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This Week in Labor History Dec 6 – 12

Created on Thursday, 30 November 2017 Last Updated on Thursday, 30 November 2017 Published Date

"What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures," -Samuel Gompers, Legendary American Labor Leader, CMIU, AFL co-founder

Wednesday, Dec 6:

The trial of the Chicago Haymarket Martyrs (8-hour day activists) begins. When the Illinois Supreme Court rejects the appeal, George Bernard Shaw wrote - "If the world must lose 8 of its people, it can better afford to lose the 8 members of the Illinois Supreme Court." -1889

Labor activist Rose Pesotta died on this date. Pesotta was the only woman on the General Executive Board of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers (ILGWU) from 1933-1944. She engaged in a 10-year fight to organize women workers, running up against the opposition of Communists. Her face was lacerated by a pro-capitalist during a strike in 1937 with a razor. -1965

Thursday, Dec 7:

Steam boiler operators from 11 cities across the country meet in Chicago to form the National Union of Steam Engineers of America, the forerunner to the Int’l Union of Operating Engineers. -1896

Delegates to the founding convention of the National Nurses United (NNU) in Phoenix, Ariz., unanimously endorse the creation of the largest Union of registered nurses in U.S. history. The 150,000-member Union is the product of a merger of 3 groups. -2009

Friday, Dec 8:

25 Unions found the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in Columbus, Ohio; Samuel Gompers elected president. The AFL’s founding preamble reads: “A struggle is going on in all of the civilized world between oppressors and oppressed of all countries, between capitalist and laborer...” -1886

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is signed by Clinton (the original bill had been signed by George H.W. Bush the previous year, 1992). The world's largest corporations and the Free Market Capitalists promised it would create hundreds of thousands of new high-wage U.S. jobs, and raise living standards in the all promises made by Free Market proponents it was a lie, the exact opposite happened. -1993

Saturday, Dec 9:

The Knights of Labor was founded on this date, open to all members of the producing classes except “parasites” like “stockbrokers and lawyers”. The Knights were one of the most important labor organizations of the late 1800's. While other Unions were fighting for a 10-hour work day, the Knights were demanding an 8-hour day, as well as an end to child and convict labor. They were also one of the earliest labor organizations to accept minorities and women. -1869
Robert H W Welch Jr, Fred C Koch and 10 other men formed the “anti-Communist”, anti-Union, anti-Government, anti-Democracy, ultra-radical-right-wing-fascist, John Birch Society. After accusing President Eisenhower of being a “tool of the Communists” and taking a Fascist turn most Conservatives and Republicans, including William F Buckley and Barry Goldwater publicly denounced the fringe organization. -1958

Sunday, Dec 10:

August Spies born; one of the Haymarket Martyrs, labor legend, 8-hour day advocate, victim of anti-worker repression, murdered by the state on behalf of the corporate interest. -1865

The IWW launched the first sit-down strike in U.S. history at a General Electric plant in Schenectady, New York. Their method was later adopted by the labor movement in the 1930s, with the Flint Sit-Down Strike being the most well-known. -1906

Monday, Dec 11:

10 days after a corporate-friendly Illinois State mine inspector approved coal dust removal techniques at New Orient mine in West Frankfort, the mine exploded, because of coal dust accumulations, killing 119 workers. -1951

Joining the march to crush Unions Michigan becomes the 24th state to pass “right-to-work” legislation without public support. The Republican Senate introduced 2 measures by surprise 5 days earlier and immediately voted their passage; the Republican House approved them 5 days later (the fastest it legally could) and the Republican Governor immediately signed both bills. Today Michigan has a $454 million deficit, a shrinking middle class and low pay for it's workers. -2012

Tuesday, Dec 12:

Emma Goldman speaks on "Will the Vote Free Woman: Woman Suffrage" to an audience of 300 women. A collection is taken for Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, recently sentenced to a 3-month prison term resulting from her arrest for defending the Bill of Rights during an IWW free-speech battle in Spokane, Washington. -1909

Women members of United Steelworkers of America (Local 1066) protest sex discrimination, in Gary, Indiana. -1973

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





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