails that delivered it all.

Changing the rules during the game is a delicate business, let alone the constitution of a State. The volume of changes Clough enacted suggests his reforms were supported by the people. But what is the spiritual weight of even one of these reforms?

Establishing a Board of Pardons may suggest a few motives. Minnesotans experienced the ‘power plays’ of economic interests; the farmers vs. the railroads, the individual landowner vs. the lumber barons, etc. Perhaps the Board of Pardons appealed to their sense of mercy to neighbors who experienced this type of injustice. Where there is favoritism under the law, hopelessness and bitterness are not far behind.

Here is where we appeal to You! As a Minnesotan, will You forgive us the anger and bitterness stemming from this era in the fields of lumber, mining, farming, and transportation? Will You release the justly offended parties from the weight of being right? Will You free the powerful from their offense of misusing their power to strip the rights, property, and humanity from those they opposed? 

Eternal Father, one can still perceive the sadness of the Range, of Duluth Harbor, of small towns, farms, and Indian reservations where these conflicts arose. Will You change this atmosphere of the heart? Will You restore lost hope, property, and inheritances? Will You give favor to these specific peoples and geographic locations?

Will You bless the inheritance of Governor Clough, whether directly to his family of origin, or those who share his vision? Will You keep us from swinging to extremes? Will You help us stop the cycle of offense/counter offense, judgment/counter judgment?

***An Inventory of His Gubernatorial Records at the Minnesota Historical Society 

 

 

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