CHICAGO | Steelworkers and others will gather Saturday to mark one of the tragic events that started the modern labor movement.
Each year, retired and active steelworker union members commemorate The 1937 Republic Steel Memorial Day Massacre, during which 10 Steel Workers Organizing Committee members and their supporters were shot and killed by Chicago police.
The workers from the “Little Steel” mills of Chicago and Northwest Indiana were peacefully demonstrating at Republic Steel in south Chicago in an effort to gain recognition for their union. Dozens were injured, including women and children, by being shot or clubbed in the head.
The 76th anniversary “Still Fighting Back Rally” will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday at George Washington High School, 3535 E. 114th St.
The indoor program includes the awarding of two $500 scholarships to Washington High School students for their winning essays on the impact of the Memorial Day Massacre and what they think it means today, said Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees District 7 Board Member Scott Marshall.
The rally, promoted to “save and protect our hard-earned benefits of social security and Medicare, defend union rights and save our schools,” features bag pipes, poetry, and speakers including: United Steelworkers District 7 Director Jim Robinson; Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis; author, activist and former AFL-CIO Director of Organizing Stewart Acutt; and SOAR labor activist Ed Sadlowski.
After the indoor ceremony, participants will walk three blocks to place a wreath at the Memorial Day Massacre monument, Marshall said.
“It is a nice rounded program, not just speakers, and everybody is invited to attend,” Marshall said. “This event really launched, in many ways, the modern labor movement, the Congress of Industrial Organizations. Today we find ourselves under attack again with a lot of powerful forces trying to destroy the unions. We commemorate what happened then but we also are determined to keep fighting today for our union and for our rights.”
Robinson concurred with Marshall as to the rally’s importance.
“Jobs in the steel industry in Northwest Indiana are very different today than they were in the 1930’s,” Robinson said. “For those of us who are still involved in the industry and for people who are beginning careers in the industry, it’s a reminder of the struggle that it took.”
Robinson said the rally “reminds us that we have to be willing to continue to stand up and fight for economic progress today as we see the middle class under attack and shrinking in this country.”