On Nov. 5, 2021, in Panama, Ill., an Illinois State Historical Society marker commemorating United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President and Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) founder John L. Lewis (1880-1969) was unveiled at John L. Lewis Park.
Special guests include Illinois State Senator Doris Turner (48th District), Illinois State Representative Marcus C. Evans Jr. (33rd District), Midwest Region Laborers International Union of North America Regional Manager and Vice-President John F. Penn, Illinois Director of Labor Michael Klenik, Illinois AFL-CIO President Tim Drea, and Union Labor Life Insurance Company CEO Edward M. Smith.
Over the crackling radio, John L. Lewis was a familiar 1930s-40s voice and newsreel presence. At that time the UMWA was the world’s largest industrial union. Lewis broke away from the American Federation of Labor and founded the Congress of Industrial Organizations (1937), launching massive organizing drives that added millions to labor’s ranks, launching unions like the United Auto Workers and the United Steel Workers.
The marker is financially supported by the Union Labor Life Insurance Company (ULLICO), with support from the Laborers International Union of North America—Midwest Region, United Mine Workers of America and the Illinois Labor History Society.
Featured image: Ullico CEO Ed Smith speaks of John L Lewis.