This week in labor history: January 12-19

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JANUARY 13
1874 – 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. Commissioner of Police Abram Duryee declared: “It was the most glorious sight I ever saw...”
1919 – Latino citrus workers strike in Covina, Calif.
1924 – (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.

JANUARY 14
1993 – 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.
1995 – Pennsylvania Superior Court rules bosses can fire workers for being gay.
2003 – 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.
2014 – A 15-month lockout by the Minnesota Orchestra against members of the Twin Cities Musicians’ Union, Local 30-73 ends when the musicians agree to a 15 percent pay cut (management wanted up to 40 percent) and increased health care cost sharing. They did win a revenue-sharing deal based on performance of the Orchestra’s endowments. It was the nation’s longest-running contract dispute for a concert orchestra.

JANUARY 15
1915 – Wobbly Ralph Chaplin, in Chicago for a demonstration against hunger, completes the writing of the labor anthem “Solidarity Forever” on this date in 1915. He’d begun writing it in 1914 during a miners’ strike in Huntington, W. Va. The first verse:
When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong!
1919 – Seventeen workers die when a large molasses storage tank in Boston’s North End neighborhood bursts, sending a 40-foot wave of molasses surging through the streets at an estimated 35 miles per hour. In all, 21 people died and 150 were injured. The incident is variously known as the Boston Molasses Disaster, the Great Molasses Flood and the Great Boston Molasses Tragedy. Some residents claim that on hot summer days, the area still smells of molasses.
1929 – Martin Luther King Jr. born.
1938 – The CIO miners’ union in the Grass Valley area of California strikes for higher wages, union recognition, and the eight-hour day. The strike was defeated when vigilantes and law enforcement officials expelled 400 miners and their families from the area.
1943 – 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.
1946 – Some 174,000 members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers union (UE) strike General Electric and Westinghouse after the power companies, with record-setting profits, offered just a half-cent per hour increase. After nine weeks, the strike was settled with an 18.5 cents hourly wage improvement.

JANUARY 16
1883 – The United States Civil Service Commission is established as the Pendleton Act went into effect.
1920 – 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.
2001 – 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.

JANUARY 17
1915 – Radical labor organizer and anarchist Lucy Parsons leads hunger march in Chicago; IWW songwriter Ralph Chaplin wrote “Solidarity Forever” for the march.
1962 – President John F. Kennedy signs Executive Order 10988, guaranteeing federal workers the right to join unions and bargain collectively.

JANUARY 18
1909 – U.S. Supreme Court rules in Moyer v. Peabody that a governor and officers of a state National Guard may imprison anyone – in the case at hand, striking miners in Colorado – without probable cause “in a time of insurrection” and deny the person the right of appeal.
1978 – “Take This Job and Shove It,” by Johnny Paycheck, is listed by Billboard magazine as the most popular song in the U.S.

JANUARY 19
1915 – Twenty strikers at the American Agricultural Chemical Co. in Roosevelt, N.J., are shot, two fatally, by factory guards. They and other strikers had stopped an incoming train in search of scabs when the guards opened fire.
1920 – American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) founded.
1920 – Some 3,000 members of the Filipino Federation of Labor strike the plantations of Oahu, Hawaii. Their ranks swell to 8,300 as they are joined by members of the Japanese Federation of Labor.
1973 – Yuba City, Calif., labor contractor Juan V. Corona is found guilty of murdering 25 itinerant farm workers he employed during 1970 and 1971.
1986 – Bruce Springsteen makes an unannounced appearance at a benefit for laid-off 3M workers, Asbury Park, N.J.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder Union Communication Services)

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