1. Patrick Cudahy Strike and Plant Closing of 1987-1989 Oral History Project. 1994. 37 audio cassette tapes .

Notes: This oral history collection consists of interviews done in 1994 with participants in the bitter two-year-long labor strike during 1987-1989 at the Patrick Cudahy meatpacking plant in Cudahy, Wisconsin, a small town just south of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; interviewees included the company’s president and its human relations director, as well as the president of the local union involved (United Food and Commercial Workers Local P-40) and fifteen other striking workers, including several women workers.

Location: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Manuscript Collection (control number UWM Manuscript Collection 123), Division of Archives and Special Collections, Golda Meir Library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

  1. Becker, Mary and Hauenstein, Del. A Journey Through the Past, Present and Future. Milwaukee, Wis.:

Patrick Cudahy, Inc.; 1990. 19 p. Notes: An over-sized, illustrated promotional brochure giving the history of the Patrick Cudahy meatpacking company in Cudahy, Wisconsin; mention is made of the bitter strike against the company by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local P-40 from 1987 to 1989.

  1. Cavanaugh, James A. “From the Bottom Up: Oral History and the United Packinghouse Workers of

America”. International Journal of Oral History. 1988; 9(1):27-39.

  1. Geib, Paul E. “‘Everything But the Squeal’: The Milwaukee Stockyards and Meat-packing Industry,

1840-1930″. Wisconsin Magazine of History. 1994 Autumn; 78(1):2-23. Notes: [N.B. Issue’s table of contents says in error that this article begins on p. 3–the article actually begins on p. 2 which contains a photograph.]

  1. Gordon, Michael A. “Staging ‘The Line’: The Creation of a Play About the Patrick Cudahy Meat Packing

Strike of 1987-1989″. Labor’s Heritage. 1997; 9(2):58-77. Notes: This article explains how the collaboration of an oral historian (the author of this article) and a playwright (John Schneider, the artistic director of Milwaukee’s innovative Theatre X) brought about the creation of an original play which dramatized the bitter 1987-1989 strike by United Food and Commercial Workers Local P-40 against the Patrick Cudahy, Inc. meatpacking plant in Cudahy, Wisconsin, a small town just south of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The strike, which lasted for twenty-eight months, came about after a bargaining impasse was reached over company demands for a second straight contract with significant salary reductions–cutbacks which would have taken many employees back to the wages they had been making in 1967.


In this article Gordon uses the experience of creating the new play, The Line, to illustrate how incorporating extensive information from oral histories into the production of plays can preserve labor history as well as allowing those interviewed (such as strike participants) to gain insights into their struggle when given the opportunity to tell their story and find affirmation in the values which led to their battle. For about seventy-five percent of the dialogue in the play, Schneider was able to quote directly from the oral history interviews. Because of the many examples Gordon supplies in this article to show how the oral history interviews provided details about what it was like to work in the plant and how that detail was incorporated into the play, we come to understand how utterly demanding meatpacking work is; indeed, Gordon says that a key finding from his discussions with the former P-40 strikers was that “many workers believed their jobs were simply too arduous and demeaning to do for just over $6 an hour.” (p. 66). In addition to interviewing company executives and touring the plant, Gordon supplemented his research with the extensive archival records of the National Labor Relations Board related to the dispute.

The Line ran in Milwaukee for twenty performances in January and February 1996 and was revived for three more performances in September 1996 (one at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and two at the University of Wisconsin-Madison). The oral history interviews conducted for the play are in the “Patrick Cudahy Strike and Plant Closing of 1987-1989 Oral History Project” collection held by the Urban Archives at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

  1. Rees, Jonathan. “Caught in the Middle: The Seizure and Occupation of the Cudahy Brothers Company,

1944-1945″. Wisconsin Magazine of History. 1995 Spring; 78(3):200-218. Notes: During World War II, the U.S. federal government played an increased role in the collective bargaining relationship between employers and employees, in order to assure that there were no breaks in production identified as necessary for the war effort. One such intervention involved the Cudahy Brothers Company meatpacking plant in Cudahy, Wisconsin (a small town just south of Milwaukee, Wisconsin) and the United Packinghouse Workers of America Local 40, a union affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). This interesting article details just one instance of many in which the U.S. government could not rely exclusively on the voluntary compliance of some individual businessowners with the nation’s wartime production policies and found that it had to seize a company in order to ensure continued production essential to the war effort.

With national labor leaders having made a “no-strike” pledge when the U.S. entered the war, the federal government in return undertook for the duration of the war “a series of government concessions involving organizing and contract enforcement” (p. 205). The Cudahy Brothers Company objected to such protections and from the first resisted the government’s war labor provisions through legal manuvers. Finally, on December 8, 1944, the U.S. Army (as authorized by the U.S. Secretary of War) took possession of the entire operation of the Cudahy Brothers Company and then continued to oversee the company’s running of the plant until August 31, 1945, just two days before the official surrender of the Japanese. The immediate dispute which led to the government seizure involved two key contract proposals–one for language regarding a maintenance-of-membership agreement and the other for language providing for a dues checkoff system; although these were standard components in the government-supervised agreements during the Second World War, Michael Cudahy, president of the company, refused to sign a contract containing those provisions.

  1. Schneider, John D. and Theatre X. “The Line: The 1987-1989 Strike at the Patrick Cudahy Meat Packing

Company”. Milwaukee, Wis.: Theatre X; 1996. 103 leaves . Notes: A play; a copy of the play is available from the Milwaukee County Federated Library System (see OCLC #35817513).