History Revealed: The Hormel Strike
The Hormel Strike of 1985-1986: Historical Perspectives
with Peter Rachleff
History Revealed Series
Program Date: Thursday, May 18, 2023
In partnership with the East Side Freedom Library and the Roseville Library.
In August 1985 the nation’s attention turned to Austin, Minnesota, where 1,700 meatpacking workers prepared to launch a strike against the George A. Hormel Company in what was widely seen as the most significant labor-management conflict since the Professional Air Traffic Controllers’ strike of 1981, and as a harbinger of the change in the direction of American labor relations since the election of Ronald Reagan. From coast-to-coast, from factory floors to corporate boardrooms, from the front pages to the drinking fountains, it was seen as history in the making. In 1993, the story would become the subject of Barbara Kopple’s Academy Award-winning documentary, “American Dream.”
How did a small town in southern Minnesota come to occupy such a large place in our country’s labor history? What roles have meat-packing unions and the labor movement played in the Minnesota economic and political landscape? How have those roles impacted the influence of Minnesota’s labor movement on our nation’s economic and political landscape? And, now, thirty-seven years later, what impact might this history have on the emergence of a new labor movement, based in very different industries and led by workers who are very different from those meat-packing workers?
Join Peter Rachleff, former Macalester College history professor, Emeritus Co-Executive Director and co-founder of the East Side Freedom Library, in an exploration of these and related questions. Professor Rachleff is the author of Hard-Pressed in the Heartland: The Hormel Strike and the Future of the Labor Movement (1993).