Learn about St. Louis’ rich Labor history with ‘Discovery’ bus tour May 11

SIT-DOWN STRIKE: In-plant strike supervisor Frank Schlieman (left center) leads his fellow sit-down strikers in prayer during a religious service inside Emerson Electric Co., which they took over on March 8, 1937. They occupied the plant for 53 days, and their strike was one of the longest of its sort during the Great Depression. – St. Louis Post-Dispatch file photo


St. Louis has a rich Labor history that few even know about. But that will change on May 11 with the first “Discovery Tour” of St. Louis’ rich Labor history, where participants will visit a myriad of historic, local Labor sites highlighting the rich history of our region’s Labor Movement.

The St. Louis Workers Bus Tour, part of The Missouri History Museum’s Discovery Tour series, will be lead by Joan Suarez, retired member and officer of UNITE HERE and executive director of Bread And Roses Missouri.

“St. Louis has been a crossroads for the American worker,” Suarez noted.

“Fundamental to its rich history are sites such as the former Central Turnhalle on 10th Street, the organizational nexus for the first general strike in the United States; the old Washington Avenue garment district where immigrant workers learned about America; and the former site of Emerson Electric, where the second-longest sit-down strike in the nation’s history took place.

“Join this tour and learn more about how working people made their voices heard in their struggle for fair wages and working conditions,” she urged.

SEAMSTRESSES AT THEIR STATIONS in the Consolidated Garment Company sewing workshop, 1919. – Industrial Buildings Collection, St. Louis Historical Society collection

The Discovery Tour will begin and end at The Missouri History Museum, 5700 Lindell Blvd., from 9 a.m.–3 p.m. All participants should meet at the Visitor Services desk on the Museum’s south side by 8:45 a.m.

Discovery Tour transportation is mainly by motor coach, but there will be a little walking. Participants are urged to wear comfortable shoes and have a jacket handy. “Bring your camera, too: These are journeys you’ll want to remember,” Suarez stressed.

Cost is $65 per person for MHS members; $85 for non-members which covers the cost of the deluxe motor-coach transportation; all venue admissions, taxes, and gratuities; and refreshments (lunch, water and a snack). To register go to 10379a.blackbaudhosting.com/10379a/Discovery-Tour—The-St-Louis-Worker.

The Discovery Tours series are educational tours focusing on a different aspect of St. Louis history. There are 10 different tours this year. For a list and dates go to mohistory.org/events?series=discovery%20tours.

The History Museum selects only those who are experts of their field to lead these tours, so it is an honor to be chosen as a guide.

Suarez went to work for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America as an Education Representative in 1962. She found her life-long niche as a Labor and community organizer in San Antonio, TX before returning to St. Louis as Southwest Regional Director and International Vice President for UNITE (Union of Needle trades, Industrial, and Textile Employees, now UNITE-HERE), where she continued to serve until her retirement in 2002.

In addition to serving as executive director of Bread & Roses Missouri, Suarez is the founding chair of Missouri Immigrant & Refugees Advocates and serves as a Community Co-Chair on the Missouri Jobs With Justice Board of Directors.


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