IBEW Local 131 Information Center




This Week In Labor History


Today in labor history for the week of January 10, 2011  

January 10
In what is described as the worst industrial disaster in state history, the Pemberton Mill in Lawrence, Mass., collapses, trapping 900 workers, mostly Irish women. More than 100 die, scores more injured in the collapse and ensuing fire. Too much machinery had been crammed into the building - 1860

Wobblie organizer and singer Joe Hill allegedly kills two men during a grocery store hold-up in Utah. He ultimately hangs for the crime despite much speculation that he was framed - 1914

Former AFL-CIO President George Meany dies at age 85. The one-time plumber led the labor federation from the time of the AFL and CIO merger in 1955 until shortly before his death - 1980

The Supreme Court lets stand implementation of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) despite the lack of an Environmental Impact Statement - 2004

January 11
The IWW-organized “Bread & Roses” textile strike of 32,000 women and children begins in Lawrence, Mass. It lasted 10 weeks and ended in victory. The first millworkers to walk out were Polish women who, upon collecting their pay, exclaimed that they had been cheated and promptly abandoned their looms - 1912

Ford Motor Co. announces it will eliminate 35,000 jobs while discontinuing four models and closing five plants - 2002

January 12
Novelist Jack London is born. His classic definition of a scab -- someone who would cross a picketline and take a striker's job: "After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, the vampire, He had some awful substance left with which He made a scab. A scab is a two-legged animal with a cork-screw soul, a water-logged brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles" - 1876

Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson orders police to raid an open-air mass meeting of shipyard workers in an attempt to prevent a general strike. Workers were brutally beaten. The strike began the following month, with 60,000 workers walking out in solidarity with some 25,000 metal tradesmen - 1919

Pres. Roosevelt creates the National War Labor Board to mediate labor disputes during World War II. Despite the fact that 12 million of the nation’s workers were women -- to rise to 18 million by war’s end -- the panel consisted entirely of men - 1942

President John F. Kennedy signs Executive Order 10988, guaranteeing federal workers the right to join unions and bargain collectively - 1962

January 13
The original Tompkins Square Riot. As unemployed workers demonstrated in New York's Tompkins Square Park, a detachment of mounted police charged into the crowd, beating men, women and children with billy clubs. Declared Abram Duryee, the Commissioner of Police: "It was the most glorious sight I ever saw..." - 1874

Chicano citrus workers strike in Covina, CA - 1919

(Exact date uncertain) As the nation debates a constitutional amendment to rein in the widespread practice of brutally overworking children in factories and fields, U.S. District Judge G.W. McClintic expresses concern, instead, about child idleness - 1924

January 14
Clinton-era OSHA issues confined spaces standard to prevent more than 50 deaths and 5,000 serious injuries annually for workers who enter confined spaces - 1993

Pennsylvania Superior Court rules bosses can fire workers for being gay - 1995

Some 14,000 General Electric employees strike for two days to protest the company's mid-contract decision to shift an average of $400 in additional health care co-payments onto each worker - 2003

January 15
Martin Luther King, Jr. born - 1929

The Pentagon, to this day the largest office building in the world, is dedicated just 16 months after groundbreaking. At times of peak employment 13,000 workers labored on the project - 1943

January 16
The United States Civil Service Commission was established as the Pendleton Act went into effect - 1883
 
Thousands of Palmer Raids detainees win right to meet with lawyers and attorney representation at deportation hearings. "Palmer" was Alexander Mitchell Palmer, U.S. Attorney General under Woodrow Wilson. Palmer believed Communism was "eating its way into the homes of the American workman," and Socialists were causing most of the country's social problems - 1920

Former UAW President Leonard Woodcock dies in Ann Arbor, Mich. at age 89. He had succeeded Walter Reuther and led the union from 1970 to 1977 - 2001 

Sources:
Toil and Trouble, by Thomas R. Brooks; American Labor Struggles, by Samuel Yellen; IWW calendar, Solidarity Forever;
Historical Encyclopedia of American Labor, edited by Robert E. Weir and James P. Hanlan; Southwest Labor History Archives/George Meany Center; Geov Parrish’s Radical History; workday Minnesota; Andy Richards and Adam Wright, AFL-CIO Washington DC Metro Council (graphics research).


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