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Teamsters Commemorate 1934 Minneapolis Strike

In Minnesota 80 years ago, Teamsters changed everything. The 1934 Teamster strike in Minneapolis was one of the main catalysts for the rise of unions in the 1930s. Teamsters recently celebrated that heritage, and remembered the fallen, at the site of the historic strike.

Tens of thousands of working people participated in the strike, which began May 16, 1934, and lasted throughout the summer.

There's no one more qualified to talk about the 1934 Teamster strike than Tom Keegel, the former General Secretary-Treasury of the Teamsters Union. Keegel is a third-generation Teamster who joined the union in 1959 after he graduated from high school. He worked his way up from being a Teamster business agent in 1977, to taking office as General Secretary-Treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in 1999.

"People were hungry and looking for work," Keegel said at the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the 1934 Teamsters strike. "We need to commemorate them and honor them because they had the guts to stand up and take on the fight. Without them, workers wouldn't have health insurance, pensions, holidays or vacations.”

“It was a privilege for me to walk the strike path with Tom Keegel and hear the stories of the Teamsters who fought to bring us the rights and benefits we have today. As a new member I am proud to be a part of a union that has such a proud history and strong traditions. I hope that I would have the courage to fight as hard as they did for the things that matter most,” said new Super-Value Teamster Andrew McGuire.

A highlight of the event was when Sen. Al Franken spoke to those in attendance about the importance of the strike and the labor movement, but he and Keegel weren’t the only leaders in attendance, which included descendants of many original 1934 strikers.

The remembrance of the strike also included a march through Minneapolis, including to many strike sites, and a picnic. A marching band led the crowd in union songs as people lined the streets. A banner reading “Remember 1934” was carried by two descendents of the strikers, State Rep. Debra Hilstrom and retired Teamster Harry Villella, as well as two Teamster stewards, Marty Brinkman and Cecil Alston.

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"I was employed for many years at a Teamster company that was shut down due to the economy. Because of my age, I was worried about starting over. Bobby, Bob and Paul not only negotiated a much better severance package than was in the contract, but they also went the extra mile and got me on at one of their other companies with an even better contract.They continued to help me even though it wasn't their job to."

- Armando Borean

“I look after a lot of members in a very big plant. For years I had to fight for them by myself with no help at all from any of the Union’s representatives or Officers. This changed completely once Bobby, Bob and Paul were in office. Now I have access to my reps 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!  They’re always there to back me up.” 

- Darrell Lawres – Chief Shop Steward. Saputo, Sperling

"I was there when we brought the Union in. The first-time contract they won for us was unbelievable. It changed the quality of my life. I am now a Shop Steward and enjoy working with my Union and looking after my fellow workers. "

- Paul Landrecht - Shop Steward. Island Farms Dairy.