After a lengthy fundraising campaign, the Remember 1934 Committee will unveil a permanent plaque July 18 in the Warehouse District of downtown Minneapolis commemorating the historic Teamsters strikes that echoed across the U.S. – and made Minneapolis a union town.
The committee will host an unveiling and celebration at 11 a.m. July 18 at the site of “Bloody Friday,” the intersection of 7th Ave. and 3rd St. N., Minneapolis.
The free, public event will feature food, speakers and a ceremony honoring descendants of the strikers.
The Remember 1934 Committee announced plans for the dedication ceremony in a press release today:
Minneapolis — The 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters Strikes are one of the great watershed moments in the history of the American labor movement and now a group of labor activists, historians and sympathizers are planning to erect a permanent marker to commemorate the events of that year and to honor those who fell in the struggle for collective bargaining and the right to organize.
The marker will be unveiled on Saturday, July 18, in a ceremony beginning at 11 a.m. at 701 N. Third St., in the Warehouse District of downtown Minneapolis.
“There are virtually no memorials in the Twin Cities related to historical moments in the local labor movement,” said Dave Riehle, who chairs the Remember 1934 Committee. “The ’34 Teamsters Strikes were a critical moment in the American labor movement and we believe the time is long overdue for a memorial.”
The 1934 strikes really stemmed from the winter of 1933-34 when socialist militants such as the Dunne brothers (V.R. (Ray), Miles and Grant) and Swedish immigrant Carl Skoglund had effectively shut down delivery of coal during the coldest part of the year. This victory lifted their status as organizers among the area’s truck drivers. By the spring of 1934, anger among the drivers over wages and working conditions had reached such a level that a powerful strike was possible.
The strike began on May 16. It was successful in that it stopped most commercial transportation in the city. Certain farmers were allowed to bring their produce into town, but delivering was directly to grocers rather than to the food wholesale outlets in the market area, which the union had shut down.
The union, Local 574 (today Teamsters Local 120) was up against the Citizens Alliance, a group of powerful and influential business leaders in Minneapolis vehemently opposed to unions. The Alliance hired goons to augment the police. These people were deputized, provided with clubs made by a local woodworking shop and during the May strike physically clashed numerous times with strikers and pickets in the streets of the Market District.
In the latter part of May, a truce was reached and a tentative agreement signed. But by mid-July, the Citizens Alliance and the trucking owners reneged on the agreement and the strike resumed. On July 20, what has become known as “Bloody Friday,” unarmed strikers were confronted by police, who opened fire with handguns and shotguns. When the confrontation ended, 67 strikers were shot and two, Henry Ness and John Belor, died of their wounds.
By this point, support for the Teamsters had grown, not only among other trade unions but by the public as well. The strikers held strong and remained unified. Victory finally came on Aug. 21.
On that date, federal mediators were notified by the Citizens Alliance of their acceptance of a settlement proposal agreeing to the union’s major demands.
Riehle, a retired locomotive engineer and local labor historian, said the idea for a memorial has been discussed for a couple of decades. Finally, after the observation last year of the 80th anniversary of the strike, a committee was formed with the sole purpose of raising funds, commissioning an artist and making sure the memorial would become reality.
Keith Christensen, an award-winning professor of art and graphic design at St. Cloud State University, has designed the memorial. It will be erected at street level on the iconic 1913 Sherwin-Williams Paint Co. building. It was in front of this building on Bloody Friday that striker Ness was shot and killed by Minneapolis police.
The plaque will be 30 by 22-inches, comprised of porcelain enamel in a steel frame and will have text and visuals about the strike and its historical importance.
“Anything which memorializes our fallen brothers and sisters in the struggle for union representation and collective bargaining is a good thing and this memorial is a good thing,” said Paul Slattery, organizer and political director for Teamsters Local 120.
Speakers at the ceremony will include Tom Keegel, general secretary-treasurer emeritus of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Cherrene Horazuk, president of AFSCME Local 3800, whose grandfather was a 1934 striker; and Linda Leighton, a shop steward in Service Employees Local 284 and a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Leighton is a granddaughter of strike leader VR Dunne, an early member of the IWW.
Further information on the project is available by visiting http://www.gamechange.ampstudio.org. Persons or groups wishing to make a contribution to the project can send their donation to: Remember 1934, P.O. Box 8115, Lake Street Station, Minneapolis, Minn. 55408.