Today in Labor History – September 30th

The Lawrence “Bread and Roses” strike

The Lawrence “Bread and Roses” strike

The Knights of Labor won their strike on the Wabash Railroad. – 1885

Strike leaders were prosecuted for the crime of treason for the first time in U.S. history. Click To Tweet Henry C. Frick, chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company, convinced the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to issue warrants for the arrests of every member of the advisory board of the striking steel union for treason against the state. The 29 strike leaders were ultimately charged with plotting “to incite insurrection, rebellion & war against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania”.  Jurors refused to convict them. – 1892

Seventy-year-old Mother Jones organized the wives of striking miners in Arnot, Pennsylvania to descend on the mine with brooms, mops and clanging pots and pans. They frightened away the mules and their scab drivers. The miners eventually won their strike. – 1899

The “Industrial Worker”, a newspaper that served as a  mouthpiece of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), issued its first call for “footloose hoboes and Wobblies” to hop freight trains for Missoula, to join in the free speech fight taking place there. From 1907-1917 the IWW carried out more than 30 Free Speech Fights across the US, generally to demand the right to organize workers in public places and to agitate from street corners. As police arrested one Wobbly for public speaking, another would take his or her place, resulting in thousands of arrests, as well as mass beatings by vigilantes. However, their civil disobedience often succeeded in clogging the jails and court systems to the point that cities were forced to back down and allow public speaking and agitation. – 1909

The Lawrence, Massachusetts “Bread and Roses” textile strike was in full swing. On this date, 12,000 textile workers walked out of mills to protest the arrests of two leaders of the strike. Police clubbed strikers and arrested some, while the bosses fired 1,500. Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) co-founder Big Bill Haywood threatened another general strike to get the workers reinstated. Strike leaders Arturo Giovannitti and Joe Ettor were eventually acquitted 58 days later. – 1912

Railroad shopmen in 28 cities struck the Illinois Central Railroad and the Harriman lines for an 8-hour day, improved conditions and union recognition, but railroad officials obtained sweeping injunctions against them and relied on police and armed guards to protect strikebreakers. – 1915

Black farmers met in Elaine, Arkansas to establish the Progressive Farmers and Householders Union to fight for better pay and higher cotton prices. They were shot at by a group of whites, and returned the fire. News of the confrontation spread and a riot ensued, leaving at least 100, perhaps several hundred blacks dead and 67 indicted for inciting violence. – 1919

The National Farm Workers Association (predecessor to the United Farm Workers) was created during a convention called by Cesar Chavez and Delores Huerta in Fresno, California. – 1962

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