Remember the mural I “discovered” in León, Nicaragua that was painted by US muralist Mike Alewitz? Well, I recently came across his work again, this time at Teamster City in Chicago (Van Buren and Ashland)p.
According to Alewitz’s book about his murals, this one was painted in 1998 to commemorate the successful 1997 Teamster strike against UPS. Teamster Power / El Poder de los Teamsters is large and complex — it stretches 130 feet in length and was completed by Alewitz and a team of assistants organized by the union.
The mural is framed by images of Lucy Parsons and Albert Parsons, the 19th century Chicago labor activists. Albert was executed in 1887 for involvement in the Haymarket affair. Lucy continued her activism into the 1940s and influenced Studs Terkel among many other leaders and activists. Lucy and Albert are connected on the mural through a web of freeways that extend from their fingers. Teamster-drive trucks crisscross the roads.
Along the bottom, protesters advocate for workers’ rights against a backdrop of Chicago skyscrapers.
Above, labor leaders from a 1934 Minneapolis Teamster strike hold a banner that reads “The fight has just begun”…
a Teamster-driven bus crashes to victory…
and labor angels float across the sky.
Two quotes stretch across the mural, both from activists who were executed following Haymarket:
If you think that by hanging us, you can stamp out the labor movement…from which the downtrdden millions who toil in want and misery expect salvation, then hang us. (August Spies)
Here you will tread upon a spark, but there and there, behind you and in front of you, and everywhere flames blaze up. It is a subterranean fire, you can not put it out. (Albert Parsons)
Check out the book, Insurgent Images: The Agitprop Murals of Mike Alewitz, for background about the UPS strike and great photos of the mural being painted.