Today in Labor History – August 14th

Lane Kirkland
Lane Kirkland

Squatters’ riots occurred in California on this day. 500 militiamen were sent to Sacramento to quell the uprising and martial law was declared. Two squatters and three militiamen were killed, as were two bystanders. – 1850

The most successful anti-poverty program in U.S. history was created when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. The Act provided, for the first time, guaranteed income for retirees and created a system of unemployment benefits. – 1935

Lane Kirkland, former AFL-CIO President from 1979-1995, died on this day. Kirkland inherited a labor movement under heavy assault. Moving quickly to stem labor’s decline, Kirkland initiated institutional innovations and secured the re-affiliation of almost all the large national unions that remained outside the AFL-CIO. Kirkland was a staunch anti-Communist and strong supporter of the Solidarity movement in Poland. – 1999

The Northeast of the United States and Canada experienced a massive blackout, which affected 50 million people. Initially concerned that it could be a terrorist attack, it soon became clear that it was the failure of Ohio-based First Energy Corporation to maintain its portion of the electrical grid. In a statement following the costly blackout, the Utility Workers Union of America called on Ohio’s Public Utilities Commission to investigate the industry’s maintenance practices and urged the state legislature to revise its deregulation laws that led to lax standards and mass layoffs of line workers. – 2003

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