Today in Labor History – January 1st

labor history january 1

William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper, was published for the first time. The Liberator was published weekly in Boston for 35 years from January 1, 1831 to its final issue December 29, 1865. Although it had a circulation of only 3000, three-quarters being African Americans, the newspaper gained nationwide notoriety for its uncompromising advocacy of “immediate and complete emancipation of all slaves” in the United States. – 1831

The New England Anti-Slavery Society met for the first time. The Society would officially form January 30. Its preamble stated:

Whereas, we believe that Slavery is contrary to the precepts of Christianity, dangerous to the liberties of the country, and ought immediately to be abolished; and whereas, we believe that the citizens of New-England not only have the right to protest against it, but are under the highest obligation to seek its removal by a moral influence; and whereas, we believe that the free people of color are unrighteously oppressed, and stand in need of our sympathy and benevolent co-operation; therefore, recognizing the inspired declaration that God ‘hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth,’ and in obedience to our Savior’s golden rule, ‘all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them,’ we agree to form ourselves into a Society.

One of it original member was William Lloyd Garrison, owner of The Liberator newspaper. – 1832

President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves in all rebel states, but by no means granting equality under the law: “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races; that I am not, nor ever been, in favor of making voters or jus of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to inter-marry with white people … and I am as much as any other man in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race”. – 1863

Women weavers formed a union in Fall River, Massachusetts. – 1875

Ben Reitman was born.  Reitman was a comrade and one-time lover of Emma Goldman, a doctor to hobos and prostitutes, and an anarchist organizer. – 1879

America’s first “Red Scare” began with the arrest of 2,700 people without charge. A. Mitchell Palmer, President Wilson’s Attorney General, ultimately arrested nearly 6,000 people on suspicion of “communism”. Many of these people were labor agitators. Those who were not U.S. citizens were deported as “undesirable aliens”. – 1920

John L. Lewis was elected president of the United Mine Workers. Fifteen years later he would be a leader in the formation of that was to become the Congress of Industrial Organizations  (CIO). -1920

IWW Lumber Workers IU120 struck the British Columbia lumber owners, calling for an 8 hour work day with blankets supplied, a minimum wage of $4 a day, release of all war prisoners, no discrimination against IWW members and no censuring of IWW literature. – 1924

1932 opens with 14 million unemployed, national income down by 50 percent, breadlines that included former businessmen, shopkeepers, and middle-class housewives. Only one-quarter of America’s unemployed are receiving any help at all. – 1932

Workers began to acquire credits toward Social Security pension benefits. Employers and employees became subject to a one percent tax on wages up to $3,000 a year. – 1937

Adolph Strasser, head of the Cigar Maker’s Union and one of the founders of the AFL in 1886 died on this day in Forest Park, Illinois. – 1939

Country music legend Hank Williams attended what was to be his final Musician’s Union meeting, at the Elite Café in Montgomery, Alabama. He died of apparent heart failure three days later, at age 29. – 1953

35,000 members of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and the Amalgamated Transit Union working for the New York Transit Authority began a successful twelve day strike, shutting down 135 miles of subway and 2,200 buses. The strike had an impact that was felt around the world and business losses were enormous. TWU leader Mike Quill and eight other union leaders were arrested for violating an injunction issued to end the strike. “I don’t care if I rot in jail, I will not call off the strike”, Quill said. Quill did not waver, responding at a crowded press conference “The judge can drop dead in his black robes!” The union successfully held out for a sizeable wage increase for the union. Other unions followed suit demanding similar raises. Ironically, it was Quill who dropped dead three days after the union’s victory celebration. He died of a heart attack. – 1966

The federal minimum wage rose to $2.65 an hour. – 1978

The International Typographical Union, the nation’s oldest union, merged with the Communications Workers of America. – 1987

The United Furniture Workers of America merged with International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Technical, Salaried & Machine Workers to become International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine & Furniture Workers, now a division of CWA. – 1987

The National Association of Broadcast Employees & Technicians merged with the Communications Workers of America. – 1994

The International Union of Allied & Industrial Workers of America merged with the United Paperworkers International. They later merged into the Steelworkers. – 1994

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect over objections of labor.An agreement signed by Canada, Mexico and the United States, it created a trilateral trade bloc in North America.  In the first 20 years it resulted in a staggering $181 billion U.S. trade deficit with NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada, and the related loss of 1 million net U.S. jobs. Under NAFTA. Income inequality grew, more than one million Mexican campesino farmers were displaced, immigration from Mexico doubled, and more that $4,360 million was paid to corporations after domestic public interest policies were rolled back and attacked by “investor-state” tribunals. – 1994

The Mechanics Educational Society of America merged with United Automobile Workers. – 1997

The Bakery, Confectionery & Tobacco Workers International Union merged with the American Federation of Grain Millers to form the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers International Union. – 1999

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