Brits like the Pump House Gang

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The Guardian newspaper of London ran this editorial last month under the headline, "In Praise of Pittsburgh's Pump House Gang."

Every Wednesday morning in a Pittsburgh diner, a dozen or so locals order breakfast and talk about workers' struggles. They are The Battle of Homestead Foundation, or the Pump House Gang: a bunch of unionists, historians and activists. Their name derives from the most famous fight in American labour history.

In 1892, Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick decided to break the trade union at Pennsylvania's Homestead mill, locking out the workers and bringing in strikebreakers. When unionists broke into the plant, guns were fired and 10 men killed. The strikers won the battle, but lost the war.

A bittersweet moment, then; and now the charitable foundation has helped preserve the mill's pump house. They also help educate Pennsylvanians on a vital part of their history.

The steel mills are now shopping malls; but we remain workers, rather than only consumers. The Pump House Gang remind us of that; we could do with a few British equivalents.



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