Archive ID: 1981-077-077l

Ed Sadlowski with steelworkers

Date Created: undated

Donor: Edward Sadlowski

Media Type: Photograph


Ed Sadlowski was a nationally known progressive labor leader from Southeast Chicago. Born to a Polish-American family in the South Chicago neighborhood, he and his wife and their children later lived on the East Side. Ed’s father had been a steelworker and union organizer at Inland Steel in East Chicago. Ed, after dropping out of high school to serve in the Korean War, began working at US Steel – South Works In 1956. By 1964, he had been elected President of South Works’ Local 65. At twenty-five, he was the youngest person to ever hold that office. Ed then ran for the leadership of District 31, the largest steelworker district in the country which included the Calumet region mills in Chicago and northwest Indiana. His “Steelworkers Fight Back” campaign aimed to restore union democracy for rank and file workers and promote multi-racial unity in the face of a hierarchical United Steelworkers of America union that had become increasingly conservative over the course of the Cold War. In 1973, Sadlowski appeared to lose the District 31 vote against establishment candidate Sam Evett. However, a federal lawsuit uncovered widespread corruption, and Sadlowski prevailed 2-1 in a re-run of the election. Sadlowski then ran as an insurgent candidate for the presidency of the national union in 1977. Although he lost, the race captured national attention with its progressive vision. Ed was written up in Rolling Stone magazine and other national venues and became friends with Chicago luminaries like oral historian Studs Terkel and gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. The idea for the community-based Southeast Chicago History Project led by Columbia College in the early 1980s (the materials for which were later donated to the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum) originated in Ed’s living room. Ed was a committed scholar of local and national labor history. He donated many of his collected materials, including a wealth of Local 65 photographs and union writings, to the Museum of which he was an early supporter. As Ed described in an interview, “We want something that’ll show what this community was really about, what the people in this community were about.”

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Mills   Other   Other   Steel Industry   Steel Labor   Unions   1950-1979   Other/Unknown   Other/Unknown   Photograph   Ed Sadlowski   Glasses   Labor   Machinery   Machines   Steelworkers   Workers