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‘What’s the Big Deal
About the New Deal?’

The Michigan Labor History Society is co-sponsoring a public forum, “What’s the Big Deal About the New Deal?” on Saturday morning, February 6, at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

The forum will examine how the activist government of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” of the 1930s affected workers and the labor movement, with passage of such bills as the National Labor Relations Act and the creation of programs like the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to provide employment for people during the Great Depression on public works programs.

The program will include a PowerPoint presentation and remarks by Bruce Ewen of Wayne County Community College, Diane McMillan of Marygrove College and Wayne State University, Wendy Michael of University of Detroit Mercy, Bob Sisler of UAW Region 1A Retirees Council, and Kae Halonen of Southeast Michigan Jobs with Justice.

There is no charge for the program, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 12 noon Feb. 6 at the University of Michigan Dearborn Fairlane Center, 19000 Hubbard Drive, Dearborn. Free parking is available.


The Michigan Labor History Society is offering a set of six stunning 4” x 6” Voices of Labor notecards and envelopes for just $10. Funds will go to help the restoration efforts at the Michigan Labor Legacy Landmark on Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit. To see an illustration of the cards on this website go to Note Cards.

The cards, photographed and designed by MLHS Program Committee Member Barbara Ingalls, carry photos of six quotations on the central platform of the Landmark. The insides are blank for your personal message.

To get your cards for holiday gifts or for anytime, please send a check for $10 per set plus $3 for handling and postage for your order of one or more sets, to:

Michigan Labor History Society
c/o Walter P. Reuther Library
5401 Cass Avenue,
Detroit MI 48202


More than 100 unions, individuals, and supporting groups have donated a total of about $75,000 to help repair and restore the Labor Legacy Landmark “Transcending” in downtown Detroit. Look for the Transcending Honor Roll of donors on this website.

The donations will make possible extensive repairs and renovations at Transcending. Already, new granite stones have been placed around the perimeter of the dais, new skateboard deflectors have been attached, and the etched quotations on the dais and walkway have been re-grouted to make them more readable. Repairs to electrical lights and the main plaza surface, and coatings to protect the bronze reliefs are next on the agenda.

Contributions are Still Being Accepted

You can still add your name to the Honor Roll and have your name or the name of a family member or friend permanently added to the wall of honor at the Labor Legacy site with a donation of $100 or more. Use the form on the Donate Now page of this site to make your contribution.


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


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.

Last edited: Friday, January 15, 2016

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