In the Midwest, we’ve been blessed with many inspiring working class heroes, but few have led the remarkable life that Frank Lumpkin did. On March 1, 2010, Frank passed away at the age of 93 and we lost a courageous fighter for workers rights. Though Frank called Chicago home for many years, his connection to Wisconsin is profound and long-lasting. His fight against Wisconsin Steel lasted nearly seventeen years and culminated in a victory for the 3000 workers.
Lumpkin finally landed a job at Wisconsin Steel, owned by International Harvester, and worked there for 30 years as a chipper, scarfer and millwright. In March 1980, over 3,000 workers arrived at work to find the gates padlocked. International Harvester, through sham moves, had “sold” the company to Envirodyne to avoid paying pensions. In addition, the bank that handled the payroll had stolen the workers’ final pay by not honoring the checks. Rather than go home quietly, the Save Our Jobs Committee was born and the workers fought. Lumpkin led them against an array of powerful forces and corrupt politicians backed by the mob. They marched and protested from city hall, to the state legislature and Congress. From the start, Lumpkin never, ever considered the possibility of giving up. For 17 years the workers fought refusing nothing less than victory, which finally came in, winning $17 million in stolen pension money that was distributed to the workers. For that he became known as the “Saint of Chicago.”
Today, we remember all the sacrifices and struggles Frank Lumpkin endured for workers around the world.
Read more about Frank Lumpkin over at People’s World by clicking here.
In November of 2012, we lost a friend, activist, and member by the name of George Edwards. Not only was Edwards a respected community activist, he was also a union leader and a major figure within the Communist Party. George Edwards was honored at the United Steelworkers headquarters in Pittsburgh – a memorial that brought coworkers, friends, and family together to celebrate a magnificent life. Sam Webb, National Chairman of the Communist Party USA, was in attendance and gave a stirring tribute to Edwards.
“‘There is no better place to celebrate George’s life,’ Webb said, thanking Gerard and the union for hosting the memorial. ‘This union meant everything to him,’ he said. ‘Nothing made George happier than to volunteer his labor in this building.'”
Read more about George Edwards in this extensive writeup by Rick Nagin over at People’s World.
Social activist. Civil rights supporter. Writer. Organizer. War hero. John Gilman could be described in a million different ways, but his family remembered him as “proud”. Gilman, a decorated veteran of World War Two, passed away in April of 2011, but his story is revisited frequently for a multitude of reasons. Either for his extensive war record, a dedication to the civil rights movement, or his tireless work towards a fairer world for the worker. He’s truly how People’s World described him: “Milwaukee’s Finest”.
“His tenacious activism for peace, civil rights, democracy and social justice will be missed. He was a well-known organizer for U.S.-Cuba friendship, an end to the embargo, normalized relations and freedom for the Cuban Five. In 2004, Cuba honored Gilman with the Cuban Medal of Friendship.”
To read more about John Gilman’s amazing and inspiring life, please visit the following links:
WWII hero John Gilman took on racism, fought for civil rights (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
A Memory For Wisconsin In John Gilman’s Life (Milwaukee Area Labor Council)
Milwaukee’s finest: the amazing story of John Gilman (People’s World)
Purchase John Gilman’s Memoir, Footsoldier for Peace and Justice, at select local retailers or through People’s World (see the end of the article for more information)