Today in Labor History – December 22nd

labor history december 22

U.S.S. Buford (dubbed the Christmas Gift for Trotsky)

A group of building trades unions from the Midwest met in St. Louis to form the National Building Trades Council (NBTC). The organization’s primary goal was to provide a forum in which jurisdictional conflicts between trade unions could be adjudicated. But as a voluntary federation, the organization lacked the power to enforce its rulings. Many national and international construction industry unions refused to join the NBTC, further limiting its influence. The Council disbanded after several years of political and jurisdictional differences. – 1897

Twenty-one Chicago firefighters, including the chief, died when a building collapsed as they were fighting a huge blaze at the Union Stock Yards. By the time the fire was extinguished 26 hours after the first alarm, 50 engine companies and seven hook-and-ladder companies had been called to the scene. Until September 11, 2001, it was the deadliest building collapse in American history in terms of firefighter fatalities. – 1910

During a strike by 395,000 steelworkers, approximately 250 “anarchists”, “communists”, and “labor agitators” were deported from the United States and sent to Russia on the U.S.S. Buford (dubbed the Christmas Gift for Trotsky). Included among the deportees were Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman (the man who shot Henry Clay Frick in retaliation for his role in the Homestead massacre). This marked the beginning of the first “Red Scare”. – 1919

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