Communist Party and Labor History Tour a big feature at coming convention
Tim Yeager discusses the 1886 Haymarket demonstration for participants at the memorial during a labor history tour at the 2014 CPUSA Convention. | Courtesy of CPUSA

CHICAGO—Delegates, guests, and the public, too, will have a unique opportunity before the Communist Party USA’s 31st National Convention, opening here June 21. They’ll have the chance to explore the history of the city’s communist and labor movements in a special bus tour co-sponsored by the Illinois Labor History Society, the People Before Profits Education Fund, and People’s World.

Julia Berkowitz, recording secretary for the History Society, said people taking the tour “will learn that Chicago is actually ground zero for the labor movement in this country and, to a great extent, for the whole world.”

People who get on the bus leaving from the convention site, the University of Chicago at Illinois, on the morning of June 21 will see and experience, only a few miles from the university, the Haymarket site. Today, a monument stands on there commemorating the martyrs who fought for the eight-hour day in 1886 that became the impetus for May Day, the working-class holiday celebrated around the world.

“They will drive through the streets and pass the locations where our ancestors in struggle fought to integrate the great industrial unions along both racial and gender lines. They will learn how Chicago workers have fought almost every type of fight ever fought by workers,” Berkowitz said.

When it comes to workers and what they do, Chicago is totally unlike Las Vegas. What happens here definitely does not stay here. Chicago workers unashamedly shared both May Day and Labor Day with their brothers and sisters across the nation and around the world.

“The tour bus will roll through the space once occupied by the meatpacking plants where, for 100 years, the city was the center of that industry,” Berkowitz noted. “The poet Carl Sandburg justifiably called Chi-town the Hog Butcher to the World.”

William Z. Foster and other Communist Party and labor leaders are among those buried in “Radical Row” at Forest Home Cemetery. | Courtesy of Forest Home Cemetery

People will get to see the spaces in which workers organized the packinghouses, where the events that inspired Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle took place. Participants will learn about the bloody battles for worker’s tights that were fought out in the streets of Chicago.

The city is the location of at least five important founding labor conventions, according to Berkowitz: the site of the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905; the places where the Communist Party was founded in 1919; the location of the founding of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, or CLUW in 1974; the founding of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, or CBTU in 1972, and the founding convention of CACOSH, or Chicago Area Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, which today is known as NCOSH and is a leading force in union-centered workplace health and safety.

Although the tour won’t be stopping at all of those locations, there are exciting stops at which participants can disembark and take some pictures including the Haymarket Square itself, where the historic events of May 1886 took place. There is a commemorative memorial statue there and a number of plaques from unions across the globe that mark the site.

The bus will drive along Ashland Ave, also known as Union Row, where a number of key events in the history of the Communist Party USA took place. Though many of the old halls are demolished, participants will see the neighborhoods where the Communist Party of America and the Communist Labor Party were founded a hundred years ago, where the Daily Worker newspaper was launched, and where Paul Robeson campaigned for Henry Wallace.

Also visited will be the Forest Home Cemetery where the Haymarket Martyrs are buried, along with a number of Communist leaders.

A highlight of the tour is sure to be a stop at the current-day headquarters of People’s World, the daily online newspaper descended from the Daily Worker which first rolled off the presses in 1924 with the warning that bosses had good reason to “tremble” upon the arrival of a publication that would always take the side of the workers. People’s World continues that tradition today and at its headquarters, tour participants will get a warm welcome and a great lunch.

What better way to kick off the 31st Convention of the CPUSA than with a tour like this? See you in Chicago!

If you’ll be in Chicago June 21 and are interested in joining the tour, contact Roberta Wood: rwood@cpusa.org.


CONTRIBUTOR

Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.

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