Today in Labor History – September 30th

The “Elaine Riot” killed 4 whites and well over 100 blacks. The defendants above were sentenced to die in trials lasting as little as an hour.

Strike leaders were prosecuted for the crime of treason for the first time in U.S. history. Henry C. Frick, chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company, convinced the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to issue warrants for the arrests of every member of the advisory board of the striking steel union for treason against the state. The 29 strike leaders were ultimately charged with plotting “to incite insurrection, rebellion & war against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” – 1892

Seventy-year-old Mother Jones organizes the wives of striking miners in Arnot, Pa., to descend on the mine with brooms, mops and clanging pots and pans. They frighten away the mules and their scab drivers. The miners eventually won their strike – 1899

The “Industrial Worker,” mouthpiece of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), issued its first call for footloose hoboes and Wobblies to hop the freights for Missoula, to join in the free speech fight taking place there. From 1907-1917 the IWW carried out more than 30 Free Speech fights across the US, generally to demand the right to organize workers in public places and to agitate from street corners. As police arrested one Wobbly for public speaking, another would take his or her place, resulting in thousands of arrests, as well as mass beatings by vigilantes. However, their civil disobedience often succeeded in clogging the jails and court systems to the point that cities were forced to back down and allow public speaking and agitation – 1909

Railroad shopmen in 28 cities strike the Illinois Central Railroad and the Harriman lines for an 8 hour day, improved conditions and union recognition, but railroad officials obtain sweeping injunctions against them and rely on police and armed guards to protect strikebreakers – 1915

The Elaine Race Riots – Black farmers meet in Elaine, Ark. to establish the Progressive Farmers and Householders Union to fight for better pay and higher cotton prices. They are shot at by a group of whites, and return the fire. News of the confrontation spread and a riot ensued, leaving at least 100, perhaps several hundred blacks dead and 67 indicted for inciting violence – 1919

Cesar Chavez, with Delores Huerta,  create the National Farm Workers Association (predecessor to the United Farm Workers) during a convention in Fresno, California – 1962

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