25th Anniversary of the Hormel Strike

Some 25 years ago the workers at the Austin, Minnesota plant of the Hormel Corp. embarked on a long and brave fight. A fight which was not only right, but was fought "from below". This fight and the rank-and-file efforts to wage and control the struggle captivated the attention of all militant workers.

-- Syndicalist

Some 25 years ago the workers at the Austin, Minnesota plant of the Hormel Corp. embarked on a long and brave fight. A fight which was not only right, which was fought "from below". This fight and the rank-and-file efforts to wage and control the struggle captivated the attention of all militant workers.

In the Workers Solidarity Alliance's print version of ideas & action Steve Boyce, Jake Edwards and Tom Wetzel penned an excellent, article, "Slaughterhouse Fight: A Look at the Hormel Strike" In recognition of the 25th Anniversary of the struggle, I am providing a link to the on-line transcription of the article. Sadly, a key sidebar link to the Hormel story and the UFCW's strategy ("UFCW: Strategy of Appeasement" by Tom Wetzel and Jake Edwards) does not appear. Perhaps in the future it will be transcribed.

The Hormel strike came at a time of continued defeats for the American working class. Starting in the late 1970's with de-industrialization, the Chrysler bailout and the continuous string of concessionary bargaining (rather begging), the attacks on the working class went unabated. The Hormel strike, as with the Phelps-Dodge copper miners strike a few years earlier, were workplace struggles where the whole community was involved. It was a struggle "at the point of production" and a social struggle engaged by the citizenry of their respective communities. They were struggles which started out in the confines of their respective trade unions, yet as those unions failed the workers and the communities. In an effort to win their fights, both the Hormel and Phelps-Dodge workers began to self-organize.

The story of the Hormel strike is a story of struggle: against an employer who was out to take everything they could from the workers....and a compliant union who engaged in a policy of "strategic retreat".

From our vantage point, as class struggle anarchists, the analysis of the Hormel strike, and that of the trade union movement, rings as clear today as it did some 20 years ago.

The comrade authors wrote:

"The history of the Hormel struggle demonstrates once again how the present top-down union Internationals are bound to be in conflict with the rank and file who want control over their own movement and militant solidarity against the employers. To develop an effective challenge to the employing class and unionism self-managed by the rank and file, it is going to be necessary to develop new organization. .....

"A workers movement guided by the principles of rank-and-file democracy, worker solidarity, and militant struggle against the employing class is bound to develop new forms of organization, independent of the rotting corpse of American business unionism. The top-down structure of the AFL-CIO-type unions is an albatross around the neck of the American workforce. What is needed is a new form of organization in which the rank and file directly manage the struggle and the local organizations are linked together in horizontal, worker-to-worker solidarity."

Without further commentary, please find Slaughterhouse Fight: A Look at the Hormel Strike by Steve Boyce, Jake Edwards and Tom Wetzel. This article was published in ideas & action #7, Summer, 1986. http://www.uncanny.net/%7Ewetzel/hormel.htm

Magazine archive:http://ideasandaction.info/about/magazine/

http://ideasandaction.info/
www.workersolidarity.org.

Posted By

syndicalist
Aug 22 2010 17:20

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fnbrill
Aug 22 2010 23:33

thanks for that!