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This Week in Labor History (July 11 – 17):


“The only effective answer to organized greed is organized labor.” -Thomas R. Donahue, AFL-CIO

Wednesday, July 11:

Striking coal miners in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, dynamite barracks housing Pinkerton management. National Guard and Federal troops are called out and martial law established on the 13th to protect company profits, low pay, deadly working conditions, and end the strike. -1892

First day of "Deportation" of IWW Union Miners by vigilantes from Bisbee Arizona, to the desert without food or water. Union miners and some bystanders were rounded up, beaten and illegally deported in order to protect company profits, low wages and deadly working conditions. -1917


Thursday, July 12:

State militia moves in to break a 12-day Labor strike against Carnegie Steel Corp. Strikers, protesting wage cuts of 26%, 7 workers were murdered by Pinkerton ("Pinks") detectives who were there to protect scabs, low wages, deadly working conditions and company profits. -1892

The final day of the vigilante deportation of striking mineworkers at Bisbee, Arizona. Authorities sealed off the county and seized the local Western Union telegraph office to cut off outside communication, several thousand armed vigilantes rounded up 1,186 IWW Union members. The Miners were herded into manure-laden boxcars and dumped in the New Mexico desert. Company-hired thugs attempted to kidnap and deport IWW member Jim Brew who fought back and was shot and killed. (IWW, we never forget)  -1917


Friday, July 13:

Nurses' local 1199 go on strike in Seattle, Washington. -1989

Detroit newspaper workers begin a 19-month strike against Gannett, Knight-Ridder. The strike was to become a lockout, which lasted 4 years. -1995


Saturday, July 14:

The “Great Uprising” nationwide railway strike begins in Martinsburg, W.Va., after railroad workers are hit with their second pay cut in a year, even while profits were high. In the following days, the strike spread through 17 states. The next week, Federal troops were called out to force the workers back to work and end the strike.  -1877

American Icon, champion of the working class, singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie born. Guthrie wrote thousands of songs including "This Land is Your Land" and "Union Maid” and “Old Man Trump” a song about how Donald Trump's father, Fred Trump, who used greed and racism to build his massive fortune. -1912


Sunday, July 15:

50,000 lumberjacks strike for the 8-hour day in the Pacific Northwest, led by IWW and AFL. -1917

Butte Montana: Start of the longest strike in Butte’s history (by Butte Miner’s Union #1) lasts eight and a half months.  -1967

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Monday, July 16:

During the Great Upheaval of 1877 (a General Strike that started in West Virginia, halted the railroads and spread across the U.S.) workers clash with police, militia and federal troops resulting in large riots. In Chicago, federal troops (recently returned from an Indian massacre) murdered 30 unarmed workers and wounded over 100. The U.S. was in a major depression following years of greed, corruption and wealth accumulation by a group of young Capitalists that included J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Leland Stanford and John Rockefeller. There were few successful Unions in those days and none were sanctioned by the government, making them all illegal. -1877

Butte Montana: Open pit mining resumes with 188 non-Union workers offering profit sharing instead of a Unionized workforce. Profit sharing encourages employees to join the company in lobbying against all environmental regulations, any tax increases, or anything that would affect the company profits including hiring more employees. -1986


Tuesday, July 17:

Beginning of Seattle’s Potlatch Riots in which soldiers and sailors attacked members of the IWW.  Alden Blethen, publisher of the “Seattle Times,” who was anti-Free Speech claimed “radical elements” had been fanning the flames of the workers and must be stopped. He was highly critical of liberal Mayor Cotterill for allowing IWW Union organizers to speak in public. Blethen’s open red-baiting incited violence, soldiers and sailors ransacked the IWW Union headquarters. The attacks were part of an attempt to suppress free speech and labor organizing and were a harbinger of the nationwide red-scare leading up to and during World War I. -1913

The Justice Department instructs its attorneys and special agents to keep tabs on IWW Union members, ascertain their plans, sources of income, and find any data that might link them to pro-German activity. No incriminating evidence was ever found. -1917


Wednesday, July 18:

Butte Montana: Frank Little - a frail, small, one-eyed former miner nursing a recently broken leg, rides into town. Looks were deceiving, for Little was a fiery Union organizer who would inspire his fellow men and infuse the striking Butte miners with the passion of the IWW. The mine owners will soon have him brutally murdered to protect their profits, low wages and deadly working conditions. Copper prices and company profits were extremely high because of the war while miner's wages had not gone up at all since the late 1800's. -1917


Hospital workers win 113-day Union recognition strike in Charleston, S.C. -1969

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


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