Guns of Steel | Letters | Chicago Reader

Guns of Steel 

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To the editors:

Enjoyed your April 16 lead article, "A Radical Woman." But Ms. West's memory has faltered in one instance: the "Memorial Day Massacre" of 1937 (p. 22) occurred in South Chicago at the gates of the Republic Steel Works, not at Inland Steel, which is in East Chicago, Indiana.

Republic Steel was then the fiefdom of Tom Girdler, who fortified his mill with standard and automatic weapons of every description and even an "air force" that flew supplies and men in and out over the picket lines.

But most of the casualties on that grim day were men and women from the Calumet region of Northwestern Indiana. Hundreds of workers from the Inland and Youngstown steel mills in Indiana Harbor arrived in a "solidarity caravan" sponsored by the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC), which directed the Little Steel Strike of 1937. SWOC leaders recognized the difference between the antediluvian Girdler and the Block Family, which controlled Inland. They praised Inland Steel for its "civilized" behavior at an open and peaceful rally (at which many bandages were seen) in East Chicago on the day after the Republic Steel event.

In 1942 SWOC became the United Steel Workers of America (USWA).

Lance Trusty

Munster, Indiana

Florence Hamlish Levinsohn replies:

Thanks for setting the record straight.

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