Two big labor strikes in 1967 added to the city’s emotional tension and economic stress.
Lead by Plumbers Union Local 167 and the Sheetmetal Production Workers Local 565, six of the Madison Building and Construction Trades Unions went on strike on April 1, 1967, shutting down $120 million in new construction in the city and county for 62 days. In addition to setting back construction on the Monona Causeway, the Elvehjem Art Center, and other campus projects, the strike delayed opening of John Muir Elementary School, forcing the school board to rent classroom space from a nearby parochial school, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church. The head of the Trades Union council was blustery south side Ald. Harold E. “Babe’ Rohr.
In March, Teamsters Local 695 took the drivers and mechanics of the Madison Bus Co., away from the Amalgamated Transportation Workers Union; on September 20, the union took the 120 employees out on a strike that shut down all mass transit for sixty-three days. Again, the strike was particularly hard on the Board of Education, which had to scramble to find enough non-union drivers to convey the children –particularly galling to veteran school board member Ray Huegel, a member of the bus company board of directors. The union wanted 47 cents an hour over two years, the company offered 27 over three years. On November 1, they announced an agreement for 40 cents over two years—but before the company would put the drivers back to work, Madisonians had to donate $65,000 to help maintain the company’s profit margin with the higher personnel costs. With about $25,000 contributed after ten days of this early Kickstarter campaign, mediator Nathan Feinsinger got the company to resume operations.