Surprise: Union founder was from South Carolina

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To the editor:

Are you aware that when Gov. Nikki Haley speaks ill of the IAM [International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers], she is attacking an institution founded by a South Carolinian in South Carolina? I learned about that through one of [Florence Morning News writer] Thom Anderson’s columns.

00_icon_feedbackThe founder of the IAM, Thomas Talbot, IIRC, was a native of Chesterfield, and became employed as a machinist in the Atlantic Coast Line RR shops in Florence, circa 1880.  His fellow machinists in Florence were receptive to his idea of forming a union and they took initial steps to do so, but were discovered by management and fired.  Talbot then moved to Atlanta, hired out again as a machinist with the Southern Railway there, and probably avoiding previous mistakes made in Florence, was successful in establishing the first local union that became the IAM.  Talbot is buried in Florence’s Mount Hope Cemetery and the IAM erected a large monument in his honor there.

South Carolina has produced some notable labor leaders, including Lane Kirkland, a Camden native, who succeeded George Meany as president of the AFL-CIO.  I love the quote they attribute to him:  “If hard work were such a wonderful thing, surely the rich would have kept it all to themselves.”

South Carolina was a hotbed of textile industry labor activism, culminating in the “Great Uprising of 1934,” covered in an excellent PBS documentary of the same name, which SCETV initially refused to air, as described in this article.

— Michael J. Young. Florence, S.C.

IAM founder killed in street scuffle

On the monument:  Erected to the memory of its founder T.W. Talbot by the I.A. of M., 1897.

On the monument: Erected to the memory of its founder T.W. Talbot by the I.A. of M., 1897.

To the editor:

I have an interesting story for you.   Perhaps you have seen it. Entitled “Fighting Machinists,” it is subtitled “The Fighting Machinists, A Century of Struggle.”

The story is of the murder of T.W. Talbot in March 1892.  The murderers were scions of a prominent Florence family.   Talbot was a machinist in the railroad town of Florence in 1892. Talbot’s body is interred in Mount Hope cemetery in Florence.

I thought this bit of history is particularly interesting, especially since it concerns the union currently involved with the Dreamliner.   The idea of the powerful IAM founder is buried in union-hating Florence!!

— Joseph T. Stukes, Florence, S.C.


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