Today in Labor History – January 26th

Samuel Gompers

Samuel Gompers

In what could be considered the first workers’ compensation agreement in America, pirate Henry Morgan pledged his underlings 600 pieces of eight or six slaves to compensate for a lost arm or leg. Also part of the pirate’s code, reports longtime labor and community activist Roger Newell: shares of the booty were equal regardless of race or sex, and shipboard decisions were made collectively. – 1695

Samuel Gompers, the first AFL president, was born on this date in London, England. He emigrated to the U.S. as a youth. – 1850

The Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America received a charter from the American Federation of Labor to organize “every wage earner from the man who takes the bullock at the house until it goes into the hands of the consumer”. The union merged with the Retail Clerks International Union in 1979 to form the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. – 1987

In response to management’s firing of two of boiler room engineers for union activity, Transport Workers Union members, supported by their non-union co-workers, at the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation’s Kent Avenue power plant in Brooklyn locked themselves inside and announced that if the men were not reinstated, they would shut down the city’s subway lines. The two men were quickly reinstated unconditionally. – 1937

A handful of American companies announced nearly 60,000 layoffs today, as the recession that began during the George W. Bush presidency charged full-tilt toward what has become known as the Great Recession. – 2009

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