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City Desk

This Week in Labor History - Oct 11 - 17


“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” -Upton Sinclair, Iconic American Author, Journalist, Social Justice Activist, Pulitzer Prize winner


 Wednesday, Oct 11:


The Miners’ National Association was founded in Youngstown, Ohio, with the goal of uniting all miners, regardless of skill or ethnicity, echoing the Knights of Labor and presaging the IWW. -1873


1,500 plantation workers strike Olaa Sugar, on Hawaii’s Big Island. They struck for better pay, safer working conditions, and better hours. -1948


Thursday, Oct 12:


Also known as “Miners Day,” October 12 commemorates the 14 miners who were murdered in the “Virden Riot” when miners were shot by mine guards attempting to bring in strikebreakers. The Strike was in response to mine owners’ refusal to accept the 8-hour day, offer raises, abolish the company store and recognize the United Mine Workers Union. -1898


14 striking miners murdered, 22 wounded by “scab herders” who were protecting company profits in Pana, Illinois. The miners were striking for safer working conditions and better pay. -1902


Friday, Oct 13:


The AFL votes to boycott all German-made products as a protest against Nazi antagonism to organized labor within Germany. On May 2nd, 1933 Hitler declared all Unions illegal and ordered police to occupy all Union headquarters and arrest every Union official and leader, many never to be seen again. Fascists have historically been anti-Union because Unions give the people power and promote Democracy. -1934


More than 1,100 office workers strike Columbia University in New York City. The mostly female and minority workers win Union recognition and pay increases. -1985



Saturday, Oct 14:


New York City cigar makers strike against pay cuts and restrictive factory rules this fall. Despite community support, the strike is lost in January. As a leader of the strike, future co-founder of the AFL, Samuel Gompers is blacklisted and unable to find work for four months, a strain on his family which included four children with one on the way. -1877


2-day founding congress of the International Working People's Association, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Marks the beginning of the “radical” trade Union movement in the US. -1883


Sunday, Oct 15:


President Woodrow Wilson signs the Clayton Antitrust Act, often referred to as "Labor’s Magna Carta", establishing that Unions are not "conspiracies" under the law. It for the first time freed Unions to strike, picket and boycott bad employers. In the years that followed numerous state anti-worker measures and negative court interpretations weakened the law. -1914


Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Free Speech fight in Fresno, California. During the free speech fights, the I.W.W. called members from across the country to “defend the Bill of Rights”. Members were arrested for reading the US constitution in public until the jails were full. The Wobblies sang nonstop in jail. When they refused to stop, jailers turned fire hoses on the prisoners but they kept singing. These nonviolent battles waged by the workers breathed life into the First Amendment and forced political elites onto the defensive by winning the right to Free Speech for all Americans. -1915


Monday, Oct 16:


Abolitionist John Brown leads 18 men, including five free blacks, in an attack on the Harper's Ferry ammunition depot, the beginning of guerrilla warfare against slavery. -1859


Millions struck on International McStrike Day for fair wages. Worldwide fast food worker's  strike that targeted the largest chains, including Yum! Brand Inc.’s Taco Bell, KFC, Subway and Burger King Worldwide Inc., “What the workers are trying to do is hold the corporations accountable,” Mary Kay Henry, SEIU. -2002


Tuesday, Oct 17:


Albert Einstein arrives in the U.S.A. as a war refugee. The theoretical physicist co-founded AFT Local 552. Einstein said, "I consider it important, indeed urgently necessary, for workers to get together, both to protect their own economic status secure their influence in the political field." -1933

 "Salt of the Earth" strike begins in Silver City, New Mexico. On this date Local 890 chapter of the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers decided to strike, demanding an end to discriminatory working conditions and the dual wage system of two-tiered pay, different for Mexican American workers as compared to white workers. Strikers' wives "man" and walk picket lines for 7 months during the 14-month strike. -1950


This Week in Labor History is compiled by Kevin D. Curtis



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