The historic three decades of struggles that workers faced at Wisconsin’s Kohler Co. to win decent working conditions will be reviewed – along with their relevance for today’s economy – at the 33rdAnnual Conference of the Wisconsin Labor History Society to be held Saturday, May 17 in Sheboygan.
Entitled “The Kohler Strikes – Three Decades of Struggle: What Can Labor Learn? What Works Today?” the all-day conference will be held at Emil Mazey Hall, 5425 Superior Ave., Sheboygan, home of United Auto Workers Local 833 which represents workers at the company in nearby Kohler.
Roger Bybee, of Milwaukee, a prominent columnist and editor of the former Racine Labor newspaper, will lead off the conference, tracing the history of the Local 833 efforts to win a contract and decent working conditions. Two strikes marked the struggle, one in 1934 for recognition, and the other that lasted from 1954 until 1964 making it the longest strike in U. S. history.
Three participants from the last strike – former Local 833 President Charles Conrardy and Gordy Billmann and Julius Siech – and former State Senator Cal Potter will relate experiences as part of a panel that will examine how the strikes affected the community and the workers involved. Current Local 833 President Dave Boucher will discuss the local’s situation today.
Looking at how unions can move ahead in today’s difficult economy will be Matthew Luskin, organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union, and Joe Burns, author, labor attorney and union representative.