Two events, one experience

HOUGHTON – Two universities and two academic conferences are joining forces in Houghton and Hancock this weekend to consider issues key to the Copper Country’s history: the 1913-14 Western Federation of Miners labor strike, and migrant Finns’ role in labor relations.

The conferences are timed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the 1913-14 strike, with April 13th marking the end of the historic work stoppage.

Retrospection and Respect: 1913-1914 Mining/Labor Strike Symposium of 2014 is organized by Michigan Technological University, and was planned largely to commemorate the strike, according to organizer Beth Russell of the Michigan Tech University Archives.

FinnForum X is an annual meeting of researchers from around the world who investigate Northern European migration to the U.S. This year’s FinnForum theme is Work, Workers, and the Finn Factor in 20th Century Labor Relations. Finlandia University is handling many of the details of this side of the event, though Finlandia’s Jim Kurtti, director of the Finnish American Heritage Center, credited Tech Professor Gary Kaunonen with bringing the event to the Keweenaw for the first time.

“He thought it would be important to have a forum that coincided with the strike and the Italian Hall tragedy,” Kuurti said. “After conversations with Finland we decided to go with April, and the wrap up of the strike that ended April 1914.”

Russell said Kaunonen had noted it could be difficult to draw academics to a single conference, but that combining events might create a bigger draw. The strategy seems to have worked, she said, noting that as of Wednesday nearly 100 people had registered for either the speaker series or the keynote dinner.

“We have people coming from the U.K., Finland, Croatia, Canada and all over the U.S.,” she noted.

Russell said she’s looking forward to presentations on a wide variety of topics.

“It’s not just the 1913 strike, but they do have to be involved with labor,” she said. “We’ve got some things with songs and images, individual people involved with the labor movement, roles of women in the strike, some ethnicity presentations. It’s a good lineup, and I’m really excited to attend the sessions and see what people have.”

Exhibits at Michigan Tech’s J. Robert Van Pelt and Opie Library and the Finnish American Historical Archives’ reading room open today, and the film “To My Son in Spain: Finnish Canadians in the Spanish Civil War” will be screened at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Finnish American Heritage Center, with filmmaker Saku Pinta on hand to answer questions.

Friday, there will be a guided trolley tour of historic points of interest, leaving from the Finnish American Heritage Center at 1 p.m., and an opening reception at the Heritage Center at 6 p.m.

Saturday events will begin at 8:30 a.m. with breakfast and welcome notes from Michigan Tech’s Susan Martin, at the Tech library. Presentations and discussions run from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Tech’s Fisher Hall. The Keynote dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Finnish American Heritage Center, with a performance by The 1913 Singers and a keynote speech by Arnold Alanen.

While the conference is largely academic, exhibits, presentations and events will be open to the registered public. Registration for the speaker series is $30, and the cost for the keynote dinner is $25. To register, email Russell at copper@mtu.edu, call 906-487-2505, or show up at the 8:30 a.m. breakfast Saturday at the Tech library.

More information and a full schedule of events is at digitalcommons.mtu.edu/copperstrikesymposium.