History Made 85 Years Ago Today and it was in Southern Minnesota
The weekend of November 11 and 12, 1933 saw hundreds of National Guardsmen arrive in Owatonna. They were to be on the alert and ready to take action should trouble break out. The potential trouble wasn't in Owatonna but to our south in Austin. Many feel November 13, 1933 Hormel became the scene of the first sit down strike in labor history.
If you mention Hormel and strike in the same sentence, you'll probably flash back to the 1980's but the first real labor trouble take place some 50 years prior.
There had been rumblings for years at the meat packing plant. A known labor activist named Frank Ellis had been hired and made head of the casing department. He hired a number of fellow labor activists and had then transferred to other parts of the plant. Ellis then had support throughout Hormel.
In a nutshell, Jay Hormel began taking 20 cents a week out of workers paycheck for a worker's insurance policy. This didn't sit well with the workers. On Friday, November 10 workers made their demands for increased wages and other incentives. They were turned down and that weekend hundreds of workers broke down the doors and took over the plant. On Monday, November 13, Jay Hormel finally signed an agreement offering raises from 2 to 4 cents an hour.
A bloody sit down strike at General Motors took place in 1937 but many consider the incident at Hormel to be the first.
It's a long and interesting story. You can read more about the event and the events leading up to it here