History of the Packinghouse Worker

Title:  History of the Packinghouse Worker

Site:  4859 S. Wabash Avenue, Chicago

Artist:  William Walker

Sponsors:  Chicago Public Art Group

Year:  1974, restored 1998

Scale:  17 x 66 feet and 14 x 16.5 feet

Materials: Acrylic on masonry

Information:  Chicago, “hog butcher to the world,” has little public art dealing with its rich legacy of workers’ movements. This artwork, among the nation’s most powerful labor murals, depicts the history of the Amalgamated Meatcutters and Butchers Workmen Union. Painted on the former site of the union’s Local office, the right side of the mural shows monumental workmen of all races going about their slaughterhouse jobs with a quiet dignity; the left side shows union representatives and workers confronting bosses, demanding a union contract. The scene takes place on a chessboard, a recurrent Walker motif for representing competing social forces.

Influenced by Diego Rivera’s classical style of composition, it’s a complex, compartmentalized work filled with incident and detail. Almost lost to Chicago’s harsh weather, in 1998 the Chicago Housing Authority’s Hayes Family Investment Center commissioned CPAG artist Bernard Williams to restore the work.