Today in Labor History – April 8th

Emma Goldman

The 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, banning chattel slavery, but allowing a continuation of wage slavery and the forced labor of convicts without pay. – 1864

128 convict miners, mostly African-Americans jailed for minor offenses, were killed by a massive explosion at the near Birmingham, Alabama. While the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, which occurred just two weeks earlier, elicited massive public attention and support for the plight of immigrant women working in sweatshop conditions, the Banner explosion garnered almost no public sympathy, probably due to racism and the fact that they were prisoners. – 1911

Emma Goldman was arrested for giving a lecture on birth control. – 1916

President Wilson established the War Labor Board, composed of representatives from business and labor, to arbitrate disputes between workers and employers during World War I. – 1918

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was approved by Congress. President Franklin Roosevelt proposed the WPA during the Great Depression of the 1930s when almost 25 percent of Americans were unemployed. It created low-paying federal jobs that provided immediate relief, putting 8.5 million jobless to work on projects ranging from construction of bridges, highways and public buildings to arts programs like the Federal Writers’ Project. – 1935

The UAW struck a GM plant in Ontario to win union recognition. – 1937

The day before a nationwide steelworkers’ strike was set to begin, President Harry S. Truman ordered his Secretary of Commerce to seize control of the nation’s steel mills to keep them in production for the Korean War effort. On June 2, the Supreme Court ruled against the president. – 1952

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