Rosemary Feurer, author of the University of Illinois Press book Radical Unionism in the Midwest, 1900-1950, was interviewed by The New York Times for a March 5, 2011, column on Wisconsin’s struggle over collective bargaining.
“The play by the governor is part of a longer history and a longer struggle over ideas and social policy,” said Rosemary Feurer, a labor historian at Northern Illinois University. “When I see this I think, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.”
In her book, “Radical Unionism in the Midwest, 1900-1950,” Professor Feurer recounts how companies in the electrical industry in St. Louis started a network known as the Metal Trades Association in the first part of the 20th century to fight union organizing. The association had been alarmed by union protests that erupted violently with the Haymarket Square riot in 1886 and the demands for an eight-hour day, which started with the 1894 Pullman strike in Illinois â€” an early effort by Eugene V. Debs, the former Indiana legislator and future Socialist Party candidate for president.
“That left a legacy of the 1930s and ’40s for employers to form deep right-wing networks,” Professor Feurer said.