By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – The 30th annual dinner to honor labor leader Mother Jones, to be held Oct. 11, will also commemorate martyred labor leader Joe Hill and include a look at labor organizing in the southern United States.
The Mother Jones Foundation’s annual dinner will be dedicated to Hill on the 100th anniversary of his execution in Utah on a bogus murder charge. Funds raised will go toward completion of the Mother Jones Museum in Mt. Olive, IL.
The dinner will be accompanied by a noon ceremony at the Mother Jones Monument in Mt. Olive, followed by an opening of the Mother Jones Museum from 1 to 3 p.m.
The main speaker at the dinner will be MaryBe McMillan, secretary-treasurer of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO and a long-time union organizer. Singer-songwriter Bucky Halker, will tell stories and sing songs about Joe Hill.
Dinner tickets are $35 each or $350 for a table of 10. The location again is Erin’s Pavilion in Southwind Park, at 4965 South 2nd St. in Springfield, IL. To get there, go west on Toronto Road from Interstate 55 and then north on 2nd Street.
For tickets, send checks, payable to the Mother Jones Foundation, to P.O. Box 20412, Springfield, IL, 62708-0412. Please include the name of your union or organization, plus your name, address, phone number and e-mail address. For more information, call Al Pieper at (217) 522-4688 or Terry Reed at (217) 789-6495.
Groups or individuals who donate an additional $50 or more to the Foundation will be listed in the program as Special Contributors. The Foundation will also accept books or contributions for Illinois school libraries, a project initiated by the late Mike Walsh.
If a group buys a table but doesn’t plan to fill it completely, the Foundation would like to make the extra seats available to students and community and union members.
MaryBe McMillan was first elected secretary-treasurer of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO in 2005, becoming the group’s first female officer. She grew up in Hickory, N.C. and became a union organizer as a student. She graduated from Wake Forest University in sociology and later earned a master’s degree from UNC-Greensboro and a doctorate from North Carolina State, both in sociology.
McMillan is a member of Operating Engineers Local 465. She has worked for the AFL-CIO Union Community Fund, was research director for the Common Sense Foundation think tank, and was state policy analyst for the Rural School & Community Trust.
Bucky Halker lately has been touring with the Joe Hill Road Show, celebrating the songs and legacy of the famed organizer. The Chicago Tribune described Halker this way: “Professor, author, roustabout rocker and singer-songwriter, local music scene vet Bucky Halker isn’t your typical coffeehouse troubadour. He draws on his extensive knowledge of American labor protest songs to provide the framework for his message-laced music.”
Halker was well received in his performances at the dedication of the Mother Jones Monument renovations in June.
At noon on the day of the dinner, the Union Miners Cemetery Committee will hold a memorial ceremony at the refurbished Mother Jones Monument at the cemetery in Mt. Olive, off I-55 at Illinois 138. Local union and community members will speak, and both McMillan and Halker plan to be on hand.
The new Mother Jones Museum, still in completion stages at 215 E. Main St. in Mt. Olive, will be open from 1 to 3 p.m. that day. Funds raised by this year’s dinner will go to the museum.
For would-be benefactors, the museum has a list of projects and their costs. The projects total $48,450 and range from $600 for a viewer-operated video player to $8,900 for design and production of nine interpretive panels. For more information or to contribute, visit the museum's website.
Mary “Mother Jones” Harris, a native of Ireland, organized miners throughout the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century, when government and industry joined forces to keep unions from improving their workplaces and compensation.
When she died in 1930, she was buried in the nation’s only union-owned cemetery, Union Miners Cemetery, which was founded to house four union victims of the Virden Riot in 1899, when armed, strike-breaker guards battled striking miners.
Joe Hill was a Swedish immigrant and itinerant laborer who by 1910 had joined the Industrial Workers of the World and become an organizer, cartoonist and songwriter. He was executed in 1915 in Utah on a bogus murder charge.