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The Tunnel & Shrine


The Tunnel & Shrine


Location Details

ADDRESS: Constitution Blvd & Franklin Ave
Aliquippa, PA 15001


It was built in 1910 to provide a passageway under the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad tracks into the J&L Steel Company’s Aliquippa Works. Nearly three decades later, the Tunnel became a direct link to history. Employing some 15,000 workers, the J&L mill was a force to be reckoned with, and the days of reckoning started on May 12, 1937. Just a month earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employers must bargain in good faith with union representatives. The verdict was hailed as “the greatest legal victory in American working class history.”

Immediately following the decision, negotiations between the Steel Workers’ Organizing Committee (SWOC) and J&L began in earnest, but a resolution was nowhere in sight. On the night of May 12, 1937, the union voted to strike — and the Tunnel quickly became the staging ground. By the 11 p.m. shift change, thousands of workers had gathered in and around the Tunnel. As May 13 dawned, only a few hundred workers remained in the mill. The rank and file, including many women workers, were still holding the line in the Tunnel. The possibility of serious violence was imminent.

News of the strike spread. On May 14, Pennsylvania Governor George Earle arrived on the scene. After touring the Aliquippa Works, he urged the parties to negotiate a peaceful settlement. Later that day, J&L agreed to recognize union elections, and a new contract was signed.

Although life and work along the Ohio River no longer revolve around the J&L Aliquippa Works, the Tunnel still stands as a passageway to the past.

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