5. Memorial Day Massacre
The United States
When minor steel businesses declined to follow the US Steel Corporation in accepting union demands for recognition, eight-hour workdays, and greater compensation, Cleveland steelworkers went on strike on May 26, 1937. Following the work stoppage in Cleveland, two major unions—the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO)—called for strikes in a number of locations throughout the country.
Approximately 1,500 striking steelworkers and sympathizers gathered at the SWOC offices in Chicago on Memorial Day, May 30th. In protest, they planned to march to the adjacent Republic Steel factory, which is not unionized.
The unarmed, nonviolent crowd—which included women and children—was met at the mill’s gates by 250 armed Chicago cops who were provided and paid by Republic Steel. The collected police officers fired over 100 rounds into the crowd without warning, killing 10 people and injuring over 100 others. The majority of the shots were fired from behind.
The shooting resulted in no charges being filed against any of the officers involved. The walkout, which was centered on Cleveland, was eventually defeated, with the sole violent incident occurring throughout the whole work stoppage in Chicago. The killing of Chicago workers and the subsequent strike, however, attracted national attention to the steelworkers’ situation. Five years later, they were recognized as a union and their requests were met.