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BUS TOUR SHOWCASES DETROIT’S LABOR HISTORY
"What a great event. I learned so much. All the anecdotal stores were terrific."
"Thank you for a great and informative tour."
Those were among the comments we received from guests on our MLHS Labor History Bus Tour Saturday, June 18.
Despite the heat and a non-air-conditioned bus, our passengers enjoyed learning about metro Detroit's rich labor history during a two-hour tour that started at the site of the Battle of the Overpass at the Rouge plant, and went on to visit several sites where we provided information about the 1932 Hunger March, the union musicians at the Motown studios, the Ford Model T-Plex/Studebaker plant site, Grand Circus Park, the Woolworth's 1937 sit-down strike site, Cadillac Square, and the Labor Legacy Landmark and Underground Railroad monument at Hart Plaza. Rank-and-file union members and retirees -- more than thirty guests in all -- joined the tour. John Dick did an excellent job in providing background facts and anecdotes about past labor campaigns, and even broke into song in front of the Motown Museum, where we talked about the importance of unions in the world of music. Our goal as always is to help people understand how the lessons of the past can inform the struggles of the present and future.
Because the tour was so successful, we may schedule another one later this year. Two national meetings are coming to Detroit -- the United Association of Labor Educators and the National Association of Letter Carriers -- and we hope to be able to provide tours for them as well as to any other unions or groups that request them. So far, more than a thousand people have taken our bus and walking tours. On Saturday, participants contributed $175 in donations to help pay for the cost of the bus rental; our guides, as always, were volunteers.
Tours can be requested from the MLHS office. Telephone: 313-577-4003.
The tour followed the Annual Meeting of the MLHS at UAW Local 22 in Detroit. Tanise Hall, representing Metro Detroit AFL-CIO President Rick Blocker, a co-chair of the MLHS, chaired the meeting. Members heard reports on the past year's activities, on the Labor Legacy Landmark, and on other projects. The minutes of the 2015 meeting were approved, as was the treasurer's report showing income of $7,732.91 (not including Labor Legacy Landmark donations) and expenses of $7,335.20 in the past fiscal year. The current balance in our account in the Electrical Workers Credit Union is $33,482.95 of which $27,433.44 is sequestered for ongoing Labor Legacy Landmark work.
LABOR DAY MOBILIZATION LUNCHEON AND LABOR DAY
The Michigan Labor History Society will host the 2016 Labor Day Mobilization Luncheon on Thursday, August 18, 2016, at 11:30 a.m. at UAW Region 1-A, 9650 South Telegraph, Taylor. Tickets are $45 and include a one-year membership in the MLHS.
For ticket reservations, please contact UAW Region 1A, UAW Region 1, the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO, or the MLHS office at 313-577-4003.
The annual Labor Day parade will kick off at Michigan and Trumbull on Labor Day, Monday, September 5th, at 9am
NEW PARK TO OPEN WHERE HUNGER MARCHERS GATHERED
On June 9, ceremonies and a press conference were held at the site of a new park to be built near the Fort Street bridge at Fort and Oakwood in Detroit. The park will include memorial signage about the 1932 Ford Hunger March.
Workers who participated in that march gathered at the Fort Street bridge before marching to the Ford Rouge plant, where five people were killed by bullets fired by Ford security agents. The park development is being coordinated by the Motor Cities National Automobile Heritage Area, an affiliate of the U.S. National Parks Service.
‘TRANSCENDING’ GETS A FACE LIFT
All of the sculptures at "Transcending," the Labor Legacy Landmark at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit, have been cleaned and re-waxed, all lights have been repaired, and the new skateboard deflectors have stopped the damage to the dais from skateboarders. The new granite tiles and the re-grouted quote-stones are holding up well, and names of all new donors through December 31, 2015, have been engraved for the walls of honor.
Once again, our thanks to David Hecker and Lisa Canada for coordinating the fund drive for repairs and maintenance, which so far have cost $84,000; other work still to be done includes the plaza surface and a kiosk. There continues to be a constant stream of visitors to the site: wedding parties often come to be photographed, musicians set up to perform for videos, and on TV shows it is a prominent part of the city skyline. "Transcending" truly has become an icon of Detroit.
MORE MLHS ACTIVITIES...
- MLHS Program Committee members Dave Ivers and Mike Kerwin will lead a tour of the Labor Legacy Landmark and Underground Railroad monument to the Michigan Economic Justice Fellows on Sunday, July 24
- The MLHS Program Committee will meet on Monday, July 18, at 10 a.m. at the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO, 600 W. Lafayette, Detroit
- One of our possible future projects is the development of an illustrated and annotated map and guide to labor history sites throughout Michigan that could be provided to schools and libraries
If you are aware of any sites that should be included in such a publication, please share your information by writing us at Michlabor@aol.com Thank you!
LABOR HISTORY TOURS ARE A HIT
The Michigan Labor History Society continues to provide guided labor history bus or walking tours of the metro Detroit area. To date, nearly 1,000 people have taken these free tours.
Most recently, about 20 delegates to the state convention of the National Association of Letter Carriers, walked a two-mile route from their hotel to Grand Circus Park, where they learned about Mayor Hazen Pingree, the “idol of the people,” and the 1891 streetcar strike. From there, they walked south on Woodward Avenue to the former F.W. Woolworth five-and-dime store to hear about the historic occupation of the store by 108 young women workers in 1937. They also visited Cadillac Square, the Sojourner Truth monument, and ended their tour at the Labor Legacy Landmark and Underground Railroad monument at Hart Plaza, before adjourning to the Anchor Bar for more discussion and socializing.
Other groups that enjoyed tours have been international guests of the UAW constitutional convention, delegates to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom convention, retired members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, and officials of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Union. Three teams of guides also gave tours to the NetrootsNation convention at Cobo Hall. On Sunday, Sept. 20, Michigan Economic Justice fellows will receive a tour of the Labor Legacy Landmark.
Volunteer guides or guest speakers included Mike Kerwin, Bill Connor, Dave Ivers, Dave Elsila, Ed Ptasznik, John Dick, John Rummel, Barbara Ingalls, and Shawn Ellis.
Mike Kerwin is developing material to help guides present in-depth explorations of labor history at the Transcending landmark for future tours.
Any MLHS member who would like to volunteer to be trained as a guide may contact the MLHS office at 313-577-4003 or write us at Michigan Labor History Society, 5401 Cass Ave., Detroit MI 48202.
And, remember, that unions, school groups, and other organizations are welcome to set up a tour with MLHS. There is no charge, and all that needs to be done by the sponsoring group is to arrange for a bus (unless the tour chosen is a walking tour). Just make your request by telephoning the MLHS office, 313-577-4003
An MLHS Educational Skit—THE CLAYTON ACT: LABOR IS NOT A COMMODITY
The Michigan Labor History Society has developed a new, short skit about the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Woodrow Wilson, 100 years ago, which declared that “the labor of a human being is not a commodity or an article of commerce.”
MLHS is using the centenary of the Act to help educate workers about the promises in that law, and to encourage lawmakers to pass enforcement mechanisms to achieve its goals by creating a level playing field between labor and management. The skit is one tool in that effort.
Paul Felton, who wrote the skit, performed the skit along with Dave Ivers and Mike Kerwin at the general board meeting of the Michigan AFL-CIO in Lansing in September. Then, in October, Kerwin spoke about the importance of the Act at the North American Labor History Conference at Wayne State University, where an appreciative audience warmly received his talk.
At the same conference, MLHS member Dave Elsila chaired a workshop about the creation of a virtual tour of Southwest Detroit including major labor events. Panelists included tour coordinator Ron Alpern, Diane Feeley, Roberto Munoz, and Mitch Fleischer.