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Grand Rapids People’s History Project – Interview with Michael Johnston

September 17, 2010

As part of the Grand Rapids People’s History Project we recently interviewed Michael Johnston. Michael is a retired teacher, editor of Grand Valley Labor News and local labor historian.

Michael Johnston has been involved in documenting numerous aspects of labor history in West Michigan and wrote his masters thesis on labor history in Grand Rapids.

The interview is broken up into seven parts. In Part I Johnston talks about the suppressed history of labor organizing in Grand Rapids.

In Part II Johnston talks about the working conditions for workers before the 1911 furniture workers strike and the strike itself.

In Part III Johnston addresses how the political elites responded to the 1911 furniture workers strike and how that impact local politics to this day.

In Part IV Johnston talks about the labor press history in Grand Rapids and the commercial paper’s reporting on the furniture workers strike of 1911.

In Part V Johnston talks about any efforts to organize farm workers in West Michigan.

In Part VI Johnston speaks about more recent labor run publications and labor run print shops.

In Part VII Johnston talks about why it is important to understand this history and what it can mean for anyone doing organizing work today.

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