01/20/1986 MPR report: Sending in the National Guard

Austin during the Hormel strike
Austin during the Hormel strike that began 25 years ago.
Mower County Historical Society

REPORTER MIKE MULCAHY: Yes, Gary. Hormel Company officials had originally made the request from the National Guard. But (Gov. Rudy) Perpich had no authority to make his decision until the local authorities had requested it. Here's how he made his announcement.

PERPICH: At the request of Mayor Tom Kough of Austin, who is a member of Local P9, the chief of Police Donald Hoffman, of Austin, and Sheriff Wayne Goodnature of Mower County, I have authorized the Minnesota National Guard to provide assistance to local authorities in Mower County to maintain the peace.

MULCAHY: State Public Safety Commissioner Paul Tschida said the last time something like this happened was in 1959 during a strike at the Wilson Meatpacking Plant in Albert Lea. Tschida says the Guard can only be called in by local officials because of that case's precedent and the Guard can only assist civil authorities. As far as he knows, the Guard doesn't need even have the authority to make an arrest. In fact, the local police will still be the only ones in the city with that power. Tschida says a series of events throughout the day led up to the Governor's decision.

TSCHIDA: They indicated the mounting tension that apparently there were several incidents. Physical violence against someone, I understand was a photographer for the company, who was taken to the hospital after a fracas with some people on the line. According to the officials, there have been some shots fired down there. I'm not sure of the exact circumstances surrounding that and several assaults that have taken place in and around the area.

MULCAHY: At this point it's not clear how soon the Guard will actually arrive in Austin. All Tschida could say is that they will definitely be there tomorrow. Also, unknown is how many Guardsmen will be needed at the Hormel plant. Both the governor and Tschida stress that local authorities will remain in control and that when they decide the peace has bee restored, the Guard will leave.

Tschida says he will remain in contact with the commanders on the scene and adds that the Guardsmen will not be armed. Again, he stresses civil authorities will remain in control of the situation in Austin and the Guard will pitch in where needed. He says the militia will not be guarding the Hormel plant but their duty there is to assist the local authorities in keeping the peace in Austin. And from the Capitol, that's about all we know.

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