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LABOR HISTORY

Rochester's workers have a rich and important but largely unknown history. It is the story of those who built the city; milled the flour; stitched the shoes and sewed the garments; made the cigarettes; ran the trains and trolleys; taught school; manufactured motors and optical equipment.

 

It's also the story of our unions and their efforts to improve wages and working conditions, as well as the story of our struggles to achieve social justice. We need to know this story not only to honor those who came before us, but also to understand who we are and the struggles of our time.

Our efforts to tell this story include:

  • Struggle in Smugtown: Rochester's Workers, Radicals and Reformers. In 15 image- filled segments this 45-minute documentary video recounts local struggles from the early period of the Erie Canal and flour production, through the industrial years of shoes, clothing, tobacco and optical manufacturing, to the impact of wars, Depression, globalization and privatization. It also tells of the resistance of renowned activists like Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony as well as union members like Ida Braiman, killed during a strike; their leaders, like those who led the 1946 general strike, and labor's community allies, such as Metro-Act.
  • Rochester Labor History eMAP , an on-line resource on Rochester workers and their unions, showing in both text and image where they worked, held their meetings, conducted their struggles, and were commemorated.
  • Print and Web versions of the history of the Rochester Labor Council. These publications trace the development of the Council through sections on topics such as political and educational work, organizing, and community involvement. There are also lists of officers of the Rochester Labor Council and the Building Trades Council, portraits of key leaders, historical labor images and photographs.
  • The 1946 General Strike of Rochester, New York, an on-line essay which traces the story of the 1946 struggle between organized labor and City Hall; illustrated with images from an AFL photographer.
  • Rochester Labory History Map/Guide. A pocket-size booklet meant to facilitate self-guided tours, with maps and site-specific text. (Available through info@rochesterlabor.org)

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garment workers strike

General strike