Today in Labor History – April 27th

Bread and Roses Strike

The first strike for the 10 hour day occurred on this date by Boston carpenters. – 1825

1,450 paroled Union POWs died when the steamer Sultana blew up in the worst shipping disaster in American history. The river steamer Sultana was overloaded. It was equipped with tubular boilers which were not well-suited for use in the muddy waters of the lower Mississippi. The boat blew up and sank near Memphis, Tennessee. Over 2,300 perished in all, many of them emaciated Union soldiers returning north after being released from a Confederate prison camp. – 1865

Congress extended the Chinese Exclusion Act indefinitely (first passed in 1882 and again in 1902), making it unlawful for Chinese laborers to enter the U.S. and denying citizenship to those already here. – 1904

James Oppenheim’s poem Bread and Roses was published in IWW newspaper Industrial Solidarity. – 1946

     As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
     A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
     Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
     For the people hear us singing: “Bread and roses! Bread and roses!”
     As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
     For they are women’s children, and we mother them again.
     Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
     Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!
     As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
     Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
     Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
     Yes, it is bread we fight for — but we fight for roses, too!
     As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
     The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
     No more the drudge and idler — ten that toil where one reposes,
     But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!

President Dwight Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450: Security Requirements for Government Employment. The order listed “sexual perversion” as a condition for firing a federal employee and for denying employment to potential applicants. – 1953

A concrete cooling tower under construction at a power station at Willow Island, West Virginia, collapsed. All of the 51 construction workers on the scaffolding fell to their deaths. OSHA and the contractor agreed to settle the case for $85,500 (or about $1,700 per dead worker); no criminal charges were ever filed. The final OSHA rule on concrete and masonry construction was not issued for another 10 years and improved scaffolding rules, not until 1990. – 1978

The final strike of the education strike wave of 2018 happened in Colorado. Lasting until May 12th, this strike was not as successful as the previous three, ending with an agreement for a 2% pay raise. Just before the strike, Republican State Senator Bob Gardner introduced a bill that would terminate, fine, and even send to jail, any teacher going on strike. The bill was quickly struck down. – 2018

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