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A teacher's regiment? Are the students that out of control? The American Civil War (1861-1865) was viewed by many as a fight over labor rights
How To Make Labor History Are you a working person? Are you laid off, but desire work? Are you retired or too young to have a job? No matter what your status, you can make labor history.
Payment: 3 3/4 cents per button This spontaneous strike was a critical catalyst for forming the Amalgamated Clothing Workers (known today as UNITE) in 1915.
How is labor often represented in the media? This famous drawing is an artist's conception of May 4, 1886, in Chicago's Haymarket Square.
Are these men really all named George? George Pullman hired former slaves as his car attendants. It became popular for people to address them as "George."
Are these people attacking the police? Memorial Day, 1937: Workers and supporters marched to the Republic Steel plant to establish a picket line.
"Unite & Fight" for what? These men and women are Chicago Stockyards employees, once the largest meat butchering and processing facility in the world.
On strike for what? Labor struggles and stories are not just history. In Chicago, hotel workers at the Congress Hotel have been on strike for over seven years.
Why is this man giving a thumbs up in a police van? Until 1982 it was illegal in Illinois for public employees to organize a union.
Union-building for builders Construction trades workers were some of the first to organize in the United States, beginning at a city level in the 1830s.
Unionize? We can do it! Women have long been leaders in organizing workers and fighting for better conditions. Illinois has a strong tradition of women who took early leadership
Health & Safety is no Accident Illinois coal miners have traditionally been among the leaders in the occupational health and safety movement.
5-12 researchers teachers
today in labor history

Workers high above New York   

Do you have two minutes a day to learn about labor history? 

The Illinois Labor History Society has partnered with the Rick Smith radio show out of Pennsylvania to create a daily labor history podcast.  In just two minutes you can learn about what happened on that day in the history of the labor movement and working people.

The program is called “Labor History in 2:00.”

It kicked-off on January first of this year, and already thousands of people have tuned in.  You can listen to the podcasts online here.  You can also follow on Facebook here and on Twitter @laborhistoryin2

Already in the first three months of the program, the Labor History in 2:00 has covered a wide range of topics, including:

  • Events in Illinois labor history from the founding of the IWW and CLUW in Chicago to the Diamond Coal Mine Disaster in Braidwood, and more.
  • Boeing workers striking in Seattle to the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York, from farm worker boycotts in California to sit down strikes in Detroit, and many more topics in between.
  • The labor movement across the world from Argentina to Australia, India to Canada.
  • The creative ways that workers share their stories from the film “Salt of the Earth” and songs such as “Solidarity Forever” and “This Land is Your Land.”
  • The back stories behind laws such as Social Security, FMLA, prevailing wage, and Weingarten Rights.
  • Labor history being made today from the Fight for Wisconsin, to the OUR Walmart Campaign, to the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina.

There are still many more days and many more topics to cover this year.  Be sure to tune in to get your daily two minute dose of labor history!

President Obama Designates Pullman a National Park    

On February 19, President Obama was in Chicago to designate parts of the Southside Pullman community as a National Monument, making the site part of the National Park system.  The photo above was take by ILHS Vice President, Mike Matejka at the signing ceremony. The ILHS has been part of the team working on National Park designation for this important site of labor history.  

You can read a full transcript of President Obama's remarks here.

Here are some thoughts from ILHS President Larry Spivack about the significance of Pullman becoming part of the National Park System:

"President Obama’s historic action in authorizing National Park status for the Pullman District comes at a time when honoring the struggles of all working people to keep a vibrant middle class is needed more than ever. The history of the Pullman Porters, the workers who built the Pullman Palace cars and the courageous actions taken to improve their working conditions for themselves, their families and their community will now be honored as a national heritage.

National Park Status for the Pullman District will create vitality in an area that so desperately needs it. Additionally, and just as important, is the role National Parks play in telling the story of America. The Chicago area is the richest in the nation with respect to the rich diversity of race, immigration, and workers’ struggles to win decent working conditions, and the relationship to the industries in which they worked. In telling this story we can teach current and future generations how we became such a great city and such a great nation. With National Park status the Pullman community will be history’s greatest teacher in an urban environment.

The Illinois Labor History Society has been telling the worker's story since 1969. We are proud to be partners in the coalition that helped bring Pullman to the fore of America's consciousness."

Larry Spivack, President
Illinois Labor History Society

It is with heartfelt gratitude that we are pleased to announce, the Woody Guthrie Foundation has donated $5,000 to the Illinois Labor History Society.

For more than seven decades the songs of Woody Guthrie have been the ballads of working men and women and the music of the labor movement. Since 1972, the Guthrie Foundation has focused on its mission to “promote, perpetuate, and preserve the social, political and cultural values that Woody Guthrie contributed to the world through his life, his music, and his work.” 

The ILHS is truly honored to be entrusted as part of this important mission.  We will put this generous donation toward music programs and performances, celebrating the labor movement and the spirit of Woody Guthrie.


May Day Music

 Bucky Halker and Yahvi Pichardo lead the crowd in singing at the 2014 May Day Celebration at the Haymarket Monument.


Thank you all of our sponsors, to every union local that placed an ad, purchased a table, or bought a ticket, to every individual who volunteered or attended the 2014 Union Hall of Honor--because of your support we had a tremendous evening!

Read a transcript of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka's speech here.

Singing Solidarity Forever with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka, and the guests of Union Hall of Honor dinner sing Solidarity Forever

(photo courtesy of Mike Matejka)


Click here to make donation or payment via paypal.

Click here to make a donation or payment by check.

For information on our 2014 Hall of Honor inductees, click Read More.


Haymarket Martyrs Monument Protected

In the early 1980's, the floral decoration from the front of the Haymarket Martyrs monument was stolen. The job of recreating the bronze object from old photographs was given to conservator, Andrzej Dajnowski of the firm Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio. Before it was installed on the monument in 2011, a mold was made to insure that if damage was done in the future that it could be recreated for far less money.

The ILHS launched an online fundraising to create a rubber mold of the Governor Altgeld bronze plaque on the back side of the monument. The mold took 6 days to complete and was finished on the 25th of October.  The photos below from left to right show the conservation team setting up the scaffolding, Andrzej Dajnowski preparing the plaque to make the mold, and the Altgeld plaque during the mold-making process.

                            Preparing for work           altgeld plaque preparation          altgeld plaque mold

                                                                                                                                                            Photos by Mark Rogovin and Alexis Ellers


Below the Altgeld plaque  is a small missing plaque that had the names of Martyrs, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe and Michael Schwab. They were granted an absolute pardon by Gov. Altgeld and the date of their natural death followed their names. We hope to have the bronze plaque and mold created and installed in the near future. Also, the precise location of the burial site of Nina Van Zandt Spies has been determined. Soon a gravestone will be made and placed at the site of the widow of Martyr August Spies.

Prepared by Mark Rogovin

rooseveltweb The Illinois Labor History Society Has a New Home at Roosevelt University
See photo at left. We're there, on the 13th floor of the Tower in the historic, 125-year old Auditorium Building (sharply contrasting with Roosevelt's new, glass structure behind it).

Our new address and phone:
430 South Michigan Ave.
Room AUD 1361
Chicago, IL 60605
NEW PHONE NUMBER is 312.341.2247
Our email remains This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

The Roosevelt University Library will now house and organize the archival materials of the ILHS, a parternship that will make our materials and collections more accessible to those studying the history of labor's struggles in Illinois. The Illinois Labor History Society, in turn, has a new office at Roosevelt where we will carry on organizing and expanding the programs, publications and tours that are the backbone of our Society's work. All in all, a partnership that will strengthen the ILHS and help esure its continuing contribution to the preservation of labor's story in our state.


Labor Murals in Illinois

Many of Illlinois' labor battles and landmark events are portrayed in an array of stunning murals in Chicago and around the state. In a world surrounded by billboards and advertisements, we can turn to murals to tell us of the lives of people that built our movements and communities. We're sharing the list of labor murals the ILHS developed for our 2011 Union Hall of Honor, when four working-class artists and muralists joined the roster of our inductees.

Now on special sale at our online bookstore: The re-released ILHS DVD "When Art Speaks Labor's Language," a tour guided by President Emeritus Les Orear of three iconic Chicago labor murals. Order your copy today.


Labor Monuments of Illinois

mother-jones  union-cemetary  cherry-monument  cherrysmsq  haymarket  haymarketsmsq  stockyard  diamond  more2
To see what each memorializes, hover mouse over each image.

Labor Heroes

Albert Parsons  Lucy Parsons  chavez  Randolph  Debs  Lewis  Addams  Joe Hill  gompers
To see each labor hero's name, hover mouse above each image.  To learn more, visit the Labor Heroes page.

The Illinois Labor History Society

The Illinois Labor History Society wants to share an amazing story with you. It's the story of how working people built this state. Not just by the work of strong hands and strong minds, but with the ideals of democracy, equal opportunity and human solidarity.

It's the story of the labor movement in Illinois. It's the story of some courageous amazing people Like Mary Harris "Mother" Jones who defied the powerful coal bosses and A. Phillip Randolph who taught the railroad bosses how to respect their own employees. It's also about those people whose names we will never know, but through struggle and sacrifice, made a big difference.

Much of this labor story is unknown to the general public. Some has been deliberately hidden by the wealthy and powerful. Some has never been told. Some has been lost, but perhaps will be found again.

The Illinois Labor History Society wants to share with you as much of this labor story as we can. We also want to hear your part in the labor story, because it's only history if you share it.

Through our website resources, our labor bookstore, our labor videos, our public events, our tours of labor monuments and sites and our media appearances, we want to bring this labor story to life. Not only because it is exciting and uplifting, but because it will help working people build an even better Illinois for tomorrow.


Just some of what we do: 

What does labor want?

"What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures"
~ Samuel Gompers
First President of the American Federation of Labor

"And I long to see the day when Labor will have the destiny of the nation in her own hands and she will stand as a united force and show the world what the workers can do." --- Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, 1830-1930

Get Involved



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430 S. Michigan Ave. Room AUD 1361
Chicago, IL, 60605

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