820fb2d7-76ec-47a6-a9fb-897bfc2a8cbeANSWER TO QUIZ IN AUG. 2017 NEWSLETTER:

Frank J. Weber (August 7, 1849 – February 4, 1942) was well-known and effective as both a labor leader and Wisconsin politician.

After leaving school, he completed an apprenticeship and became an able seaman working on ships that sailed the Great Lakes and Atlantic Ocean.  In 1869, he joined the Lake Seamen’s Union and soon became active in the Knights of Labor.  Weber helped to organize the Milwaukee Federated Trades Council in 1887, becoming its secretary in 1902, holding the position until in retirement in 1934.  He was effective as a labor organizer and in 1888 organized the ship cargo handlers (later the International Longshoreman’s Union) and the Carpenters’ Union in Milwaukee.

He became the first president of the Wisconsin State Federation of Labor in 1893, refusing to accept the title of President, preferring to be known as General Organizer.  He held the office until 1917, during which time he sought to align the state unions with the goals and principles of the Social Democratic Party.

His political career was also notable, having served five nonconsecutive terms from 1906 to 1926 as a State Assemblyman from Milwaukee, helping to pass a number of progressive laws.  He was instrumental in putting together a coalition of Socialists and members of the Republican Progressives of Robert LaFollette to pass legislation developed with John R. Commons of the University of Wisconsin to establish the Wisconsin Industrial Commission, the nation’s first lasting workmen’s compensation law, a state system of vocational education and other actions that favored working families.

In his retirement, he continued to lobby for labor.  At his death in 1943, he was known as “the grand old man of Wisconsin labor.”

  • By Ken Germanson
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