Today in Labor History – March 6th

labor history mary 6

Little Red Song Book

The Dred Scott decision by the U.S. Supreme Court opened up federal territories to slavery and denied citizenship to blacks. – 1857

This date marked the Founding of the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific, a union of mariners, fishermen and boatmen working on U.S. flag vessels in San Francisco. – 1885

The Knights of Labor picketed to protest the practices of the Southwestern Railroad system, and the company’s chief, high-flying Wall Street financier Jay Gould. Some 9,000 workers walked off the job, halting service on 5,000 miles of track. The workers held out for two months, many suffering from hunger, before they finally returned to work. – 1886

The IWW published the Little Red Song Book, which includes the song There Is Power in a Union by Swedish-born labor activist Joe Hill. – 1913

100,000 people demonstrated for jobs in New York City. Demonstrations by unemployed workers demanding unemployment insurance were occurring in virtually every major U.S. city. In New York, police attacked a crowd of 35,000. In Cleveland, 10,000 people battled police. In Detroit, a Communist Party organized unemployment demonstration brought out more than 50,000. Thousands took to the streets in Toledo, Flint and Pontiac. These demonstrations led to the creation of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), sponsored by Republican congressman Hamilton Fish, with the support of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). The HUAC investigated and quashed radical activities. – 1930

A National Trade-Union Unity League council in Madison, Wisconsin that was marching around Capitol Square was attacked by UW students. Council leader Lottie Blumenthal was thrown to the ground, while students attacked other marchers and destroyed their banners and pamphlets. One of the athletes who was arrested said: “We are getting so damned many radical Jews here that something must be done”. – 1930

Police killed four workers in Detroit who were demanding jobs. – 1930

Tom Mooney died on this date. Mooney was an Irish-American IWW organizer and 22-year political prisoner, locked up on trumped up charges for the San Francisco Preparedness Day bombing in 1916. – 1942

The International Brotherhood of Paper Makers merged with the United Paperworkers of America to become the United Papermakers & Paperworkers. – 1957

The federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act was enacted. – 1970

Predominantly young workers at a Lordstown, Ohio GM assembly plant staged a wildcat strike, largely in objection to the grueling work pace: at 101.6 cars per hour, their assembly line was believed to be the fastest in the world. – 1972

President Jimmy Carter invoked the Taft-Hartley law to quash the 1977-78 national contract strike by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). The UMWA had been striking since December 1977, but rejected a tentative contract agreement in early March 1978. Carter invoked the national emergency provision of Taft-Hartley and strikers were ordered back to work, but they ignored the order and the government did little to enforce it. Eventually a settlement was reached and ratified in late March. – 1978

The U.S. Dept. Of Labor reported that the nation’s unemployment rate soared to 8.1 percent in February, the highest since late 1983, as cost-cutting employers slashed 651,000 jobs amid a deepening recession. – 2009

Thousands of activists and artists in New York City came together to form “The Longest Unemployment Line in the World,” stretching for three miles from Wall Street to Union Square. They held pink slips for 14 minutes to represent the country’s 14 million unemployed workers – all of whom, if standing in a single line, would stretch unbroken around the continental United States, said one of the event’s organizers. – 2012

The Little Red Songbook

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