Voices of Labor: History of the Working Class




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Have you ever wondered how the 8 hour work day happened?

Or how we have a 40 hour work week, sick days, pensions or vacations? It didn’t happen because a politician or president gave it to us; it happened because people came together, organized, and fought for it. This is the story of American labor history as told in a “This day in labor history” format. See what happened on your birthday, your anniversary or any of the other 363 days in Labor History.

Read how working-class leaders like Mother Jones, Eugene Debs, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and Joe Hill, and everyday workers made US Labor History by striking, protesting and even dying for what they believed in. Read how their battles and deaths made your work life safer and made the American working class the envy of the world. Why is knowing this history important? Because it’s starting to repeat itself. The bosses (the 1%) have never liked unions and are working hard to destroy them even as you read this. The recent Janus v. AFSCME decision at the US Supreme Court is just another swipe at the power of working people to have a voice for themselves in the workplace. Even now, they work at ways to weaken OSHA, take away our pensions, and strip us of our overtime pay.

Today in Labor History …

January 14th – The Red for Ed campaign continues into 2019 with 34,000 Los Angeles teachers going out on strike. Fighting for smaller class size, more nurses, librarians, and support staff, and a limit on charter school expansion, they took on the billionaires and won. After 6 school days on the picket line and a majority of parents keeping their children home, the teachers were victorious on most of their issues and got a 6% pay raise to boot. – 2019

January 19th – Joe Hill was arrested on this date in Salt Lake City and later convicted on trumped-up murder charges. He was executed 21 months later despite worldwide protests and two attempts to intervene by President Woodrow Wilson. In a letter to Bill Haywood shortly before his death, he penned the famous words, “Don’t mourn – organize!”. – 1915

April 21st – Company guards shot down 17 unarmed striking miners near the Neversweat Mine of the Anaconda Copper Mining Co. They were all shot in the back as they tried to flee. The IWW and the Metal Mine Workers Industrial Union called for a strike in the mines around Butte. They struck to secure higher wages, end rustling cards, and win an eight hour day. The Company blamed the IWW for the violence, and federal troops arrived the next day to impose martial law and end the strike. Miners were forced back to the mines at gunpoint. -1920

June 30th – Alabama outlawed the leasing of convicts to mine coal, a practice that had been in place since 1848. In 1898, 73 percent of the state’s total revenue came from this source. Twenty-five percent of all black leased convicts died. – 1928September 3rd – Twenty-five workers died, and 55 were injured, unable to escape a fire at the Imperial Poultry processing plant in Hamlet, North Carolina. Managers had locked fire doors to prevent the theft of chicken nuggets. The plant had operated for 11 years without a single safety inspection. – 1991

December 2nd – A Chicago “slugger,” paid $50 by labor unions for every scab he “discouraged,” described his job in an interview: “Oh, there ain’t nothing to it. I gets my fifty, then I goes out and finds the guy they wanna have slugged, then I gives it to ‘im”. – 1911

These are just a few of the thousands of events in “Voices of Labor – History of the Working Class”This is the perfect book for new or old union members alike. Get your copy today, and then run out and make a little labor history yourself.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” George Santayana



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