Today in Labor History – February 4th

Big Bill Haywood

Big Bill Haywood

The Ohio legislature authorized construction of the 249-mile Miami and Erie Canal to connect Toledo to Cincinnati. Local historians said “Irish immigrants, convicts and local farmers used picks, shovels and wheelbarrows,” at 30 cents per day, to construct the 249-mile-long waterway. – 1825

The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers formed at a meeting in Pittsburgh with 16 delegates from local unions. Today, the union represents 120,000 ironworkers in North America. – 1896

Labor leader and Industrial Workers of the World co-founder William D. “Big Bill” Haywood was born on this date. Haywood started mining at age nine. He became secretary-treasurer of the Western Federation of Miners in 1900 and co-founded the IWW in 1905. Charged in the bombing murder of former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg in 1907, he was acquitted with the counsel of Clarence Darrow. His radicalism led to his dismissal from the WFM in 1918. That same year, a victim of the Red Scare, he was convicted of violating alien and sedition acts and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. However, he jumped bail and fled to the Soviet Union, where he died in 1928. – 1869

Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man launched the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott and the birth of the civil rights movement, was born on this date in Tuskegee, Alabama. – 1913

Unemployment demonstrations took place in major U.S. cities. – 1932

37,000 maritime workers on the West Coast struck for wage increases. – 1937

President Barack Obama imposed $500,000 caps on senior executive pay for the most distressed financial institutions receiving federal bailout money, saying Americans are upset with “executives being rewarded for failure”. – 2009

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