Tag Archives: labor history

The World of Columbus Day is Flat

For Ty Tumminia: comrade, friend, anti-fascist, Black liberationist.  Last time we wrote, Andy Pragacz and I were exploring the spaces around Binghamton christened for Christopher Columbus, and how they came to take his name.  Today, we take that a bit further and ponder the Italian connection to Columbus, and why that narrative no longer serves the Italian community. Since the ethnic and race rebellions of the 1960s, Columbus’ place in the pantheon of American heroes has been jeopardized. By the 1990s, scholars annually sounded his final fall. Marking the 500 year anniversary one scholar confidently concluded that, like Custer before him, “it is now Christopher Columbus’s turn at the chopping block” (Lunenfeld 1992, 137). Twenty-five years later, Columbus is still in the American Olympus, but rather than seated next to Franklin, he’s dangling from the edge. Articles like “Should the United States Celebrate Columbus Day?” and “How Columbus Day Fell Victim to its Own Success”are commonplace around the 12th of October. Protesting Columbus Day is, in 2017, as much a part of the Columbus Day tradition as Italian flags. As the above Atlantic writer notes, the day is “marked by parades, pageantry, and buckets of fake blood.” So, Why does [Read More]

Cases for Comparison: Two Other Sites of Labor Conflict

Last week I wrote about the Battle of Homestead, and the Waterfront shopping mall that now occupies the site, but not all locations of class warfare are reused in such an extreme fashion.  As two examples, I propose the cases of Pullman, Chicago and Ludlow, Colorado, where I plan to do my dissertation research this summer. Pullman George M. Pullman built the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago as a model town for workers in his train car factory.  He believed that with cutting edge homes, his workers would have elevated status from workers in other companies and that this would encourage moral behavior and strong work ethic.  The so-called utopia of Pullman was spatially separated from the city of Chicago.  To this end, housing was organized by class, where executives and “skilled” workers lived closest to main attractions, and “unskilled” workers’ homes were placed on the outskirts.  In addition to model housing, Pullman residents enjoyed markets, banks, libraries, and parks, as long as they signed a lease, agreeing to the regulation of their behavior. In 1894, workers in the Pullman train car factory went on strike due to a wage cut. While their pay decreased, rent in their company houses remained [Read More]

Labor Heritage at Homestead

The Battle of Homestead marks the historic defeat of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (AAISW) by the Carnegie Steel Corporation at the Homestead Steel Works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the time of the strike in 1892, the Carnegie Steel Corporation, owned by Andrew Carnegie, was the world’s largest manufacturing firm, and AAISW was the nation’s strongest union. The Battle of Homestead The Battle began as a lockout on June 28, 1892 (Burgoyne 1979:33). Workers were upset with the sliding scale wage system, in which the selling price of steel determined wages (Demarest Jr. 1999:25. On July 6th 1892, two barges carried 300 Pinkerton Detectives (hired by the Carnegie Steel Corporation) up the Monongahela River to the Homestead Steel Works. Workers and Homestead citizens, including women and children, confronted the boats near the mill’s still standing Pump House, and a battle erupted (Krause 1992:15-16). Workers and Homestead residents took up all matters of defense against the Pinkertons, including a Civil War cannon taken from a nearby park.  Luckily for the workers, the outnumbered Pinkertons surrendered by the end of the day. Many were injured, and two or three Pinkerton men died (Krause 1992:25,34-39, Burgoyne 1979:92) After the worker’s [Read More]

Heritage of Labor Conflict in the United States

Hey there! I’m Maura Bainbridge, PhD Candidate at Binghamton and next up on the MAPA blog.  This month I will be talking about my research, that is – labor heritage in the United States. Many former MAPA blog posts have talked about heritage issues (Hey Ashley! Hi Angela!) but I aim to do so in the context of labor, particularly labor conflicts. Situating Heritage  I’m choosing to engage with heritage, rather than history, because heritage leaves room for personal identity- as people living today pick and choose bits of the past to identify with. (Though constructions of history are a fertile issue for another blog series.) Capitalism, and thus labor relations, are implicated in heritage production as more goods (tokens of memory to place aspects of identity into) are created, and the past is actively bulldozed over, reinforcing the need to remember before it’s too late (Connerton 1989). Laurajane Smith (2006) presents the concept of ‘authorized heritage discourse,’ (AHD) as the official narrative of the past. The AHD focuses on beautiful objects, sites and places.  These must be preserved for future generations “for their ‘education’, and to forge a sense of common identity based on the past.” This discourse commonly [Read More]