Today in Labor History – October 20th

labor history october 20

Eugene V. Debs

Eugene V. Debs, U.S. labor leader and socialist, died on this date   in Elmhurst, Illinois. Among his radical ideas: an eight-hour workday, pensions, workman’s compensation, sick leave and social security. He ran for president from a jail cell in 1920 and got a million votes. – 1926

Hollywood came under scrutiny as the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) opened hearings into alleged Communist influence within the motion picture industry. Dozens of union members were among those blacklisted following as a result of HUAC’s activities. – 1947

Democracy in Action: As a presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan wrote a letter to Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) President Robert Poli promising that if the union endorsed him, “I will take whatever steps are necessary to provide our air traffic controllers with the most modern equipment available and to adjust staff levels and work days to that they are commensurate with achieving a maximum degree of public safety”. The union naively endorsed Reagan and with a few short months, President Reagan fired the air traffic controllers for engaging in an illegal walkout over staffing levels and working conditions. – 1980

Merle Travis died on this date. He was a  songwriter and performer who wrote “Sixteen Tons” and “Dark as a Dungeon”. – 1983

Two track workers were killed in a San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit train accident. Federal investigators said the train was run by a BART employee who was being trained as an operator as members of the Amalgamated Transit Union were participating in what was to be a four-day strike. – 2013

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