LER is proud to be the new home for a statue of Reuben G. Soderstrom, who served as President of the Illinois State Federation of Labor and Illinois AFL-CIO from 1930 – 1970. The statue is placed in the new Soderstrom Plaza behind the School.
At the age of ten, Reuben worked for a blacksmith to help pay family debt. He traveled alone to the mining town of Streator, Illinois, in search of better wages. He labored on the trolley lines and in the glass factories, which proved formative experiences, and chose to devote his life to the labor movement. In 1916, at the age of 28, he was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, where he serviced until 1936. He was a tireless advocate for the state’s progressive labor legislation, the women’s eight-hour workday, the establishment of pensions, and public education for laborers.
After World War II, he helped to found a Labor Institute at the University of Illinois, which became the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations in 1946. The Institute is now known as the School of Labor and Employment Relations. He also played an integral role in securing funding for the LER building, which has stood on campus since 1962. The recent renovations have added approximately 2000 square feet of educational and communal space inside the building, as well as an outdoor plaza.
The statue and plaza are a generous gift from the Soderstrom family, spearheaded by Dr. Carl Soderstrom, Reuben’s grandson. LER also thanks Petry Kuhne Co. for their generous gift of time and work to set the statue in the plaza.
Come visit the School and see the statue and new interior space at our grand re-opening on September 13, 2019. Details will be available soon.