This Day in Labor History: September 19, 1981. The AFL-CIO holds its Solidarity Day march to protest Reagan's policies. Let's talk about unions in this dark time and how they at least tried to stand up to conservatives.
In the aftermath of Reagan busting the air traffic controllers’ union, organized labor realized what was to befall them: a new era of union-busting and the decimation of the welfare state unions had fought so hard to build, if incrementally, over the previous half-century.
Of course, quite a few of those unions had known that well before Reagan took office, even if PATCO (the air traffic controllers union) and a few others were dumb enough to endorse Reagan.
This Day in Labor History: September 18, 1873. The Panic of 1873 begins when the speculations of the vile financier Jay Cooke collapsed. Let's talk about the rich routinely throw workers' lives into terror in order to make money unless the government steps in, then and now.
The Civil War created the conditions for the rapid growth of industrial capitalism. But it did not create the corruption that dominated the Gilded Age. Capitalists in the Gilded Age would become famous for their naked graft, but that was developing in the 1840s and 1850s.
Basically, like now, capitalists justified all sorts of grotesque behavior, corruption, fixing markets, trusts, corners, bribery, graft, speculations, etc, based on whatever philosophy they held onto, in the case of the 1870s, individual capitalism and free labor.
This Day in Labor History: September 17, 1989. 98 miners and one minister conducted a peaceful takeover of the Pittston Moss 3 Coal Preparation Plant in what will lead to one of the few major victories for labor in the late 20th century. Let's talk about this inspirational moment
The Pittston strike was one of the most brutal and hard-fought of the last three decades. The sit-in was part of a 10 month strike that pitted the United Mine Workers of America versus the Pittston Coal Company.
Arguably the most militant strike of the past half-century, the UMWA engaged in a variety of actions, ranging from the nonviolent takeover to militant women’s organizing to violence.
And I stole from Mike Davis' Late Victorian Holocausts for a mini-lecture on how the British used their free market ideology to kill hundreds of thousands of Indians in the 1870's El Nino caused drought. Invisible hand my foot.
This Day in Labor History: September 10, 1897. Luzerne County sheriff deputies slaughtered 19 unarmed coal miners striking outside of Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Let's talk about how this brutal massacre was all too typical of the state response to strikers in the Gilded Age.
The 1890s saw a rise in immigration from Germany and eastern Europe; thousands of those migrants came to the coal mines of eastern Pennsylvania.
They were recruited there by coal companies as strikebreakers and because of that, the English, Welsh, and Scottish miners that previously dominated the industry hated them as scabs.
This Day in Labor History: September 9, 1739. The Stono Rebellion takes place in South Carolina, the largest slave rebellion and the largest instance of labor resistance in colonial America. Let's talk about the centrality of this to American labor history.
We sometimes don’t immediately think of the history of slavery as labor history, but of course, it’s absolutely fundamental to any understanding of labor history in the American South (and to a lesser extent in the North) both before and after the Civil War.
Slavery was a racialized system, yes, but the whole point of chattel slavery was to provide a labor system. When other methods to acquire that failed, Europeans turned to Africans in large numbers. We simply have to center slavery in our labor histories.
This Day in Labor History: September 6, 1919. New York theater owners and striking actors sign an agreement to end a bitter and acrimonious strike based around the really horrific working conditions the actors faced, transforming this industry.
The late 1910s were a fascinating time for organized labor. World War I brought both unprecedented acceptance of labor into the halls of power and an official state crackdown on radicalism.
Capitalists may have tolerated the existence of labor to fight the war effort but they had little interest in continuing this relationship after the war’s conclusion.
And you have to love someone for whom the blame for any problem is always "LIBERALS!"
I so fondly remember the time that I was having dinner with friends and all of a sudden, Connor Kilpatrick launched a Twitter attack against for something totally random and uncalled for that was joined by Glenn Greenwald, Doug Henwood, and Corey Robin.
I love this--"Sure, Donald Trump signs every bill that I support tearing about immigrant families, giving more money to the extremely wealthy, and promoting judges who love fascism. But I resist him by working for him." OK.
And "The greatest crime of the Trump era is the decline of civility" is great. Are we sure this wasn't written by Bari Weiss?
This Day in Labor History: September 5, 1934. The North Carolina governor calls out the National Guard to crush the textile strike, part of the general repression of that critical movement. Let's talk about the impact of this incredibly important moment on our history.
When the New Deal began, the Roosevelt administration pushed for the National Industrial Recovery Act. The NIRA was intended to eliminate the cutthroat competition that destroyed profits in many industries of this time, including textiles.
Many large manufacturers supported it, hoping it would drive out low-end competition and consolidate industries. But the NIRA also included a half-thought out provision called Section 7(a) that granted workers the right to form a union free from employer interference.
This Day in Labor History: September 2, 1885: Whites in Rock Springs, Wyoming decided to ethnically cleanse their mining town and rioted against the Chinese, killing about 28. Let's talk about white supremacy and the American working class, which still plagues us today.
White Americans hated the Chinese.
There isn’t really much reason to complicate the above sentence when talking about the 19th century. Its truth is indisputable.
Reading a collection of labor history essays from the mid-00s. Good history, but so intensely local and hard for outsiders to access. When did the New New Labor History begin, replacing this sort of thing with big stories? I guess it's with Cowie and McCartin's huge great books.
And really--labor historians returning to asking big questions and telling big stories has been hugely rejuvenating for the field.
The next thing labor historians need to do is to remember that a period before World War II exists. Go to LAWCHA and it's like the 19th century never happened. Which is in itself a gigantic transformation from the recent past.
This Day in Labor History: August 28, 1963. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom takes place in Washington, DC. Let's talk about how economic issues are completely erased from our public memory of civil rights and how challenging employers was central to the movement.
First, the original idea for the March on Washington came from a union. In 1941, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters president A. Philip Randolph called for a march on Washington to protest hiring discrimination in defense plants as the nation was gearing up for World War II.
Like most issues concerning minorities, FDR didn’t really care but he didn’t want the bad publicity so he caved and ordered the end of hiring discrimination on government defense contracts.
This Day in Labor History: August 23, 1912. The U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations was founded. Let's talk about this remarkable moment where, for the first time in American history, the government challenged employer domination over workers, outraging conservatives.
The USCIR was created in response growing labor violence, especially, the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building in 1910 by two Ironworkers angry about the paper’s anti-union owner Harrison Gray Otis, finally got the government’s attention.
While President William Howard Taft created it, it was mostly operated under the administration of Woodrow Wilson, a far more pro-labor president than the Republican.
This Day in Labor History: August 22, 1945. Five flight attendants for the Air Line Stewardesses Association, beginning the long struggle by women for a union and for respect on the job. Let's talk about this important story of feminism and work integrating.
The position of flight attendant began on May 15, 1930, when a woman named Ellen Church worked at what was then known as a “skygirl.” Women worked very hard, but had to look glamorous while doing it.
They spent hours on their feet, dealt with drunk passengers, bent and reached and stooped over. A pedometer worn by one stewardess on a 1948 flight from Chicago to Miami showed she walked eight miles in flight.
This Day in Labor History: August 21, 1831. Nat Turner's Revolt starts in Virginia, where 60 whites are killed as slaves try for their freedom. Let's talk about this incredible episode in the Black Freedom Struggle and why it should inspire us today.
Nat Turner was a bit of an odd man it seems. He was a religious mystic who claimed to have visions that guided his actions. Unlike most slaves, he learned to read as a child and immersed himself in the Bible. He thought God spoke to him through his visions.
He ran away in 1825 for an entire month before a vision told him to return to his master. Despite this history of erratic behavior and escaping, he was allowed to lead religious services for slaves.
This Day in Labor History: August 20, 1866. The National Labor Union demands Congress implement an 8-hour day. Let's talk about this critical early labor movement, the first real attempt for a mass-based workers movement in America.
The trade union movement had roots early in American history but had never really taken off, in part because the system of American employment was still in the pre-Civil War years by and large artisan and farmer based.
Where you did see large concentrations of industry, unions formed such as in the Lowell mills. But the nation was changing rapidly in 1866. The capitalist revolution of the Civil War was beginning to be felt by workers.
This Day in Labor History: August 16, 1819. British cavalry charged into a crowd of 60-80,000 workers gathered near Manchester to demand parliamentary representation and the repeal of laws making food more expensive. Let's talk about this critical event in British labor history.
In the early 19th century, democratic participation was nearly non-existent in Britain. That nation had resisted the move toward democracy spawned out of the American Revolution and French Revolution, even as those nations were also dealing with the implications of it.
Meanwhile, after the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Britain fell into an economic depression. Unemployment rose and hordes of the new industrial workers lost their jobs and had nowhere to go. By 1819, industry was deeply affected while food prices had risen dramatically.
This Day in Labor History: August 15, 1914. The Panama Canal is completed. Let's talk about the workers who built this and the incredibly, albeit typical for the era, racist system the United States installed to do so.
Much of the story about the Panama Canal is well-known, including how Theodore Roosevelt stole Panama from Colombia to create the Canal, a classic act of imperialism in two nations that would long feel the brunt of American interventionism. But what about the workers?
The first real transportation labor in what would become the Panama Canal took place in the 1850s, when Chinese and African laborers died by the thousands building railroads in the area that later became the Canal.
This Day in Labor History: August 14, 1889. Workers on the London docks walked out on strike. Over 100,000 workers eventually struck and they won an incredible victory, one of the greatest achievements for organized labor anywhere in the world during these years.
Dock workers lived terrible lives, as did much of the British working class. The British poor was really tremendously impoverished. G.R. Birt, general manager of the Millwall Docks, testified before Parliament of these workers: "The poor fellows are miserably clad...
...scarcely with a boot on their foot, in a most miserable state … These are men who come to work in our docks who come on without having a bit of food in their stomachs, perhaps since the previous day; they have worked for an hour and have earned 5d.;.....
This Day in Labor History: August 13, 1887. Newark leathermakers lock out their Knights of Labor unions to destroy them. Let's talk about how employers have always gone to extreme lengths to crush unions, perhaps the most important issue in American labor history.
Newark has become a major industrial center by the 1880s and unlike many cities, hosted a wide number of industries. One of the largest was the leather industry.
This was exceedingly odious labor. As a noxious industry, leather production was banished to the outskirts of cities going back to colonial New England. Two centuries of technological advancement had not significantly decreased the odiousness of this work.
This is a good point--the whole college experience is biased against shy people. The emphasis on "leadership" and extracurricular activities and voluntarism in college admissions and programs in college is actually really awful.
In fact, the entire move of colleges to emphasize so-called "leadership," which is just status-quo serving empty platitudes and actions that never challenge anyone, is a cancer that is taking over our schools through the vile Student Affairs programs.
If a student really wants to succeed on campus, they need to lead campus tours and conduct icebreakers with freshmen. The student who wants to read and think? No place for that student among college administrators and those who give out awards.