The IAM joins with the Pennsylvania Labor History Society in honoring men and women of the early labor movement who courageously fought to make life better for workers everywhere.
The society will be holding its annual conference and awards dinner on September 16-17, 2011. The event will include a special tribute to the men and women involved in four strikes that took place in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley in 1910, including the Bethlehem Steel strike, that started after a committee of three Machinists presented a request to address harsh working conditions.
Among the honorees will be former IAM Vice President David Williams, a driving force in the bloody Bethlehem Steel strike which ensued for 104 days. People were beaten, shot and even murdered. However, the violent actions of this strike did not deter young Williams from challenging the powerful corporate giant, and speaking out dynamically for the working man.
Williams, who hired on at Bethlehem Steel in 1907, promoted unity among the workers, spoke out for peaceful protest and encouraged workers to stand up for what was right. Believing that government should take a deep interest in the welfare of workers, Williams wrote many letters to Pennsylvania’s Governor and to Congress. His efforts prompted a Department of Labor investigation into the working conditions at Bethlehem Steel. This investigation vindicated the workers, proving that indeed the conditions of labor were dangerous, the hours long, and the pay poor.
At the helm of Bethlehem Steel during this time was Charles Schwab, well known for his anti-union stance and inflammatory statements. At one time, Schwab stated that, “It must be understood that under no circumstances will we deal with men on strike or a body of men representing organized labor.” Schwab threatened city shop owners saying he would close the steel works.
“We’ve seen this same attitude today played out in many states,” said International President Tom Buffenbarger. “Let’s emulate Brother Williams, continuing the work, organizing and speaking out for working Americans.”