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

Wednesday, Oct 4:

Louisiana sugar workers strike, 37 peaceful strikers are murdered. Louisiana Militia, aided by bands of "prominent citizens," shot unarmed black sugar workers striking to gain a dollar-per-day wage, and lynched two strike leaders in order to protect company profits and greed. -1887

 

President Truman ordered the U.S. Navy to seize oil refineries, breaking a 20-state post-war strike. Men returning from the war were demanding fair wages and were unionizing at levels never seen before. -1945

 

Thursday, Oct 5:

The UAW ended a 3-week strike against Ford Motor Co. when the company agreed to a contract that included more vacation days and better retirement and unemployment benefits. -1976

 

Polish Solidarity Union founder Lech Walesa won the Nobel Peace Prize. The union movement was the leading force that brought down Communist rule in Poland. -1983

 

Friday, Oct 6:

First national conference of Trade Union Women. -1918

 

1,700 female flight attendants win 18-year, $37 million suit against United Airlines. They had been fired for getting married. Flight attendants formed a union to fight discriminatory policies. They succeeded in changing policies such as forced retirement at age 32, sexual harassment, and unofficial "girdle checks." They also fought to increase airline safety and promote improvements for both passengers and workers. -1986

 

Saturday, Oct 7:

Labor organizer and songwriter Joe Hill was born in Gavle, Sweden. Hill was an organizer for the IWW. He was arrested and convicted on false charges and executed by a firing squad in Utah, his real “crime” was organizing the workers. His famous last words were “Don’t mourn. Organize!” Some of Hill’s most famous songs were “The Preacher and the Slaver”, “Rebel Girl” and “There is Power in the Union”. Joe Hill coined the term “pie in the sky” first using it in his song “The Preacher and the Slave”. -1879

 

Under the leadership of John L. Lewis the United Mine Workers withdrew from the CIO. The UMWA’s efforts through the first half of the 20th century made American miners among the best-paid and best-insured miners in the world. -1942

 

Sunday, Oct 8:

A nationwide General Strike was called to demand the release of Tom Mooney and amnesty for all other political prisoners. Mooney was a labor organizer who was falsely convicted of the fatal Preparedness Day bombing to the benefit of the corporate interest. -1919

 

Poland: The union Solidarność (Solidarity) and all other democratic labor organizations are banned by the Communist government. The labor unions would later lead the way in crushing Communism in Poland and bringing democracy to the people using worker solidarity. -1982

 

Monday, Oct 9:

During a lettuce strike in Salinas, California, red flags appeared around town, specifically at intersections and on power poles. Fearing a “Communists uprising”, the local authorities took down the flags, only to discover later that they were "part of a traffic check being made by the state highway division." (The red flag was first used as the symbol of the working class when over 10,000 workers and coal miners marched under red flags during the 1831 Merthyr Rising in South Wales. Red flags were also proudly flown by American Union miners in Butte Montana at the head of Frank Little's funeral procession in 1917. Right-wing red-baiters have falsely equated red flags with Communism since the early 1900s in order to use fear and paranoia as a tool against workers uniting). -1936

 

3,300 sanitation workers working for private haulers in Chicago win a 9-day strike featuring a 28-percent wage increase over 5 years. -2003

 

Tuesday, Oct 10:

IWW strike in Little Falls, New York. Longtime residents struck against a giant, foreign-owned corporation. Numerous strikers were beaten into unconsciousness. Over 2000 female textile workers went on strike under the banner of the Industrial Workers of the World, attracting national attention and winning a significant victory for all women in the workplace. -1912

 

20,000 cotton pickers in southern California’s San Joaquin Valley went on strike 6 days earlier over wages, working conditions, and union recognition. Striking workers who had assembled at their union’s office to hear an organizer speak were shot by greedy growers who drove up in their pickup trucks. 2 workers were murdered and 8 injured. 8 growers were indicted, but all were acquitted. -1933

 

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