This Day in Labor History: July 17, 1944. A munitions explosion at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine in Port Chicago, California killed 320 mostly African-American soldiers. Let's talk about black labor in the military and how black lives haven't mattered to the US, then or now.
Is military work part of labor history? It’s not something we usually consider. For one thing, soldiers don’t produce profit for capitalists, although one could broadly argue that the U.S. military serves capitalist goals and soldiers are the capitalists’ shock troops.
That’s more of an ideological argument than a practical one. Soldiers aren’t traditional workers. But they do work. They labor and they get hurt and die on the job. They also have almost no way to protect themselves as workers.
I am impressed by the amount of shock and outrage over Trump's press conference. 1) This was obviously what would happen. 2) Republican voters don't care and won't care. 3) This is now the defined position of the Republican Party. 4) There is no non-Trump Republican Party.
The fact that the Republican Party has embraced anti-democracy based on white supremacy, playing games with court, and international alliances with other right-wing white supremacist leaders isn't the future. It's now. And the past since 2016.
You can be shocked I guess that things have gotten this bad, but this sort of behavior is why Trump ran away with the Republican primary. Republican voters would far rather disfranchise black voters and invite election tampering than lose power.
This Day in Labor History: July 16, 1931. A white mob murdered the black sharecropper organizer Ralph Gray in Tallapoosa County, Alabama. Let's talk about the incredibly brave organizing of black sharecroppers in the Jim Crow South, inspirations for us today.
Ralph Gray was born into a family with a long history of fighting for black rights. His grandfather had served in the Alabama state legislature during Reconstruction. Gray was born in 1873 and had fought against
the terrible oppression that defined his life.
Gray moved to Birmingham for awhile before returning to Tallapoosa in 1895 to get married and become a tenant farmer.
This Day in Labor History: June 15, 1959. The @steelworkers go on strike to protect their victories of the last 20 years against employers' hatred that they ever had to accept unions. Let's talk about this absolutely critical strike for understanding postwar America
Perhaps the most underrated event in American labor history, the steel strike of 1959 touches on many of the key labor issues of the postwar period.
Combining the total number workers and length of the strike, companies lost more employee hours than any other strike in American history. It showed the height of worker power in American labor history on the shop floor and through the contract.
I am reading a speech from Harold Ickes in 1934. And it reminds of precisely how Arthur Schelsinger could ignore Indian Removal in the Age of Jackson. The extent to which New Deal liberals bought into narratives of America straight from Frederick Jackson Turner is remarkable.
The most important thing to understanding how New Deal liberals thought about the past is their vision of hardy European migrants taming a continent. Anything that got in the way of that just wasn't very important to them.
It's pure Turner. The violence of alternative narratives of westward expansion, i.e., Theodore Roosevelt, they didn't have much place for. But like the people of the past, they saw a rugged American populace ready to remake the country.
This Day in Labor History: July 11, 1892. Striking silver miners in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho blew up the Frisco Mill, which held mine guards. Let's talk about the role of violence when workers feel they have no hope--then and now.
Conditions in the northern Idaho mining district were as bad as you’d expect in the 1890s. High number of deaths, endemic poverty, etc. In order to invest in new machinery, the mine owners wanted to cut costs.
Naturally, they chose to make their lives of their workers more hellish. They demanded an increase in the work day from 9 to 10 hours, 7 days a week and with a pay cut on top of it.
This Day in Labor History: July 10, 1986. United Airlines agreed to pay $33 million in restitution and reinstate at least 475 fired flight attendants to compensate for illegally firing them for getting married. Let's talk about the discrimination flight attendants faced.
This was the all-too rare case of women winning compensation for their inherent sexism they faced on the job for essentially all of American history and a sign of what may be an all-too-brief period where finding redress is possible.
From the beginning of commercial airlines, flight attendants dealt with multiple levels of discrimination.
This Day in Labor History: July 9, 1948. The International Labour Organization signed The Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention. The U.S. never ratifies it. Let's talk about international labor standards and how ILO conventions can guide us.
The International Labour Organization came to be in 1919 as a result of the Treaty of Versailles. As the U.S. never ratified that treaty, it did not join the ILO until 1934.
The ILO became significantly more important after World War II as it became closely associated with the United Nations. The UN asked the ILO to create a series of conventions immediately after the war, making the request official in 1947.
This Day in Labor History: June 6, 1924. Members of the Philippine Scouts, a division of Filipino troops in the U.S. Army occupying the Philippines, refused to drill to protest their poor pay and unfair treatment. Let's talk about the labor history of American imperialism.
The Philippine Scouts were a division of troops that joined the U.S. Army in defense of American colonial rule of their nation, land wrested from the Spanish in 1898 and which it then had to crush a independence movement with shocking brutality.
Of all the horrid brutality that defines American history, the nation's near-genocidal politics in conquering the Philippines is one of the least known.
This Day in Labor History: July 5, 1935. President Franklin Roosevelt signs the National Labor Relations Act. Let's talk about this critical moment that allowed unions to succeed--and how it has been totally taken over by employers today.
When Franklin Roosevelt took over the presidency in 1933, the economy was in the worst state in American history. But Roosevelt wanted to help business, not hurt it.
His first New Deal labor legislation was really more a pro-business measure.
This Day in Labor History: July 4, 1892. The People's Party Convention begins in Omaha. Who's ready to spend Independence Day talking about some angry farmers? Let's do this!
The late 19th century was pretty tough for rural people. For farmers in the Midwest, the promise of Republican free labor ideology proved as much of a lie as it had to urban workers.
Free labor ideology was the idea that the nation was grounded in independent white laborers working hard as free producers. That's why many Northerners hated slavery--because it threatened whites. But after the Civil War, monopoly destroyed this idea of free labor.
This Day in Labor History: July 3, 1835. Children employed in Paterson, New Jersey’s textile mills went on strike, demanding an 11 hour day and 6 day week. Let's talk about this little known strike and how the textile industry still exploits the same workers today globally.
The textile factory system that had begun in the late 18th century in New England might have originally attracted a “better class of labor,” with factory owners in Lowell, Massachusetts bringing in young women to work but also to be educated and supervised closely.
But growing competition and immigration combined with greed to undermine those more humane conditions. The Lowell Mill Girl phenomenon was relatively short and by the 1830s, a lot of the textile labor force was immigrants, children, and immigrant children.
This Day In Labor History: July 2, 1964. President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. Let's talk about Title VII of the law and its impact on workers, especially women.
Title VII prohibited discrimination by covered employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, with an exception for members of the Communist Party who employers could continue to discriminate against.
For the first time, non-communist workers had the right to a job regardless of their race and gender. This transformed employment law and the lives of millions of American workers.
This Day in Labor History: June 30, 1983. Workers at the Phelps-Dodge mine in southern Arizona go on strike as the company attempts to cleanse their workplace of unions. Let's talk about this critical moment in the crushing of American unions, a key point for us after Janus.
Of course Janus concerns public sector unions and Phelps-Dodge was a private company, but what the Court did this week is just the latest moment in a decades campaign to roll back union power. The Phelps-Dodge strike was one of the key first moments that has led to today's hell.
The Phelps-Dodge mine in Morenci, Arizona had a long history. Phelps-Dodge and other big mining corporations had operated in the southern Arizona/northern Sonora borderlands for a full century by the 1980s.
I really love films about the left, whether about their victories or their failures. Last night, I watched Oshima's 1960 film Night and Fog in Japan, which is 100 minutes of late 50s Japanese leftists using the occasion of a wedding to denounce each other. I loved it.
So I thought this would be a good time to have a thread on the best films about the left. There are so many great ones!
Now, I take a pretty broad view of what a leftist film means, as I do in real politics too. So a film that simply depicts a working class life can very much be a leftist film. Doesn't have to be ideological, in my view.
This Day in Labor History: June 26, 1894. The Pullman strike begins, which the government brutally crushes. On another terrible day in American history, let's talk about this famed strike and how we are returning to these days very rapidly.
The railroad-caused Panic of 1893 was not only emblematic of how corrupt railroads controlled the American economy in the Gilded Age, but how plutocrats expected the poor to sacrifice during hard times.
George Pullman, owner of the Pullman Palace Car Company, which made sleeper cars for the railroads, created his own company town, south of Chicago. He provided workers everything they would need–housing, schools, stores.
This Day in Labor History: June 25, 1938. FDR signs the Fair Labor Standards Act, creates federal minimum wage, overtime pay after 40 hours, bans most child labor, etc. Let's talk about this groundbreaking legislation on one of the greatest days in American workers' history.
Sweeping laws to regulate wages and hours had been bandied around for some time, including a bill sponsored by Alabama senator Hugo Black in 1933 to reduce the workweek to 30 hours.
Black continued to push for some kind of comprehensive labor regulation bill, although against significant Congressional opposition from conservatives.
This Day in Labor History: June 23, 1855. Celia, a slave in Missouri, kills her master after his repeated rapes of her. Let's talk about the sexual labor demanded among slaves, which is very much part of our labor history.
Robert Newsom, a prosperous farmer in Callaway County, Missouri, purchased Celia in 1850. She was 14. In the 1850 census, Newsom owned 800 acres and five male slaves.
Celia was the first female slave he purchased and it seems that he did so in order to use her for sex, as well as to serve as the house cook. His wife had died in 1849 and he decided on a sex slave rather than a new wife.
This Day in Labor History: June 15, 1917. Woodrow Wilson signs the Espionage Act into law. Let's talk about this terrible law that is still on the book and used and how it was deployed to crush radical (and not so radical) labor during World War I.
Before Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson was unquestionably the most pro-labor president in American history. In fact, even when the Espionage Act is taken into consideration, this is probably true.
Wilson had signed groundbreaking laws such as the LaFollette Seamen’s Act that attempted to improve labor conditions on ships around the globe. When World War I began, he brought American Federation of Labor head Samuel Gompers into the government, a new day for labor.
This Day in Labor History: June 2, 1924. A constitutional amendment to ban child labor passed the Senate and was sent out to the states for ratification. And yet it never happened. Let's talk about why and what we can do about that.
The fight against child labor had been a major part of both the struggle of organized labor and of middle-class reformers for decades. For unionists, they not only saw child labor as degrading to children, but also as undermining the wages of working class.
Get rid of the children, they argued, and you eliminate a major source of competition driving wages down. The wages would rise and children could go to school instead of working.
This Day in Labor History: May 31, 1889. The Johnstown Flood kills over 2200 people because steel capitalists were too damn cheap to fix the dam in their exclusive club. Let's talk about how capitalists kill people whenever they can.
In 1840, the South Fork Dam was built on the Little Conemaugh River, 14 miles upstream from the town of Johnstown, in order to stop the floods that frequently hit the mountainous area. Over time, the canal system that had spurred the original construction fell into disuse.
The land where the dam was located was purchased by the steel capitalist Henry Clay Frick and a group of speculators, many of whom were connected to Carnegie Steel, for the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club.
This Day in Labor History: May 26, 1924. President Calvin Coolidge signs the Immigration Act of 1924, effectively shutting America's doors to the global working classes. Let's talk about the last time a Republican administration wanted to whiten the nation.
Between 1880-1920, well over 10 million people came to the US to look for a better life. Largely from southern and eastern Europe but in fact from many places, from Japan to Syria, they became the working class of industrializing America.
But like immigrants today, they were hated by many white people. That included organized labor, who saw immigrants as a threat. The first major national law that came out of the labor movement? The Chinese Exclusion Act, in 1882. That's the legacy of race and labor in America.
This Day in Labor History: May 13, 1888. Brazil becomes the last nation in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery. Let's talk about slavery in Brazil, a nation which received 10 times as many Africans as the United States.
Slavery was central to nearly the entirety of European conquest of the Americas. Slavery was also the chosen labor system of nearly all European nations in the Americas.
In the U.S., this has been historically downplayed because of too much attention paid to Puritan New England as the origins of the United States, but New England wasn’t just the exception for the British colonies, it was the exception throughout the Americas.