Today in Labor History January 23rd

Some 10,000 clothing workers went on strike in Rochester, New York for the 8-hour day, a 10 percent wage increase, union recognition, and extra pay for overtime and holidays. Daily parades were held throughout the clothing district and there was at least one instance of mounted police charging the crowd of strikers and arresting 25 picketers. Six people were wounded over the course of the strike and one worker, 18-year-old Ida Breiman, was shot to death by a sweatshop contractor. The strike was called off in April after manufacturers agreed not to discriminate against workers for joining a union. – 1913

Joe Hill’s song Mr. Block first appeared in the Wobbly newspaper the Industrial Worker, 20,000 clothing workers on strike in NY, 6,000 workers walked off the job over wage cuts at Briggs Manufacturing Company, and more. Click To Tweet

Joe Hill’s song “Mr. Block” first appeared in the Wobbly newspaper the Industrial Worker. – 1913

Mr. Block (by Joe Hill)

Please give me your attention, I’ll introduce to you

A man who is a credit to the [“Our] old Red White and Blue[“]

His head is made of lumber and solid as a rock

He is a common worker and his name is Mr. Block

And Block [he] thinks he may be premier [President] some day


Oh Mr. Block, you were born by mistake

You take the cake, you make me ache

[Go] tie a rock on your block and then jump in the lake

Kindly do that for Liberty’s sake!

   Yes, Mr. Block is lucky – he got a job, by gee!

The shark got seven dollars for job and fare and fee

They shipped him to a desert and dumped him with his truck

But when he tried to find his job he sure was out of luck

He shouted, “That’s too raw! I’ll fix them with the law!”

   Block hiked back to the city but wasn’t doing well

He said “I’ll join the union, the great AF of L”.

He got a job that morning, got fired by the night

He said, “I’ll see Sam Gompers and he’ll fix that foreman right!”

Sam Gompers said, “You see, you’ve got our sympathy.”

   Election day he shouted, “A Socialist for Mayor!”

The comrade got elected [and] he happy was for fair

But after the election he got an awful shock

[When] a great big socialistic bull did rap him on the block

And Comrade Block did sob, “I helped him get his job!”

   Poor Block he died one evening, I’m very glad to state

He climbed the golden ladder up to the pearly gate

He said, “Oh Mister Peter, one thing I’d like to tell

I’d like to meet the Astorbilts and John D Rockerfell!”

Old Pete said, “Is that so? You’ll meet them down below!”

Tune: It Looks to me Like a Big Time Tonight.

Led by metal finishers, 6,000 workers walked off the job over wage cuts at Briggs Manufacturing Company, sparking a strike wave of 15,000 auto body workers that paralyzed Detroit’s auto industry. With scabs trucked in and finished products trucked out under police escort, the company quickly resumed production. When the strike was called off on May 1, strikers were not rehired, but their collective action forced wage increases in the industry. – 1933

In Allegany County, Maryland, workers with the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal era public works program employing unmarried men aged 18-25, were snowbound at Fifteen Mile Creek Camp S-53.  hey received a distress call about a woman in labor who needed to get to a hospital. Twenty courageous CCC volunteers dug through miles of snow drifts until the woman was successfully able to be transported. – 1936

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