the hormel strike


Hormel and other officers of the company, meanwhile, undertook tentative moves to begin recruiting a force of two-hundred strike breakers in Minneapolis and bring them to Austin. On a hot August day in 1985, more than 1,000 workers filed out of the Hormel plant. Visitors to Austin expressed surprise at the obvious affluence of the Hormel workers and at the array of new cars lined up in neat rows in the parking lot of the company. When no workers volunteered to be deputized, Syck began looking elsewhere for his men. The atmosphere inside the union headquarters, half a mile from the plant, was one of restraint and determination. ''No question there is a need for some sort of a structure that can challenge situations where international unions are not doing the job or can be shown to be in collusion with companies to undermine rank-and-file workers,'' Mr. Rogers said a few days ago. In December 1932 the company wanted to make Ellis a supervisor but the promotion did not receive approval because of the outspoken animosity for Ellis by another Hormel supervisor. At the same time he asked Olson to place all of the children of officers of the company under special state guard and that they all be transported out of Austin on the following morning. Olson said he had been especially impressed by the willingness of both sides to submit their problems to arbitration by the State Industrial Commission. Even during his own lifetime, Hormel’s reputation as an extraordinary businessman assumed legendary proportions in Austin. Ellis rose rapidly through the ranks of the IWW as he traveled throughout the country organizing local branches of the organization and listening to the grievances of working men and women. The contracted laborers were in turn to receive fifty-two paychecks of equal size each year without regard to the number of work hours available for them in any given week. Olson asked Ellis about the trouble in Austin. There was no slackening of picketing around the plant during the hours of the conferences held between the governor and the union and plant officials. "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. He shared the humble origins of many of his workers. On Monday evening the Austin Daily Herald lauded the signing of the agreement for taking Austin “out of the ‘strike city’ class and placing it in the column of those where all labor troubles and disputes will be settled by arbitration.” The next morning nearly the entire work force of the plant was back on the job. At one point, Shoemaker asked to speak alone with Hormel. With so many sources of information readily available to him, as long as the packinghouse remained a relatively small enterprise Hormel was able to deal with employee grievances on a personal level without resort to mediators or bargaining agents or a Human Relations expertise. Mr. Leopold called the Hormel strike ''an expression of protest from the bottom to do something about the weakness of the trade union movement.'' After graduating from the military academy, Jay attended Princeton University for three years and “had a very good time” as a student. By William Serrin, Special To the New York Times. Before the meeting adjourned due to darkness, six hundred workers had signed up for the union and paid an initiation fee of one dollar. In a plan designed to ease the shock on both labor and management from seasonal ups and downs in employment, Hormel decided, without conferring with any representatives of his workers, to place a portion of his company’s emp0loyees n a “straight time” basis. My gosh, there comes a time when something snaps in him.”. And so when things were going relatively well for the town and the company, the benevolent dictator of the company best not be provoked or challenged. This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996. Shoemaker had been campaigning in the surrounding area for several weeks, making speeches sympathetic to the policies of the Farm Holiday Association. He knew what it was like to be poor, to be a working man, to wade ankle deep in warm hog’s blood twelve or fourteen or sixteen hours a day and to stand endless hours in the refrigerated storage rooms of the plant only to face the withering humid heat of the Midwestern summer at the end of each working day. An arbitration board was to be selected by the union from “representative businessmen” of the town, and the board was then to be delegated the task of rewording the agreement between the company and the union and issuing a final draft to both sides. Confused and angered by the display of unity among the workers, the supervisor gave the signer back his card and the killing floor, which had been shut down for ten minutes, resumed operations. “They would have come by the load. Most of the men working inside the plant at the time did not resist the strikers. A few minutes later there was an excited announcement in the union hall that Governor Olson wanted to speak to Frank Ellis on the telephone. These men worked with him in the casing room first and when they were ready he sent them to other foremen with a good reference. On 19 August 1985 Local P-9 of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) went on strike against Geo. Jay Catherwood Hormel boasted brazenly in early 1933 that his unchallenged and unchecked power over the policies and personnel of George A. Hormel & Company packinghouse in Austin, Minnesota, was a “benevolent dictatorship.” Laborers for the Hormel Company conceded that Hormel’s rule was dictatorial, but they disagreed with his use of the adjective “benevolent.” More often the term “sheer tyranny” was used often by workers to describe their take on Hormel’s labor policies within the giant meatpacking plant. And if some worker didn’t like it, he had the right to leave town. Jay Hormel’s spread –the- work scheme produced its share of dissatisfaction also. ▶ Bookmark articles to your own reading list The subject files include documents from the Austin, MN Police Force, Governor Perpich, and the Commissioner of Public Safety discussing the use of the … Four and give decades after the 1933 strike, veterans of the conflict recall Jay Hormel’s post-1933 leadership and policies with outspoken admiration and praise. Some of the younger and less experienced workers in the office and outside, however, seemed somewhat less confident and expressed concern about arrests, strike breakers and more violence. In 1929 George Hormel stepped down from the presidency of his company and was replaced by his son Jay. On one memorable occasion, Hormel was upset at finding a piece of meat on the floor of the plant. But few workers knew how to get a union started. George Hormel served as president of the company during the next thirty-eight years and directed its expansion from a local meat market partnership into a corporate enterprise serving a world market. Hormel told him that the plant had been taken away from him by the union and that the city was in serious danger of a violent upheaval. Olson’s role in settling the Austin dispute was criticized as much by editors on the left as by those on the right. He suggested that Hormel would like to work out an accord with the union's national leaders. A. Hormel & Company, as well as the town establishment, many of its citizens, and the Austin workers' parent union, the United Food and Commercial Workers. Suport from Local Unions. And the greater the expansion of union powers, the more the union moved into harmony with the company owners and managers. At an early age he was sent away to a Shattuck School for Boys, a private military academy in nearby Faribault, Minnesota, rather than to the local public schools where he might have gotten to know the children and families of workers in the Hormel company. All of the men and women present signed a pledge written on a tab le stating that they would “stick together” in their demands. ▶ Use the site private messaging system TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit for home delivery and digital subscribers. Both parties would agree, under the Olson settlement, to accept the verdict of the Commission on all disputed issues. “The temper of the mob here is such that it would be extremely dangerous for you to appear here unless you were accompanied by the militia,” Hormel told him. Hormel and the other men were told, “We’re taking possession here. He told his father of his desire to become an orchestra leader, but the elder Hormel forced his son to give up any hope for a career as a professional musician. Disgruntled workers in the plant that year attempted to go beyond personal conferences with the owner and to establish a collective bargaining agreement with him. “I could be transferred or fired. Ellis was also aware, however of the pressure that might be brought to bear upon Hormel if he believed that the refrigeration system had been shut down. Logged in users: ▶ Can comment on articles and discussions Most were unsure as to what action should be taken. If a trusteeship is imposed, Mr. Hansen, the regional director, said, the parent union will attempt to negotiate a contract and assure that the plant remains unionized. Ellis quickly left the office after giving his statement to Syck, aware now of the efforts being made to bring about intervention by the state militia and at the same time to prevent the Governor from coming to Austin personally to assess the situation. Despite the good intentions he clearly had for his workers and his company, Hormel did not deem it necessary to put any effort into selling the new arrangement to his employees. Following Hormel’s response to their demands, union officials called a meeting for Friday evening, November 10th. But Ellis was too radical and too dissatisfied with the status of packinghouse workers to be pleased with the limited successes of the AFL unions, which consisted only of skilled workers. Because the federal government owned about one-million pounds of meat stored in the plant, Hormel wanted federal troops to intervene in order to save the government property. Frank Ellis was a company foreman in the casing room in the autumn of 1933. Workers who learned of the plan were upset by the additional reduction in their take-home pay accompanied by the fact that once more they were being they were being presented with a plan about which they had nothing to say. A Strategy for Pressure. On Wednesday July 19 the union sponsored an enthusiastic mass meeting on the lawn of the county courthouse on Main Street. The plant managerial staff, not unlike some packinghouse Pinkerton organization, was given broad powers in hiring and firing workers as well as determining the conditions of work in each department of the plant. When the company demanded a 23 percent wage cut, on August 17, 1985, about 1,500 workers with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local P-9, in Austin walked off the job. The call immediately went out for a meeting of all Hormel workers that evening in Sutton Park. “ Soon thereafter he initiated his “Master Plan,” a system of anticipatory welfare capitalism. Starting in the late 1970's with de-industrialization, the Chrysler bailout and the continuous string of concessionary bargaining (rather begging), the attacks on the working class went unabated. '', See the article in its original context from. In 1932 Hormel himself had gone from department to department within the plant, stopping work and standing on a chair to address his workers concerning the state and federal elections. (“Cy”) Thomson, had embezzled nearly $1,187,000 from the company over the previous six years. The Associations efforts helped lift some important duties from the IUAW rank and file and added important moral support to the efforts of the union. Sign in. When you didn’t like something, you were told, ‘Get out of here!’”, “I felt like a dog,” another worker said. When he learned of the emergency meeting being held between Hormel and Starkey, he came into Austin and drove directly to the bank and offered his assistance in the negotiations. At 11:00AM, word spread along the picket lines that non-union workers were still inside the plant slaughtering sheep. His tactics and the publicity he has attracted make many labor leaders wary. He was clearly smitten by the girl. Communities who are supporting people who cannot find work would say to those men, ‘you go to Austin, Hormel needs men, get to work, we won’t support you any longer.’” At the conclusion of his lengthy talk, Shoemaker asked the works to approve the Governor’s proposal. His father has worked at the same hotel for thirty years while working a second job to support their fami After the meeting, word of the impending strike was leaked to several company officials as well as to a few of the influential businessmen in the town. In order to protect jobs, he explained, production costs had to be kept in line with industry-wide figures. This initial effort at organization in the plant came from the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America. The Governor struck back by buying radio time to defend his actions. As the depression deepened in 1933, workers naturally became more concerned about their jobs and also more sensitive towards mistreatment by plant foremen. Nevertheless, by spring 1986, Hormel had proclaimed victory—and the strikers’ unsympathetic International union brought an end to the strike by placing the local in receivership. In a subdued and almost conversational tone of voice – surprising, given the excitement and the jeopardy of the moment – Hormel concealed his anger and pointed out that although the union had violated its agreement his company by striking before serving official notice of the action, he would nonetheless make no attempt to break the picket lines with other workers. The Farm Holiday Association sided with the IUAW strikers who had recently backed their efforts to withhold perishable agricultural commodities from the market in order to raise prices. If the strike had continued Hormel wouldn’t have had to import men,” Shoemaker cautioned. And his words also struck many of his conservative listeners as ominous and misguided apostasy. A timeline of the Hormel strike April, 12, 1986 — The Rev. The Austin strike was far from an ordinary labor dispute: For the 1,500 P-9 families and their supporters, it was nothing less than a crusade to defend the Middle American way of life. If Olson was reelected, Hormel warned, he would be forced to lay off all of his workers and shut down the Austin plant. We recognize that we are under a system which promotes wage slavery.”. Chronicles the six-month strike at Hormel in Austin, Minnesota, in 1985-86. The problem in Austin had been the more relaxed manner in which men and women were hired to work in the plant, he said. Ellis disliked Shoemaker intensely and considered him both “a grandstander” and “an outright liar.” On this critical evening, Shoemaker succeeded in living up to the letter of Ellis’s evaluation. Given the friction and outright animosity that existed between many of the foremen and straw bosses and the workers, it is safe to assume that neither the retirement plan nor the community chest contributions were presented as options to each worker. “But with troops coming in and the administration none to doggone friendly toward labor anyway, I didn’t know what might have happened. Talented, charismatic, conscientious and very radical, Ellis represented an unnerving threat to the apostles of unfettered capitalism and the open shop as well as to benevolent industrial dictators and their many defenders. His campaigns, he said, involve not only attacks on companies and banks, suppliers and customers, but also extensive preparation of the rank and file before strikes, targeted picketing if strikes occur, and the building of coalitions. After the strike collapsed in early 1922, enthusiasm for the local in Austin rapidly declined. Here Jay Hormel and his top company officers met with city and county officials to discuss a strategy. If it's your first time on the site, or you're looking for something specific, it can be difficult to know where to start. That when females replace males in the plant, the rate of compensation be the same as that paid to the male workers. If there were no volunteers from among the workers, he cautioned, it was uncertain what kind of men might be selected for the important guard duties. From the Fox Hotel, Olson and Hormel drove to the home of John G. Hormel for a special meeting of the company’s board of directors. The increases were in line with increases that went into effect throughout the meatpacking industry that autumn. Noté /5. He asked them to send someone into the plant in order to turn on the refrigeration system and keep in running. The consultant, who has worked full time on the campaign for more than a year, said that so far his concern, Corporate Campaign Inc., had received $111,000. Considering that his original position of granting only pay increases that would leave the company in a fair competitive position with the rest of the industry, Jay Hormel lost little in the Olson settlement. Following the speeches, the union rank and file voted overwhelmingly to approve Olson’s solution and settlement. There he met and courted Germaine Dubois of La Vernelle, an auburn-haired daughter of a miller. In July 1937, several department in the plant used sit-down strikes to demand a closed-shop agreement with the company. The first thing you want if you are a laboring man is a sense of security in your tenure of employment…. Ropes were stretched across all routes into the plant and squads of strikers were detailed to patrol them. Finally, at 3:00AM on Monday morning Olson left the Hormel home with an agreement ready for approval by union officers. He insisted that the workers themselves were not acting in violation of the agreement with the company. Following Hormel, Sheriff Ira Syck told the strikers that he would have to deputize men in order to protect the company property. Form a solid picket line around the plant. The contentions that the strike represents a threat to labor are rejected by leaders of the parent union. Olson telephoned Ellis from the Fox Hotel in Austin, and asked him to bring Fosso and other members of the union’s executive board to the hotel for a closed meeting. Olson met a second time with the union officers. After several more hours of deadlocked discussion with Starkey, Hormel once more telephoned the governor. In the months following the stock market crash in October 1929, and with the decline in consumer demand, manufacturers throughout the country started to cut back production and lay off workers, initiating what appeared to many as a grim spiral of declining prices, declining wages and rising unemployment. In the spring of 1933 the numerous grievances of the workers produced persistent angry whispers and open rumblings of discontent throughout the plant. In 1984, Local P‐9 of the United Food and Commercial Worker's Union (UFCW) launched a publicity campaign to protest wage cuts at the George A. Hormel Company of Austin, Minnesota. After Hormel attempted to bring scabs in to replace the workers, the sit-down strike began. Upon moving to California in 1927, Hormel donated his home to the local YWCA.] Determination of Strike Leaders. 2. Strike leaders also say they have raised $1 million from local unions and other organizations. Give labor the fair treatment that is its right and labors’ right to organize will never harm you.” One shocked Owatonna businessman with labor problems as well as an unhealthy appendix, after hearing Hormel’s words, requested that the local newspaper censor “the more inflammatory passages” from its report of the speech. During that period Hormel’s good business sense enabled him to weather the depression of the 1890s, survive the competitive onslaught by the Big Six meat packers intended to drive the small independents in the Midwest out of existence, and reorganize financially following massive embezzlement by one of his own trusted officers. The critics, however, also see the strike leaders as naive, inexperienced people who do not understand bargaining or the workings of the labor movement and who have misled workers into believing their strike can be won. 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. If you don't have permissions to post content yet, just request it here. Wages in the plant in 1933 started at 25 cents an hour, but weekly hours ranged from six to ninety. Following the settlement of the strike, he told his workers, “I couldn’t lick you, so I joined you. The plan was first incorporated in the smokehouse where the seasonal variation of employment was greatest. The official history of the Austin union (Frank W. Schultz, “Historical Sketches of the Packinghouse Union in Austin, Minnesota, 1933-1939,” unpublished MS in the possession of the United Packinghouse Workers of America, Local 9, Austin, Minnesota) states that the union was born in the hog kill as a result of those meetings. Olson had also adopted a do-nothing policy towards strikers using violence in other parts of the state. Hormel’s fanciful image of himself as a benevolent dictator asserted itself once again in his conception of a plan that was supposed to help the workers. What rights are always conceded as a result of any labor struggle? Foremen “traded” workers back and forth between departments – one of them laying off a worker and the other hiring him back at a lower wage. After a brief and heated discussion, the union leadership called for an immediate strike. The response of the Hormel workers to the call for the Thursday night meeting was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Olson left the room and Hormel quickly described the situation to Shoemaker and emphasized the danger to the plant’s expensive refrigeration system. Olson then hurried back to John Hormel’s home. 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 … You had taken over someone’s property and I suppose in the heat of the moment such things happen. Members of Local P-9 were protesting shrinking wages and plant safety problems. Some labor people, while praising Mr. Rogers's zeal and the energy of the Austin campaign, say Local P-9 should have accepted a mediator's proposal in January, returned to work and continued the fight on two fronts, from within the plant and by allying themselves with supporters at other plants. Fosso concluded that the increases in living costs and reductions in per capita earnings caused union members to believe that the time had come for a readjustment of widening gap between living costs and wages. Olson promised that Starkey would undertake a fair investigation and conceded that if it proved necessary, he would come to Austin himself to help settle the dispute, a move that Hormel very much wanted to prevent. Despite all of the hard work and the well-laid plans of his father to place the Hormel plant on a permanently sound financial and productive foundation and to keep peace with his work force, Jay had not been president of the company for a full year before a series of crises began that resulted in revolutionary alterations of the company’s relationship with its employees. Allen Zack, the parent union's spokesman, said perhaps 500 or more workers remained on strike. Jay’s initial problems with plant management stemmed from the collapse of the national economy starting in late 1929, the subsequent decade-long Great Depression and the subsequent militant organization of the company’s employees who decided to throw off the autocratic rule of the Hormel family and its appointed functionaries and to assume some degree of responsibility for making policy in the plant. Reporters outside the plant reported at 5:30AM that the former pickets were busy cleaning out the driveways and other places where bonfires had been built. Frustrated workers in the hog kill department at the Hormel plant in Austin, Minn., went on strike in 1933. Hormel also stated that while the average weekly wage in the meatpacking industry was just over $10.00, the experimental organization department of the company was at work on the development of a more efficient means of production that would allow the company to raise the average weekly wage to $13.00 in the near future. Larger and larger groups of men came to listen to Ellis during the secret noon hour meetings and he began to suggest to them that there was a solution for their common grievances. I am a friend of labor,” he reminded his audience. The IUAW waited only two weeks before pressing for more extensive agreements with the company. AUSTIN DAILY HERALD. After that, bargain with Hormel. Hormel absolutely refused to meet with Ellis or to consider a 10 cent wage increase. While Shoemaker was speaking, Olson assured Ellis that the Industrial Commission’s decisions would be favorable to the union. Olson told him that this was not true and revealed that he had mobilized troops of the state militia and stationed them in nearby Owatonna. The man was extremely worried, Olson said, and as a result he felt in best to come to Austin to assess the situation himself and, he hoped, to facilitate a quick end to the strike. Different Views of Unions. After a brief initial discussion, a group of men left the meeting to locate Frank Ellis and bring him to the park. Jay returned to Austin at the war’s end in 1918 but continued his contact long-distance with Germaine. He explains how Hormel influenced numerous community institutions, including the local mental health clinic, newspaper and even schools, against the strikers. The supervisor was told to give the signer back his pledge card and to let him tear it up. Far from being the wild-eyed radical that Jay Hormel and many other anxious citizens feared, Olson demonstrated a preference for caution and calm and a commitment to law and order. He quit that job because he felt he was not being paid enough and he came to Austin and was hired by the Hormel Company. And the town's businessmen agreed with Jay Hormel that what was good for Hormel was good for Austin. Oots, a former US Army captain, was given “strategic command” of the pickets. They dropped whatever they were doing and rushed for the nearest exit or, in some cases, the nearest window. A short (5 feet 4 inches) dark-haired, ruddy-complexioned part-Cherokee Indian, Ellis, 45, had been raised in St. Joseph, Missouri, and had worked in packinghouses since he was eight years old. Following Ellis’s speech several other men addressed the assembly from a park bench. By November 1936 the IUAW had established strong branches in Albert Lea, Faribault and South St. Paul, Minnesota, and in Mason City and Waterloo, Iowa. “I didn’t want to see federal troops in here,” he said. In another office two blocks from the union headquarters the atmosphere was one of alarm bordering on outright panic. Hormel failed, however, in his attempt to contact the President and he spoke only with FDR’s private secretary who promised to bring the matter to the attention of the President. The two men stood and conversed, Hormel with his arms around Ellis’s shoulder. Major labor relations difficulties were not among George Hormel’s management problems. 'A … Brown finished a distant second with 32.3 percent of the vote. But Ellis was quick to reject the offer and told Hormel that the union would get its meeting hall somewhere else in Austin. But there seems to be more behind their stance. P9 Strike Pt 1 by Photo Rendezvous. Shortly after noon on Sunday, Olson, his personal secretary Vincent Day, and Adjutant General E. A. Walsh drove to Austin in the governor’s car. I am not going to get mixed up in a fight in my own home town.”. The fight has involved abusive language and fierce hatreds that have shattered this once placid community. Shortly after the reorganization of the company in 1922 he returned to France and married Germaine. As early as 1896 a local newspaper attributed the company’s “phenomenal growth” entirely to “the well-directed efforts of Mr. Hormel, whose energy, enterprise, and ability as a thoroughgoing businessman is well known.” People talked of Hormel’s passion for efficiency and quality and of his eagerness to work in the plant beside his employees. He recalled later that he had been thrown into almost every jail from Texas to Minnesota for organizing for the IWW. Hearing this, a more relaxed Hormel explained to Olson his theory that the strike had nothing to do with the policies of the company but was instead caused by “outside agitators” who had been hired carelessly by the company – here he referred primarily to the policies of Ellis of inviting his radical friends to Austin to work in the plant. An illegal position s home strike made national headlines and devastated the city, flagship plant the events of Food... 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