Monday, October 1, 2018

the last book I ever read (The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics, excerpt eight)

from The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics by Dan Kaufman:

Kohler refused to meet with the independent union, and tensions continued to mount until, on July 16, 1934, workers called a strike. Less than two weeks later, the company’s armed guards escorted a coal car through the picket lines, and a riot ensued. Guards shot two strikers in the back, killing them and wounding forty-seven others, many of them also shot in the back. The strike lasted seven years, until the United States entered World War II. In 1954, workers at Kohler had gone out on strike again, only returning to work eleven years later, when the strike finally ended. It was one of the most rancorous, and longest, strikes in American history.

The violence of the Kohler strike recalled an earlier Wisconsin labor battle, which built to a climax on May 5, 1886, when some 1,500 workers, most of them Polish immigrants, marched on the Rolling Mills iron plant. The Milwaukee Iron Company had built the plant and the neighborhood where its employees lived, and it demanded in returned that they work as many as sixteen hours a day, six days a week. A citywide strike for an eight-hour day and better working conditions had shut down every large factory in Milwaukee except Rolling Mills, and as the marchers began climbing the hill toward this last holdout, members of the Wisconsin National Guard fired down on them. They killed seven people, including a thirteen-year-old boy. Jeremiah Rusk, the governor of Wisconsin, had given the order. “I seen my duty and I done it,” he later said. At the time, he thought he might become president, but in the end he never ran. The event, largely forgotten until 1986, when the Wisconsin Labor History Society began holding an annual commemoration, became known as the Bay View Massacre.

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