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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Happy Labor Day!

A Timeline of Some Notable Moments in the Suppression of American Labor
A federal bankruptcy judge frees United Airlines from responsibility for pensions cove
ring 120,000 employees - May 10, 2005

Strikebreakers attacking workers during the Tribune strike

Decatur, Ill. police pepper-gas workers at A.E. Staley plant gate one year into the company's two and one-half year lockout of Paperworkers Local 7837 - June 25, 1994
Twenty-five workers die, unable to escape a fire at the Imperial Poultry processing plant in Hamlet, NC. Managers had locked fire doors to prevent the theft of chicken nuggets. The plant had operated for 11 years without a single safety inspection - September 3, 1991

Battle of Century City, as police in Los Angeles attack some 500 janitors and their supporters during a peaceful Service Employees International Union demonstration against cleaning contractor ISS. The event generated public outrage that resulted in recognition of the workers' union and spurred the creation of an annual June 15 Justice for Janitors Day – June 15, 1990

Police in Austin, Minn. tear-gas Hormel striking meatpacking workers. Seventeen strikers are arrested on felony riot charges - April 11, 1986

Phelps-Dodge copper miners in Morenci and Clifton Ariz. are confronted by tanks, helicopters, 426 state troopers and 325 National Guardsmen brought in by Gov. Bruce Babbitt to walk strikebreakers through picketlines in what was to become a failed three-year fight by the Steelworkers and other unions - August 19, 1983

President Reagan fires 15,000 striking air traffic controllers, saying they "have forfeited their jobs." - August 5, 1981

Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathon Kwitney reports that AFL-CIO President George Meany, Sec.-Treas. Lane Kirkland and other union officials are among the 60 leading stockholders in the 15,000 acre Punta Cana, Dominican Republic resort. When the partners needed help clearing the land, the Dominican president sent troops to forcibly evict stubborn, impoverished tobacco farmers and fishermen who had lived there for generations, according to Kwitney’s expose - May 15, 1973

The Rev. Ralph David Abernathy and 100 others are arrested while picketing a Charleston, S.C. hospital in a demand for union recognition - April 25, 1969

Columnist Victor Riesel, a crusader against labor racketeers, was blinded in New York City when a hired assailant threw sulfuric acid in his face - April 5, 1956

Teamsters official William Grami is kidnapped, bound and beaten near Sebastopol, Calif. He was leading a drive to organize apple plant workers in the area - August 12, 1955

After agreeing to give Milwaukee brewery workers contracts comparable to other brewery workers nationwide in order to end a 10 week strike, the Blatz Brewery was ousted from the Brewers Association for “unethical business methods" - May 14, 1953

President Harry S. Truman orders the U.S. Army to illegally seize the nation’s steel mills to avert a strike. April 8, 1952

United Auto Workers leader Walter Reuther is shot and seriously wounded by would-be assassins - April 20, 1948

Congress overrides President Harry Truman's veto of the anti-worker Taft-Hartley Act. The law weakened unions and let states exempt themselves from union requirements. Twenty states immediately enacted open shop laws and two more did so later - June 23, 1947

The Congress of Industrial Organizations (the CIO in AFL-CIO) expels the Fur and Leather Workers union and the American Communications Association for what it describes as communist activities - June 15, 1947

National Labor Relations Board attorney tells ILWU members to “lie down like good dogs,” Juneau, Alaska - April 7, 1947

U.S. railroad strike starts, later crushed when President Truman threatens to draft strikers – May 23, 1946

400,000 members of the United Mine Workers strike for higher wages and employer contributions to the union’s health and welfare fund. President Truman seizes the mines - April 1, 1946

A 17-day, company-instigated wildcat strike in Philadelphia tries to bar eight African-American trolley operators from working. Transport Workers Union members stay on the job in support of the men - August 1, 1944
U.S. Supreme Court issues Mackay decision, which permits the permanent replacement of striking workers. The decision had little impact until Ronald Regan’s replacement of striking air traffic controllers (PATCO) in 1981, a move that signaled anti-union private sector employers that it was OK to do likewise - May 16, 1938

The Women’s Day Massacre in Youngstown, Ohio, when police use tear gas on the women and children, including at least one infant in his mother's arms, during a strike at Republic Steel. One union organizer later recalled, "When I got there I thought the Great War had started over again. Gas was flying all over the place and shots flying and flares going up and it was the first time I had ever seen anything like it in my life..." - June 19, 1937

Police open fire on striking steelworkers at Republic Steel in South Chicago, killing ten and wounding more than 160 - May 30, 1937

Battle of the Overpass, Ford thugs beat United Auto Workers organizers – May 26, 1

Striking African American auto workers are attacked by KKK, National Workers League, and armed white workers at Belle Isle amusement park in Detroit. Two days of riots follow, 34 people are killed, more than 1,300 arrested - June 20, 1943 Battle of Rincon Hill, San Francisco, in longshore strike. 5,000 strikers fought 1,000 police, scabs and national guardsmen. Two strikers were killed, 109 people injured. The incident led to a General Strike - July 5, 1934

Ten thousand strikers at Toledo, Ohio’s Auto-Lite plant repel police who have come to break up their strike for union recognition. The next day, two strikers are killed and 15 wounded when National Guard machine gun units open fire. - May 23, 1934

Thousands of unemployed WWI veterans arrive in Washington, D.C. to demonstrate in favor of early payment of a bonus they had been promised, which was being voted on by Congress. The "Bonus Army" built a shantytown near the U.S. Capitol, but were burned out by U.S. troops, resulting in several deaths and hundreds of wounded including women and children who had accompanied the vets. Gen. MacArthur, who led the attack, disregarded Pres. Truman's order to pull back once they retreated to their encampment - May 25, 1932

Using clubs, police route 1,500 jobless men who had stormed the plant of the Fruit Growers Express Co. in Indiana Harbor, Indiana, demanding jobs - August 5, 1931

Heavily armed deputies and other mine owner hirelings attack striking miners in Harlan County, Ky., starting the Battle of Harlan County - May 5, 1931

More than 100 Mexican and Filipino farm workers are arrested for union activities, Imperial Valley, Calif. Eight were convicted of “criminal syndicalism” - April 14, 1930

At the height of the Great Depression, 35,000 unemployed march in New York’s Union Square. Police beat many demonstrators, injuring 100 - March 30, 1930

During a textile worker strike in Gastonia, N.C., Police Chief O.F. Aderholt is accidentally killed by one of his own officers. Six strike leaders are convicted of “conspiracy to murder” and are sentenced to jail for from 5 to 20 years - June 7, 1929

Strike of cotton mill workers begins in Gastonia, NC. During the strike, police raided the strikers’ tent colony; the chief of police was killed. The strike leaders were framed for murder and convicted, but later freed - April 1, 1929

10,000 striking miners began a fight at Blair Mountain, W.Va., for recognition of their union, the UMWA. Federal troops were sent in, and miners were forced to withdraw 5 days later, after 16 deaths - August 31, 1921

Fannie Sellins and Joseph Starzeleski are murdered by coal company guards on a picket line in Brackenridge, Penn. Sellins was a United Mine Workers of America organizer and Starzeleski was a miner - August 26, 1919

Labor leader and Socialist Party founder Eugene V. Debs is imprisoned for opposing American entry into World War I. While in jail he ran for president, receiving 1 million votes - April 13, 1919
101 members of the IWW are put on trial charged with opposing the draft and hindering the war effort under the Espionage Act in Chicago. The politically motivated and anti-labor trial results in 95 Wobblies being set to prison for up to 20 years - August 17, 1918

A Federal child labor law, enacted two years earlier, was declared unconstitutional – June 3, 1918

The "Palmer raids" are carried out on all IWW halls and offices in 48 cities in U.S. Alexander Palmer, U.S. Attorney General, order the raids as part of an effort to round up labor radicals and leftists under the pretense of wartime treason - September 5, 1917
Ludlow massacre: Colorado state militia, using machine guns and fire, kill about 20 people—including 11 children—at a tent city set up by striking coal miners - April 20, 1914

Northern Michigan copper miners strike for union recognition, higher wages and eight-hour day. During the subsequent nine months, 1,100 were arrested on various charges and Western Federation of Miners President Charles Moyer had been shot, beaten, and forced out of town - July 23, 1913

Police shoot at maritime workers striking United Fruit Co. in New Orleans; 1 killed, 2 wounded – June 11, 1913

Legendary Western Federation of Miners leader and founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World, William “Big Bill” Haywood, goes on trial for murder in the bombing death of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg, who had brutally suppressed the state’s miners. Haywood ultimately was declared innocent - May 9, 1907

A battle between the Militia and striking miners at Dunnville, Colo. ended with six union members dead and 15 taken prisoner. Seventy-nine of the strikers were deported to Kansas two days later – June 8, 1904

Militia sent to Cripple Creek, Colo., to suppress Western Federation of Miners strike – June 7, 1904

A preliminary delegation from Mother Jones' March of the Mill Children from Philadelphia arrives at Pres. Theodore Roosevelt's summer home in Oyster Bay, Long Island to publicize the harsh conditions of child labor, arrives. They are not allowed through the gates - July 29, 1903
Coal company guards kill 7, wound 40 miners trying to stop scabs, Virden, Ill. - August 12, 1898
Eugene V. Debs and other leaders of the American Railway Union are jailed for six months in Woodstock, Ill. for contempt of court in connection with Pullman railroad car strike - May 3, 1895

Eugene Debs and three other trade unionists arrested after Pullman Strike - August 7, 1894
Homestead, Pennsylvania steel strike. Seven strikers and three Pinkertons killed as Andrew Carnegie hires armed thugs to protect strikebreakers - July 1, 1892

On Chicago’s West Side, police attack Jewish workers as they try to march into the Loop to protest slum conditions - May 5, 1886

Four striking workers are killed, at least 200 wounded, when police attack a peaceful demonstration on Chicago’s south side at the McCormick Harvesting Machine plant. The following day in what comes to be known as the Haymarket massacre, a bomb is thrown as Chicago police start to break up a rally for strikers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. A riot erupts, 11 police and strikers die, mostly from police gunfire, and scores more are injured. The incident was used to justify a crackdown on labor unions and eight local labor leaders (some of whom weren't even present at the demonstration) were charged with "inspiring" the bomber. Four were executed and another commited suicide while awaiting trial. They were eventually pardoned by Gov. Altgeld, due to the gross unfairness of the trial. - May 3-4, 1886

The Haymarket Massacre is to take place - May 3, 1886

The New York Times declares the struggle for an eight-hour workday to be “un-American” and calls public demonstrations for the shorter hours “labor disturbances brought about by foreigners.” Other publications declare that an eight-hour workday day would bring about “loafing and gambling, rioting, debauchery and drunkenness” - April 25, 1886

Federal troops drive some 1,200 jobless workers from Washington D.C. Led by unemployed activist Charles "Hobo" Kelley the group's "soldiers" include young journalist Jack London and William Haywood, a young miner-cowboy called "Big Bill," who would goon to become a founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World - August 11, 1884

The Gatling Gun Co. – manufacturers of an early machine gun – writes to B&O Railroad Co. President John W. Garrett during a strike, urging their product be purchased to deal with the "recent riotous dis
turbances around the country." Says the company: "Four or five men only are required to operate (a gun), and one Gatling ... can clear a street or block and keep it clear" - August 24, 1877

Local militiamen are called out against striking railroad workers in Pittsburgh. The head of the Pennsylvania Railroad advises giving the strikers "a rifle diet for a few days and see how they like that kind of bread." Instead, the militiamen joined the workers. Meanwhile, federal troops are sent to Baltimore, where they kill 10 strikers and wound 25 - July 21, 1877
In Chicago, 30 workers killed by federal troops, more than 100 wounded at the "Battle of the Viaduct" during the Great Railroad Strike - July 26, 1877
Ten miners accused of being militant "Molly Maguires" are hanged in Pennsylvania. A private corporation initiated the investigation of the 10 through a private detective agency. A private police force arrested them, and private attorneys for the coal companies prosecuted them. "The state provided only the courtroom & the gallows," a judge said many years later - June 21, 1877
Birth of Allan Pinkerton, whose strike-breaking detectives ("Pinks") gave us the word "fink" - August 25, 1819

The first slave revolt in the U.S. occurs at a slave market in New York City’s Wall Street area. Twenty-one blacks were executed for killing nine whites. The city responded by strengthening its slave codes - April 6, 1712

In the Immortal Words of Joe Hill: Don't Mourn, Organize...

Most of the timeline (excepting minor corrections and commentary by me) is courtesy of
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