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City Desk

This Week in Labor History November 25 – December 1


"The risks are given to the unsuspecting consumer and the poor work force. …. The benefits are only for the Corporations, for the money makers." - Cesar Chavez, legendary Labor leader, UFW co-founder, Social Justice Activist

Wednesday, Nov 25:
Amid a strike for Union recognition by 395,000 steelworkers, 250 American workers accused of "Communism" were forcibly deported to Russia during America's first "Red Scare". The Red Scare became an important tool of greedy Capitalists who used peoples fear to crush Union activity and protect profits, low wages and deadly working conditions. -1919

Teachers strike in St. Paul, Minn., the first organized walkout by teachers in the country. The month-long “Strike for Better Schools” involving 1,100 teachers and principals, led to a number of reforms in the way schools were administered and operated. -1946

Thursday, Nov 26:

4 months before the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, a sweatshop in Newark, New Jersey, catches fire, killing at least 24 women and girls. 6 young women burn to death and 19 more die when they leap from the fourth-story windows. The fire made national news and more than 100,000 people flocked to the scene the next day. The only door from which the women could flee was locked for the sake of profits. A coroner’s jury a month later deemed the fire the result of human error: “They died from misadventure and accident.” -1910

Death of Paul Lafargue, French revolutionary Socialist. He wrote the book “The Right to Be Lazy” about the importance and necessity of leisure in 1893 while in prison. -1911

Friday, Nov 27:
In West Virginia, during a UMW coal miners’ strike Governor Cornwell proclaims martial law in Mingo County to protect mine owner profits and interests. -1920 

The pro-labor musical revue, “Pins & Needles,” opens on Broadway with a cast of Int’l Ladies Garment Workers Union members. Rehearsals were held at night and on weekends, and performances were all on Fridays and Saturdays to appease their bosses (i.e., keep their jobs). It ran for 1,108 performances before closing. In 1962, a 25th anniversary edition of the score was released featuring Barbra Streisand. -1937

Saturday, Nov 28:
National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, precursor to IBEW, founded. The IBEW currently represents more than 750,000 members in utilities, construction, telecommunications, broadcasting, manufacturing, railroads and government. Today, the IBEW conducts apprenticeship programs under the auspices of the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC), which allows apprentices to "earn while you learn." -1891

In the wake of years of Free Market outsourcing and downsizing, Bell-Atlantic announced another 5,600 lay-offs. In response, 1,200 employees in Pennsylvania came to work in T-shirts that portrayed themselves as road kill on the information superhighway. Management suspended them all without pay when they refused to remove the shirts. -1994

Sunday, Nov 29: 
Dorothy Day, OblSB (Servant of God), social justice activist, proud IWW member, devout Catholic, ex-communist dies. She established the Catholic Worker Movement, a pacifist movement that continues to combine direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action on their behalf. A proud Wobblie and supporter of Labor she said “My Americanism inclined me to the IWW movement”. (Pope Francis mentioned Dorothy Day 3 separate times during his historic 2015 speech to the U.S. Congress) -1980

Southern California, faculty at Claremont Colleges attempts Union recognition while working with organizers for the I.W.W. (Industrial Workers of the World), fondly known as the "Wobblies" or "Wobs." -2000

Monday, Nov 30:
other Jones died age 100; “I’m not a lady, I’m a hell-raiser!” A founder of the IWW, organizer for the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers. Her rallying cry was famous: "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living." A century ago, Mother Jones was a celebrated organizer and agitator, the very soul of the modern American labor movement. At coal strikes, steel strikes, railroad, textile, and brewery strikes, Mother Jones was always there, stirring the workers to action and enraging the powerful and greedy. Famous for her bravado, when she and 3,000 women were released from jail after being held all night they marched straight to the hotel housing the militia and ate the breakfast set out for the soldiers. -1930 

Union members and activists, protesting corporate greed, shut down World Trade Organization meeting, Seattle, Washington. -1999

Tuesday, Dec 1:
Butte Montana: Rustling card system put in place by the Anaconda Mining and Smelter Company. “Agitators" identified by company spies are refused cards and work. The system was seen as un-American and undemocratic by the workers and marked the end of the closed shop in Butte. Cards were denied to anyone who complained about unsafe conditions, wages or the cards themselves and had tangible chilling effect on all workers. -1912

The Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association (YGDNA) became the first nurses in Ohio to engage in a mass resignation or “strike.” According to the American Nurses Association, it may have been the first concerted action by nurses in a labor dispute in the nation.-1966


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


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