Labor History

October 26
After eight years and at least 1,000 worker deaths—mostly Irish immigrants—the 350-mile Erie Canal opens, linking the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. Father John Raho wrote to his bishop that “so many die that there is hardly any time to give Extreme Unction (last rites) to everybody. We run night and day to assist the sick.” – 1825

October 27
The New York City subway, the first rapid-transit system in America, opens. More than 100 workers died during the construction of the first 13 miles of tunnels and track – 1904
(Survival of the Fittest: Thanks to unions, construction jobs don’t cost lives the way they used to.  If you’d like to know more about construction unions, especially if you’re considering a career in the trades, read this book.  In clear, easy-to-read language it explains how to be successful in the trades and, directly linked to that success, how to make union construction thrive and prosper.)

Three strikes on works-relief projects in Maryland were underway today, with charges that Depression-era Works Projects Administration jobs were paying only about 28 cents an hour—far less than was possible on direct relief.  Civic officials in Cumberland, where authorities had established a 50-cent-per-hour minimum wage, supported the strikers – 1935

The National Labor Council is formed in Cincinnati to unite Black workers in the struggle for full economic, political and social equality. The group was to function for five years before disbanding, having forced many AFL and CIO unions to adopt non-discrimination policies – 1951

October 28
Union organizer and anarchist Luisa Capetillo is born in Ariecibo, Puerto Rico.  She organized tobacco and other agricultural workers in Puerto Rico and later in New York and Florida. In 1916 she led a successful sugar cane strike of more than 40,000 workers on the island.  She demanded that her union endorse voting rights for women.  In 1919, three years before her death, she was arrested for wearing pants in public, the first woman in Puerto Rico to do so.  The charges were dropped – 1879

The St. Louis Gateway Arch is completed after two and one-half years. Originally sold as a jobs program for thousands of African Americans in St. Louis suffering from the Depression, the 630-foot high arch of stainless steel marks the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the waterfront of St. Louis, Mo. Although it was predicted 13 lives would be lost in construction, not a single worker died – 1965

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