Today in Labor History – November 7th

Ernest Riebe’s “Mr. Block,” IWW labor comic strip first appeared in print. Mr. Block was one of the best-loved features in the Wobbly press. Click To Tweet Joe Hill wrote a song about “Mr. Block”, who was a boss-loving, American Dream-believing, self-sabotaging knucklehead. Some call Riebe the first underground comic book artist. – 1912

Some 1,300 building trades workers in eastern Massachusetts participated in a general strike on all military work in the area to protest the use of open-shop (a worksite in which union membership is not required as a condition of employment) builders. The strike held on for a week in the face of threats from the U.S. War Department. – 1917

The first Red Scare, or “Palmer’s Reign of Terror”, began in the U.S. on this date with the imprisonment of 3,000 anarchists without bail at Ellis Island. During the Palmer raids, hundreds of anarchists, communists, union leaders and other radicals were rounded up, imprisoned, deported and even killed. – 1919

The U.S. Supreme Court used the Taft-Hartley Act to break a steel strike. Taft-Hartley was passed in 1947, in the wake of the 1946 Oakland General Strike. It severely limited strike activities, specifically prohibiting sympathy strikes and General Strikes and was essentially a giveaway to employers helping to pave the way for the progressive weakening of the U.S. labor movement. – 1959

Lemuel Ricketts Boulware died in Delray Beach, Florida on this date at age 95. As a GE vice president in the 1950s he created the policy known as Boulwarism, in which management decides what is “fair” and refuses to budge on anything during contract negotiations. IUE Union President Paul Jennings described the policy as “telling the workers what they are entitled to and then trying to shove it down their throats.” – 1990

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