Bert Hough 1938

A Hough Family Labor Story for Labor Day

A few years ago, I first shared the story of my grandfather, an immigrant to our nation who found his calling shortly after his arrival in the U.S. in 1923 when he was hired at Crucible Steel in Midland, Pennsylvania – near my hometown of Pittsburgh.

At that time, over a decade before the passage of the National Labor Relations Act, accidents at steel mills often left employees dead, or so seriously injured they could never work again, with no hope of recourse for themselves or their families.

Before child-labor laws, holidays, and health care plans, workers were powerless to counter the organization and money of management.

My grandfather, who had been a speaker and political organizer in his native Scotland after his World War I service – in addition to playing professional soccer with Partick Thistle FC in Glasgow – saw the critical need for workers to wield the same level of power as management, and brought the experience to make a difference.

As his activism increased, so too did the danger from management-funded “enforcers,” who frequently used violence to put down organizational efforts. But with the help of his mill colleagues and fellow organizers my grandfather prevailed, and in 1936 he became the first president of United Steelworkers Local 1212, with an apprenticeship program that began that same year.

By the time the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, Crucible Steel’s Midland Works was the largest producer of tool-grade steels in the U.S., and manufactured more types of steel than any other company during the war era.

The story doesn’t end there, but on this Labor Day I wanted to share the basics of it with you. There’s more at my original 2018 blogpost.

According to the AFL-CIO, one in nine U.S. workers – some 16 million around the nation – are represented by unions.

And because of the labor movement, which we celebrate today, American workers have weekends off, paid vacations, family and medical leave, breaks at work (including lunch), sick leave, paid holidays, military leave, and the 40-hour work week.

Some important things to keep in mind this Labor Day, and every day.

Sí se puede.