February 18 - The Royal Indian Navy Revolt

February 18, 2019

On this day in labor history, the year was 1946 is what is known as the Royal Indian Navy Revolt. 

The HMS Talwaar was in Bombay Harbor. Indian workers on ship went on strike.

They refused orders from the British naval officers. 

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February 17 - Yale Grad students strike

February 17, 2019

 A current question is which workers are entitled to union representation?  Who really gets counted as a worker? Who decides wages, hours, and conditions?

These were the questions that divided the campus of Yale University

On this day in labor history, the year was 1992.  

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February 16 — Diamond Mine Disaster

February 16, 2019

On this day in labor history, the year was 1883 marking the deadliest day in Illinois mining history at the time.  74 men and boys lost their lives digging for coal in the Diamond Mine Disaster in Braidwood Illinois.  

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February 15 - US Labor Against the War

February 15, 2019

“We need to spend money on health care, schools, housing--not a war budget.”  This was the statement of Fred Pecker, a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 6,

On this day in labor history, the year was 2003. 

Fred, who was protesting in San Francisco, was just one of the estimated 10 million people in 800 cities across the globe that protested the U.S. War in Iraq that day.  

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February 14 - Jimmy Hoffa is Born

February 13, 2019

On this day in labor history, the year was 1913, James Riddle Hoffa was born to a coal miner in Brazil, Indiana.  Tragedy struck the Hoffa home in 1920 when at age 7 young Jimmy lost his father.  

In 1924, like many families in Brazil the Hoffa family moved to Detroit, Michigan in search of work.  

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February 13 - Writers Guild Take to the Picket Lines

February 13, 2019

If you turned on your T.V. in the winter of 2007-2008, you probably couldn’t find new episodes of your favorite programs. 

That winter some 12,000 writers represented by the Writers Guild of America took to the picket lines holding a 100 day strike.  

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December 14 Socialist Leader Daniel De Leon is Born

December 14, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1852.

That was the day Socialist leader Daniel De Leon was born in Curaçao to Dutch Jewish parents. As a young man, he traveled Europe.

He settled in New York City, and earned a law degree from Columbia University in 1878.

De Leon joined the Socialist Labor Party in 1890 and became the editor of its newspaper, The People. His book, Socialist Landmarks, consisting of a series of lectures, became wildly popular.

These lectures included Reform or Revolution, What Means This Strike?, The Burning Questions of Trade Unionism, and Socialist Reconstruction of Society.

De Leon warned of reforms under capitalism as illusory.

He argued for revolutionary socialism and soon assumed leadership of the SLP. As a former Knights of Labor, he was critical of the American labor movement, often referring to the AFL as the American Separation of Labor for its business unionism and refusal to organize any but the most highly skilled, white craft workers.

De Leon also took a strong stand against racism in the Socialist movement, stating “Why should a truly Socialist organization of whites not take in Negro members, but organize these in separate bodies? On account of outside prejudice?

Then the body is not truly Socialist.” De Leon was among the socialist leaders at the founding 1905 conference of the Industrial Workers of the World.

By 1908, he and others looked to effect social change through the Socialist Party and existing trade union movement.

This put them at odds with the direct action perspective of the IWW.

Many left the IWW at this point, including De Leon and Socialist leader Eugene Debs. When he died in 1914, more than 30,000 turned out for his funeral.

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December 13 Civil Rights Activist Ella Baker is Born

December 13, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1903.

That was the day prominent civil rights activist Ella Baker was born in Norfolk, Virginia.

Her parents moved to Littleton, North Carolina when she was young. She often listened to her grandmother’s stories of slave revolts and of the brutality she endured under slavery.

Ella attended the historically black college, Shaw University, graduating in 1927.

After college, she moved to New York City and worked as a journalist.

Ella was profoundly impacted by the Harlem Renaissance and became an educator for the WPA, teaching African and labor history.

She immersed herself in the activism of the period and worked on the Scottsboro Boys defense campaign.

By 1938, she had joined the NAACP, traveling across the country to direct membership recruitment, fundraising and building of local branches.

In 1952, Ella became the president of New York City’s NAACP chapter, working for desegregation and on police brutality cases.

Baker went to Alabama to help found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference after the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott to organize voter registration drives throughout the South.

From there, she formed and led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Ella trained young, committed Civil Rights activists in a collectivist model of organizing and in participatory democracy.

By 1964, she helped to organize the Mississippi Democratic Freedom Party and its fight to be seated at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.

She was involved in the defense of activist and friend Anne Braden, then targeted by HUAC and later, the Free Angela! Movement in defense of then jailed activist, Angela Davis.

She was instrumental in founding the Third World Women’s Alliance and supported various independence movements throughout the world.

She died on her birthday in 1986.

 

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December 12 Striking Autoworkers Make a Stand

December 12, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1945.

That was the day President Truman appointed a fact-finding panel to investigate the General Motors strike.

As many as 320,000 UAW GM workers had been on strike for nearly three weeks. They had suffered deep wage cuts, deteriorating working conditions and endless contract violations during the war. UAW now demanded 30% wage increases.

But President Truman and GM acted as if it was still wartime.

Truman ordered a 30 day cooling off period to be followed by compulsory arbitration.

Just two days earlier, 10,000 strikers picketed GM, encircling their downtown headquarters for over an hour.

The CIO held an emergency conference, vowing to continue and spread the strike. CIO president Philip Murray took to the radio in defense of the strike.

He noted that corporations had made millions in wartime profits, that wage cuts since V-J Day had been as high as 50% and denounced Congress for burdensome new tax laws.

Murray added that Truman’s proposed “Fact-Finding Act” and other anti-labor laws served “to weaken and ultimately to destroy labor union organizations.”

Bob Carter, chairman of the AC Spark Plug strike committee and chairman of the Greater Flint CIO Council remarked, “I am against arbitration and will oppose the setting up of fact-finding committees.

Anyone acquainted with the labor history of this country knows that those committees are used by political stooges of the corporations to cheat workers out of their just demands.”

The strike ended in partial victory the following March, with strikers winning a 17.5% raise, just over half their original demand.

But UAW members demonstrated their solidarity and their refusal to be cowed into going back to work on the government’s terms.

 

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December 11 Transit Workers Railroaded

December 11, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1918.

That was the day streetcar workers in Kansas City walked off the job.

It was the third strike since August 1917. Workers had previously struck for union recognition and joined the city general strike that Spring.

By summer, the city was so desperate for wartime labor, the transit company began hiring women. Though women faced initial opposition, by fall, the union demanded they receive equal pay for equal work.

The company had been paying them $15 dollars less a month than their male coworkers. The Amalgamated filed charges with the National War Labor Board, demanding a general wage increase and equal wages for women.

The Board quickly ruled in the union’s favor. But Kansas City Railway refused to abide by the decision. On this day, 2675 men and 127 women walked off the job, demanding the company honor the board’s ruling. Instead the company hired scabs.

In the rush to restore service, the company failed to properly train the scab drivers and a number of streetcar crashes reduced the transit company’s fleet by 300 cars. According to Maurine Weiner Greenwald, author of Women, War and Work, the company alleged in the press that the strike was an attack against the entire community.

On the Missouri side, state militia guarded the strikebreakers while U.S. Marshals guarded rail tracks on the Kansas side.

By April 1919, “a federal grand jury indicted union leaders for obstructing a vital industry during wartime,” even though the war had been over for six months!

By May, the strike was lost and the union busted. It would take another 20 years before Kansas City Transit would finally be organized.

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