Lombard Historical Society to host ‘Grassroots Democracy: Illinois Labor Journeys’

The Lombard Historical Society will welcome Mike Matejka as he presents “Grassroots Democracy: Illinois Labor Journeys” on Thursday, May 2.

It will begin at 7 p.m. in the Carriage House at 23 W. Maple St. in Lombard. This is a free event, but space is limited. Free tickets are available at

Mike Matejka

Illinois was critical to workers’ finding their democratic voice through labor organization.

From Chicago’s Haymarket Square to southern Illinois coal mines, workers struggled to build unions, create safe work environments, and find a community voice through their united efforts. In building these organizations workers often faced state repression and learned how to organize across ethnic, racial and gender lines.

Workers like the Ottawa IL Radium Girls fearlessly stood up after their occupational exposure doomed them, helping create legislation to protect all workers. Women workers found their own voice and often built alliances with middle class women to ensure their rights.

The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters faced discriminatory unions and built their own organization over a 12-year struggle to ensure representation.

Democracy is not just elections; it is “small d” democracy, too — workers finding their voice through organization and becoming critical community participants and workplace advocates.

Matejka is an author, historian, community activist and retired union representative. He served as the governmental affairs director for the Great Plains Laborers District Council, edited the Grand Prairie Union News for 40 years, and was also elected for 18 years to the Bloomington City Council. As an Illinois Labor History Society vice president, he is knowledgeable on Illinois’ nationally significant labor history. He is a past-president and current board member of the McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington, where he was guest curator for five different exhibits, including two on railroad topics.

Matejka has written for multiple publications and is currently completing an overview book on Illinois labor history.

For more information about this event or the Lombard Historical Society, visit, email, or call (630) 629-1885.

The Lombard Historical Society celebrates the town's heritage by collecting, preserving, and interpreting the history of Lombard and operates the Victorian Cottage Museum, the Carriage House and the Society’s Archives at 23 W. Maple St., and the Sheldon Peck Homestead (a National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site) at 355 E. Parkside Ave. The Sheldon Peck Homestead host activities and groups and are open for tours Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m.

The Victorian Cottage is open for tours Fridays and Saturdays at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. only. The Lilac Emporium Gift Shop is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information about hours, membership, volunteer and donor opportunities, visit, email, or call (630) 629-1885.

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