Today in Labor History – February 20th

labor history february 20

Frederick Douglass

Responding to a 15 percent wage cut, women textile workers in Lowell, Massachusetts organized a “turn-out” (a strike), in protest. The action failed. Two years later they formed the Factory Girl’s Association in response to a rent hike in company boarding houses and the increase was rescinded. One worker’s diary recounts a “stirring speech” of resistance by a co-worker, 11-year-old Harriet Hanson Robinson. – 1834

Frederick Douglass died on this date. In an 1857 address Douglass said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will”. – 1895

On their way to City Hall to demand jobs and relief, more than 1,000 unemployed workers battled with police in Philadelphia. Police arrested fourteen people and Voltairine de Cleyre, an anarchist who spoke at a rally earlier in the day, was charged with inciting a riot. – 1908

Wartime inflation fueled workers’ demands for increased wages. In the first six months of 1917 alone, there were over 3,000 strikes in the United States. Food riots were also common and on this date, thousands of women took to the streets in New York City to protest exorbitant prices. Their actions precipitated a boycott campaign that eventually forced prices down. – 1917

15 people were killed and 100 were injured as an explosion leveled a Los Angeles, California electroplating plant where a chemical mixing error occurred. – 1947

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