New Bakers Union T-shirt tells history of union label

PORTLAND, OR -- Bakers Union Local 114 of Portland is selling T-shirts with the emblem of its union label emblazoned on the front. With each sale comes a written history of the label. Proceeds from sales go to the union's political action committee.

The history of the emblem is an interesting one, dating back more than 400 years.

Solyman, The Magnificent, one of the most formidable of the Ottoman sultans of Austria in 1529, had taken control of Asia Minor, Greece, Rhodes and the Balkan peninsula. Only the fortified city of Vienna stood in his path of conquest. By September 1529, his army was laying siege to the city.

The badly outnumbered defenders prepared to meet the attack. Alongside the soldiers and the militia, the craftsmen took their places. In a cellar near the bastions a few members of the Bakers Guild busily baked bread. Their swords lay nearby, for theirs was the double task of feeding and defending the city.

To conquer the city, Solyman had to breach the walls. To do this, the bakers and others suspected that the Turks would try to tunnel beneath the walls. So the bakers placed drums with pebbles on them and basins of water on the ground and watched and listened for sounds of digging.

Sure enough, the Turks were tunneling. Wherever the bakers discovered that they were trying to put explosives in walls, they called for soldiers and began digging to get to the tunnel before the invaders set off the charges.

Thanks to the Bakers Guild of Vienna, most of the tunnels were discovered before explosives had time to do any damage. The wall was mined several times, but the defenders, forewarned of the exact location of each mine, were able to repel the attacks and the city held.

Soon after the invaders withdrew, King Ferdinand awarded a silver cup to the Guild for its services during the siege. A coat of arms -- what the Bakers now call the union label -- was engraved on the cup and Guild was granted the high honor of joining the Mardi Gras procession in the city each Easter season.

The coat of arms was prominently displayed in each procession and it became the symbol of the quality products produced by members of the Guild.

To perpetuate the skill of their craft, the Austrian bakers of early America used the coat of arms emblem, too. It soon became a label of quality and was adopted as the official emblem of Local 2 in Newark, N.J.

When the Bakers International Union was established in 1886, one of the first official acts was to find a union label. Encouraged by the success of the Local 2 emblem, the international union obtained rights for all locals to use it on their products. Today, all products produced by members of the Bakers and Confectionery Workers International Union may bear the emblem awarded to Austrian bakers in 1529.

The label is registered and protected by legislation against misuse or forgery.

T-shirts are $10, $11 and $12 depending on size.To order call (503) 234-0518 or drop by Local 114's office at 901 SE Oak St., Portland, Suite 104.


April 3, 1998 issue

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