Today in Labor History – November 23rd

The Uprising of the Twenty Thousand

The Uprising of the Twenty Thousand

Army troops were sent to Cripple Creek, Colorado to put down a rebellion by striking coal miners. 600 union members were thrown into a military bullpen and held for weeks without charges. When a lawyer arrived with a writ of habeas corpus, General Bell, who led the repression, responded “Habeas corpus, hell! We’ll give ‘em post mortems!” – 1903

The “Uprising of the 20,000” occurred in New York, as female garment workers struck for better pay and an end to sweatshop working conditions. Click To Tweet 19-year-old Clara Lemlich, who led the strike, said she had no patience for talk and called for her coworkers to join in a General Strike. Their strike won some gains for workers, like a raise and a reduction in work hours to 52 hours per week, but did not end sweatshop conditions in the industry. During the strike, a judge told arrested picketers, “You are on strike against God”. – 1909

The Uprising of the Twenty Thousand

“In the black of the winter of nineteen-nine

When we froze & bled on the picket line,

We showed the world that women could fight

& we rose & won with women’s might.

Hail the waistmakers of nineteen-nine

Making their stand on the picket line,

Breaking the power of those who reign,

Pointing the way, smashing the chain.”

–from Let’s Sing! Educational Department, International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union

Mine Workers President John L. Lewis quit the American Federation of Labor to the lead the new Congress of Industrial Organizations, which was rapidly organizing workers in steel, auto, rubber and other major industries. – 1935

The first meeting between members of the newly-formed National Football League Players Association and team owners took place in New York. Union founders included Frank Gifford, Norm Van Brocklin, Don Shula and Kyle Rote. They were asking for a minimum $5,000 salary, a requirement that their teams pay for their equipment, and a provision for the continued payment of salary to injured players. The players’ initial demands were ignored. – 1956

Workers employed at Walmart, the nation’s largest private-sector employer, struck nationwide for better wages and working conditions. Walmart, whose net sales in 2011 were 443.9 billion, paid its 1.4 million workers in the U.S. an average of $8.81/hour. A third of Walmart’s employees work less than 28 hours a week and don’t qualify for benefits. – 2012

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