[The Union Advocate’s “This Month in the Archives” feature offers a look back at what the newspaper was reporting from 5 to 100 years ago. Our digital archives are online, searchable and free to anyone. Click here for access.]
The St. Paul Cigarmakers struck a deal with the St. Paul Saints in May 1913, granting the union the exclusive privilege of selling cigars during baseball games at Lexington Park all season long.
The Minnesota Union Advocate, in its May 23 edition, celebrated the deal as “an advanced step” in efforts to promote “home industry by patronizing local manufactories.”
“In consequence of this step there will not be sold on the base ball grounds a single non-union cigar during the rest of the season,” The Advocate reported. “Union men who patronize the games can get such cigars as they want, made by union labor in clean and sanitary shops and of good and wholesome material.”
Under the terms of the deal, the cigar makers’ union operated vending stands throughout Lexington Park, located at the corner of Lexington Parkway and University Avenue.
The ballpark burned to the ground a year later – no word on whether cigar ash was to blame – but was quickly rebuilt. It housed the Saints, charter members of the minor league American Association, from 1897 through 1956, when the team moved to Midway Stadium.
75 Years Ago: Builders halted housing construction
In a first for the city of St. Paul, an association of 127 homebuilders shut down construction of more than 100 new homes in May 1938, locking out union carpenters and building laborers in an attempt to drive down wages.
The lockout, which began May 16, failed. The reason, according to analysis in The Advocate, was lack of public support.
“From its inception it was obvious that the strike was not popular with the general public,” The Advocate reported June 2.
In order to return to work, homebuilders demanded carpenters accept a cut in hourly wages from $1.25 to $1, and laborers accept a wage cut from 75 cents to 60 cents. Both wage scales had been established in union contracts settled a year earlier.
More, the homebuilders had no interest in negotiating a solution, according to The Advocate.
“On several occasions when the St. Paul Building Trades Council undertook to arrange meetings with the representatives of the Home Builders for the purpose of ironing out any misunderstandings … the association refused.”
Union members returned to work – without a pay cut – May 31.
60 Years Ago: Union bartenders held cocktail contest
Billed by The Advocate as “one of the most unique events in the history of St. Paul trade unionism,” the first citywide Cocktail Mixing Championship drew 18 union bartenders – and hundreds of thirsty spectators – to the Blue Ox Room of the Hotel St. Francis on May 19, 1953.
Co-sponsored by the ice industry, the Libbey Glass Company and Local 287 of the Bartenders Union, the competition awarded gold plaques to the “most original” entries in three categories: gin cocktail, whiskey cocktail and tall drink.
The Advocate reported the results in its May 21 edition:
“When the judges had turned in their score cards it was found that Vincent Gustafson, of Gannon’s, had won with his ‘Apple-blossom Cocktail,’ Reuben Katz, of the Hotel Lowry took a plaque for his ‘Sky Ride,’ a tall drink, and Nick Manson, of the Lexington bar, won the third plaque with his ‘Party Sipper.’”
(Sadly, The Advocate didn’t print recipes.)
The three winning drink formulas were entered in a nationwide contest.
25 Years Ago: Teachers ‘adopted’ by local unions
The St. Paul Trades and Labor Assembly rolled out an “Adopt-a-Teacher” initiative in May 1988, lining up unions to sponsor St. Paul teachers to promote labor studies in their classroom.
Remedial reading teacher Mike LaBerge was adopted by Local 7201 of the Communications Workers of America – an experience that gave him a “fresh outlook” on the a labor movement, The Advocate reported June 6, 1988.
“LaBerge has attended one meeting of Local 7201 and plans to continue meeting with the local during the summer to develop lesson plans for the fall,” The Advocate reported.
The Trades and Labor Assembly spearheaded several initiatives to make labor studies a bigger part of public education, including a draft “labor curriculum” for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.