Today in Labor History – July 16th

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During the Great Upheaval of 1877 (also known as the Great Strike of 1877) a General Strike that started in West Virginia halted the movement of U.S. railroads and quickly spread across the U.S. Clashes with police, militia and federal troops resulted in riots that lasted well beyond the General Strike. The country was in the fourth year of a depression that followed years of greed, corruption and capital accumulation by a group of young businessmen that included J.P. Morgan,Andrew Carnegie, Leland Stanford and John Rockefeller. Railroads were the first business to really take off after the Civil War, but many of the smaller ones were going under as a result of the depression, bringing down farms and other businesses with them that relied on rail service to deliver raw materials and their finished goods. Those that remained in business were trying to squeeze workers with large pay cuts, sometimes by as much as 10%. The workday was based on miles, not hours, and these doubled in the period leading up to the strike. There were few successful unions in those days and none were sanctioned by the government, making them all illegal. The Great Strike was really the first large-scale strike in the nation’s history – 1877

Carlo Tresca and other IWW strike leaders were arrested on charges of inciting the murder of a deputy. This was during a strike of 30,000 iron-ore mine workers of the Mesabi range in northern Minnesota – 1916

Ten thousand workers strike Chicago’s International Harvester operations – 1919

Martial law declared in strike by longshoremen in Galveston, Texas – 1920

San Francisco General Strike began. The longshoremen’s strike actually started on May 9 and lasted 83 days, leading ultimately to the unionization of all West Coast ports. The strike grew violent quickly, with company goons and police brutalizing longshoremen and sailors. They hired private security to protect the scabs they brought in to load and unload ships, housing them in moored ships and wall compounds that the strikers attacked. In San Pedro, two workers were killed by private security on May 15. Battles also broke out in Oakland, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. On July 5, in San Francisco, police attacked strikers with tear gas and with clubs while on horseback and later fired into the crowd, killing two and injuring others. A General Strike was called on July 14 and began on July 16, lasting 4 days – 1934

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