Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project: Interview with Earl T. Bester and Joseph Paszak
Part 1


Part 2


Description BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Earl Bester was born on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in 1900. After the copper miners' strike of 1913, his family moved to Minnesota. After serving in the First World War, Bester went to work for US Steel Company in Duluth, as a crane operator. In the 1930s he became active in the movement towards unionization, and was elected president of American Steel and Wire Local 1028 of the United Steelworkers of America (CIO) in 1936. The next year he was called to Chicago to help organize steelworkers there in connection with the Fansteel Metallurgical Corporation strike and the Little Steel strike. Although he received offers to join the Steelworkers Organizing Committee (SWOC) staff at that point, he declined them. He did continue his organizing work on the Minnesota Iron Range, however. In 1941 he became the assistant director of USWA' s District 33, and served as director of that district's CIO-Political Action Committee when that group was formed in 1944. He directed the 1946 steelworkers' strike, which lasted 105 days in Minnesota (30 days nationally). In 1952 he succeeded Henry A. Burkhammer as director of District 33, and he stayed in this post until his retirement in 1965. At the time of the interview Bester was living in Duluth. Joseph Paszak was president of USWA Local 1210, centered at the Universal Atlas Cement Company in Duluth. He was the first chairman of the Duluth CIO Council, and served on the Minnesota CIO Council in the 1940s. He comments frequently in this interview. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Efforts of copper miners in Michigan to organize (1912-1913); barriers to organizing steelworkers in Duluth in the 1920s and 1930s; Little Steel and Fansteel strikes in Chicago, 1937; split in the Duluth Trades and Labor Assembly and the formation of the Duluth CIO Council (1936); merger of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (1955); opinions about Eighth District Congressman John A. Blatnik, Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, and organized labor in the 1970s; organizing the unemployed in the 1930s; Spies in Steel (book by Frank Palmer) relations between steelworkers at Universal Atlas Cement Company and steelworkers at US Steel (1940s); steel strike of 1946; Steelworkers Organizing Committee national convention of 1937; organizing steelworkers on Minnesota's Iron Range; relations between the Mine, Mill, and Smelters Workers Union and SWGG (1930s and 1940s); communist influence in the CTO; harassment from the Federal Bureau of Investigation; congressional campaigns of John Blatnik, 1946 and 1948; International Labor Organization convention of 1957; Paul Robeson's visit to Duluth; National Maritime Union strike of 1946; structure of the steelworkers' negotiating committees; benefits for retired steelworkers (1970s); Timber and Sawmill Workers' Union strike of 1937; election campaign of 1938. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: Interviewed as part of radio station KUMD's Seniors' Program; transcribed by the 20th Century Radicalism in Minnesota Project. The tapes were apparently recorded in a restaurant or other noisy location, so they are very difficult to hear. The final half-hour of the interview was not transcribed because the audio tape was so poor as to be virtually inaudible. Bester's and Paszak's vernacular was not corrected, except where their meaning was unclear. The interview rambles somewhat. Paszak plays a useful role in prompting Bester's memory and filling in missing information. There is a more chronological interview with Bester in the Earl T. Bester Papers at the Minnesota Historical Society. In the present interview, however, Bester seems to feel freer to discuss his radical sympathies. RESTRICTIONS ON USE: Permission to quote from the interview is required from radio station KUMD, Duluth.
Quantity 2 hours sound cassette
30 pages transcript
Format Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
Measurements 01:17:02 running time
Creation Interviewee: Paszak, Joseph
Interviewee: Bester, Earl T. - United Steel Workers of Amer., Dist. 33
Interviewer: Johnson, Jean
Made in Duluth, Saint Louis County, Minnesota, United States
Subjects Made in Duluth, Saint Louis County, Minnesota, United States
Dates Creation: 1980
Holding Type Oral History - Interview
Identifiers OH 30
Accession Number AV1990.228.74
More Info MHS Library Catalog
Related Collections Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project'

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