Today in Labor History – September 12th

Eugene V Debs

Eugene V Debs

Somewhere on or around this date, the first African-American trade union called the Colored Caulkers’ Trade Union Society of Baltimore was founded, with Isaac Myers as the union’s first president. – 1866

Eugene V. Debs, labor leader and socialist, was sentenced to 10 years for opposing World War I. Click To Tweet On June 16, 1918, Debs had made a speech in Canton, Ohio, urging resistance to the military draft of World War 1. He was arrested on June 30 and charged with ten counts of sedition. During his sentencing, he said, “…while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free…”. While in jail Debs received one million votes for president. – 1918

Unemployed people marched on grocery stores and seized food from shops in Toledo, Ohio. Many unemployed workers were near starvation after county authorities cut off relief. Across the country, starving people were taking direct action instead of waiting for government help. – 1932

National Guard troops were deployed throughout New England (except Vermont and New Hampshire) to quell textile labor strikes. 1,500 strikers fought state troopers in Connecticut, with other conflicts occurring in Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, and Lewiston. In Woonsocket, Rhode Island, 500 protesters attacked the police with bricks. The National Guard fired into the crowd, killing one and wounding many. – 1934

United Rubber Workers formed in Akron, Ohio. – 1935

A total of 49 people were killed (some reports cite 51 killed) and  200 were injured, in an explosion at the Hercules Powder Company plant in Kenvil, New Jersey. – 1940

Union Square in New York City was named a national historic landmark, with a plaque commemorating it as the site of the first Labor Day in 1882. Samuel Gompers spoke there in 1886 on May Day and the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies) demonstrated frequently during the economic depression of 1914-15. – 1998

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