Looking back on a century of support for buying union in St. Paul

archives-1989In the same spirit of The Union Advocate’s annual Buy Union edition, in which we encourage union members to support businesses that hire union workers, publishers of the Minnesota Union Advocate urged readers to “Buy Bread With the Union Label” in their June 6, 1913, edition.

archives-1913They weren’t afraid to lay it on thick 100 years ago, either:

“All residents of St. Paul who prefer clean, wholesome and well-made bakery products to those of another character; all who like to see skill properly recompensed, pluck win its contests and men get a square deal all around; and all who believe in helping those who help themselves, should patronize the Co-operative Baking Company and buy its products only.”

The baking company, owned by organized labor, was in stiff competition with corporate bakers – a “gigantic monopoly,” according to The Advocate, that threatens the existence of the Bakery Workers’ union.

“The world is largely indifferent to the struggle, and so, in order to look out for their own interests and supply here wholesome articles of food in their line, the union bakers of St. Paul have organized a co-operative baking company,” The Advocate added. “They should have all the support men in other unions and their families can possibly give them.”

At right, check out the Co-Operative Baking Company’s ad in The Union Advocate, along with some other “buy union” ads from our pages over the last 100 years.

[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.]

archives-196375 Years Ago: Labor backs Benson for re-election

In June 1938 the St. Paul Trades and Labor Assembly passed a resolution affirming its support for Gov. Elmer A. Benson’s re-election campaign, and as the assembly’s official publication, The Advocate laid out the case for Benson in advance of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party’s June 20 primary election.

Most notably, The Advocate commended Benson, elected governor just 18 months earlier, for “barring the Pinkerton Detective Agency from the state.” The Pinkertons were a private security firm popular among businesses looking to infiltrate unions, intimidate workers and break up strikes.

Labor’s support made a big difference in the DFL primary, in which Benson eked out a narrow victory over former Gov. Hjalmar Petersen. The Advocate offered a theory as to why Peterson drew so many votes against an incumbent DFL governor: GOP subterfuge.

“That a large number of Republicans went into the Farmer-Labor primary to support Mr. Petersen was quite evident from the number of votes cast for the Farmer-Labor candidates for governor as compared with those cast for the Farmer-Labor candidates for lieutenant governor.” .

25 Years Ago: Compensation for AmHoist workers

About 200 displaced American Hoist & Derrick workers attended a contentious meeting in June 1988. At issue: how to spend $4 million AmHoist was forced to return to the City of St. Paul after it was determined the company had illegally used a federal grant to move its crane operations from Minnesota to North Carolina two years earlier.

In a “highly charged discussion,” according to The Advocate, workers expressed frustration that many remained unemployed. “Several … said lack of health insurance, the inability to find work and family emotional and financial difficulties are serious problems.”

Later that year, the task force would roll out the AmHoist Reemployment Action Project, a partnership between unions and the City of St. Paul to find jobs for the estimated 700 to 1,200 displaced workers who remained unemployed.

Former U.S. Rep. Bruce Vento was critical in forcing AmHoist to return the federal money to St. Paul.

Workers at AmHoist were members of the International Association of Machinists.

10 Years Ago: Grand Hotel dropped from union list

Speaking of buying union, UNITE HERE Local 17 dropped a Minneapolis hotel from its list of union-represented properties in June 2003 after three years of unproductive negotiations on a new contract for 50 hotel employees.

Local 17 President Jaye Rykunyk made the decision after the Minneapolis office of the National Labor Relations Board refused to order Grand Hotel owner Jeff Wirth to sign a collective bargaining agreement, which the union claimed he had verbally agreed to sign.

“Once the board sent that message,” Rykunyk told The Advocate, “there’s no reason for the employer to bargain in good faith. We view the board as being a completely useless entity at this point. In our view, the board has wholesale abandoned its responsibility to enforce the law”

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