Labor History

Labor Quote of the Day: William “Big Bill” Haywood
“If the workers are organized, all they have to do is to put their hands in their pockets and they have got the capitalist class whipped.”

October 16
Queen Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI, is beheaded during the French Revolution.   When alerted that the peasants were suffering due to widespread bread shortages, lore has it that she replied, “Let them eat cake.”  In fact she never said that, but workers were, justifiably, ready to believe anything bad about their cold-hearted royalty – 1793

Abolitionist John Brown leads 18 men, including five free Blacks, in an attack on the Harper’s Ferry ammunition depot, the beginning of guerilla warfare against slavery – 1859

October 17
A huge vat ruptures at a London brewery, setting off a domino effect of similar ruptures, and what was to become known as The London Beer Flood.  Nearly 1.5 million liters of beer gushed into the streets drowning or otherwise causing the deaths of eight people, mostly poor people living in nearby basements – 1814

Labor activist Warren Billings is released from California’s Folsom Prison. Along with Thomas J. Mooney, Billings had been pardoned for a 1916 conviction stemming from a bomb explosion during a San Francisco Preparedness Day parade. He had always maintained his innocence – 1939

“Salt of the Earth” strike begins by the mostly Mexican-American members of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union Local 890 in Bayard, N.M. Strikers’ wives walked picket lines for seven months when their husbands were enjoined during the 14-month strike against the New Jersey Zinc Co. A great movie, see it! – 1950
(Working Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds, and Riffraff: An Expanded Guide to Films About Labor: This wonderful book is an encyclopedic guide to 350 labor films from around the world, ranging from those you’ve heard of—Salt of the Earth, The Grapes of Wrath, Roger & Me—to those you’ve never heard of but will fall in love with once you see them.)

Twelve New York City firefighters die fighting a blaze in midtown Manhattan – 1966

Int’l Printing Pressmen’s & Assistants’ Union of North America merges with Int’l Stereotypers’, Electrotypers’ & Platemakers’ Union to become Printing & Graphic Communications Union – 1973

Industrial Union of Marine & Shipbuilding Workers of America merges with Int’l Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers – 1988

October 18
The “Shoemakers of Boston”—the first labor organization in what would later become the United States—was authorized by the Massachusetts Bay Colony – 1648

New York City agrees to pay women school teachers a rate equal to that of men – 1911

IWW Colorado Mine strike; first time all coal fields are out – 1927

Some 58,000 Chrysler Corp. workers strike for wage increases – 1939

The United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) was formed as a self-governing union, an outgrowth of the CIO’s Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee. UPWA merged with the Meatcutters union in 1968, which merged with the Retail Clerks in 1979 to form the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) – 1943

GM agrees to hire more women and minorities for five years as part of a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – 1983
(Sisters in the Brotherhoods: Working Women Organizing for Equality: Many blue-collar arenas remain contested terrain for females. Women still struggle to get training, to get jobs, and to secure a harassment-free workplace. Despite the efforts of the pioneering generation, females still enter these jobs one by one and two by two and only against great odds do they remain there. These oral histories explore the achievements of the women who made history simply by going to work every day.)

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