Art at the Library - September 2012
Struggles of the World's Workers
As depicted in posters from the collection of Stephen Lewis
(This exhibit ends Friday afternoon, Sept 27th)


This poster exhibit from the collection of Stephen Lewis reflects the history of the struggles of workers from across the globe - their struggle to keep the full value of their work, to receive adequate benefits and to maintain good and safe working conditions. Part of the story includes the repression that workers face when they try to improve their work lives.

Several posters make reference to the internationally recognized May Day. May Day posters in this exhibit come from Brazil, Spain, Pakistan, the Netherlands and Bangladesh. Note Marx and Lenin, the author and the leader of the Russian revolution, in one of the posters. These posters were produced by Salsedo Press of Chicago, a city where May Day originated as a worker’s day. Chicago is also represented by the poster from the Chicago Federation of Labor. It is ironic that May Day is not officially recognized in the United States as a workers' holiday.

A couple of the posters in this collection are from the early days of the Russian Revolution when Russian workers chose to improve the conditions of their lives. Some of the earliest worker organizations were born in the Netherlands; the Diamond Cutters Guild was one of the first. Posters reflect the period of the late 1800’s and the class consciousness of the workers in the Netherlands at that time.Posters from India, Belgium, Canada, Guatemala, Brazil, Nepal, Australia, France and Thailand reflect the universality of the struggles that workers have faced over the years and continue to face.

Posters reference health and safety on the job, plant closings, repression, equal pay, full rights for women, decent wages and neoliberalism. Many different industries are reflected in the posters - agriculture, skilled trades and the service sector. Posters represent both industrialized nations and third world countries. Some messages encourage workers to join unions, form committees, lobby legislators and work with allies like community groups and health and safety organizations. They suggest that workers initiate letter writing campaigns, withhold their labor by going on strike, occupy the places where they work and demonstrate.

Placards next to the posters in this exhibit give the main identification, the country where the poster was produced, the organization it was produced for, translations to English (where necessary), the name of the artist (where known) and the date created (where known).

These posters are from Stephen Lewis' collection of more than 3800 posters. He is a long-time activist in the labor movement and is currently the Treasurer of his union, the Service Employees International Union Local 509. Stephen has exhibited at a number of public libraries in Massachusetts and at two State Heritage Parks. He can be reached by email at lewisposters@gmail.com . Posters were contributed by friends, collected at conferences and visits to some of the organizations, and from connections made through the internet.