This week in labor history: November 2-8




1909 Police arrest 150 in IWW free speech fight, Spokane, Wash.
1920 Railroad union leader & socialist Eugene V. Debs receives nearly a million votes for president while imprisoned for opposing World War I.
1983 President Reagan signs a bill designating a federal holiday honoring the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. to be observed on the third Monday of January.
1989 Carmen Fasanella retires after 68 years and 243 days of taxicab service in Princeton, N.J., earning himself a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. He started driving at age 17 and, reportedly, chauffeured Princeton Professor Albert Einstein around town.

1921 Striking milk drivers dump thousands of gallons of milk on New York City streets.
2009 Some 5,000 Philadelphia-area public transit workers begin what was to be a six-day strike centered on wages and pension benefits.

1879 Populist humorist Will Rogers born on this day near Oologah, Indian Territory (later Oklahoma). One of his many memorable quotes: “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.”
1933 Some 3,000 dairy farmers demonstrate in Neillsville, Wisc., ultimately leading to the freeing of jailed leaders of a milk strike over low prices set by large dairy plants. Tons of fresh milk were dumped on public roads, trains carrying milk were stopped and some cheese plants were bombed during the fight.
1996 After a struggle lasting more than two years, 6,000 Steelworkers members at Bridgestone/Firestone win a settlement in which strikers displaced by scabs got their original jobs back. The fight started when management demanded that the workers accept 12-hour shifts.

1855 Eugene V. Debs, Labor leader, socialist, three-time candidate for president and first president of the American Railway Union, born.
1916 Everett, Wash. massacre, at least seven Wobblies killed, 50 wounded and an indeterminate number missing.
2007 Some 12,000 television and movie writers begin what was to become a three-month strike against producers over demands for an increase in pay for movies and television shows released on DVD and for a bigger share of the revenue from work delivered over the Internet.

1887 French transport worker and socialist Eugene Pottier dies in Paris at age 71. In 1871, he authored “L’Internationale,” the anthem to international Labor solidarity, the first verse of which begins: “Stand up, damned of the Earth. Stand up, prisoners of starvation.”
1922 Coal mine explosion in Spangler, Pa., kills 79. The mine had been rated gaseous in 1918, but at the insistence of new operators, it was rated as non-gaseous even though miners had been burned by gas on at least four occasions.

1917 Some 1,300 building trades workers in eastern Massachusetts participate in a general strike on all military work in the area to protest the use of open-shop (a worksite in which union membership is not required as a condition of employment, but workers still get contract benefits) builders. The strike held on for a week in the face of threats from the U.S. War Department.
1959 President Eisenhower’s use of the Taft-Hartley Act is upheld by the Supreme Court, breaking a 116-day steel strike.
1990 Lemuel Ricketts Boulware dies in Delray Beach, Fla., at age 95. As a GE vice president in the 1950s he created the policy known as Boulwarism, in which management decides what is “fair” and refuses to budge on anything during contract negotiations. IUE President Paul Jennings described the policy as “telling the workers what they are entitled to and then trying to shove it down their throats.”

1892 – Some 20,000 workers, Black and white, stage general strike in New Orleans, demanding union recognition and hour and wage gains.
1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt announces plans for the Civil Works Administration to create four million additional jobs for the Depression-era unemployed. The workers ultimately laid 12 million feet of sewer pipe and built or made substantial improvements to 255,000 miles of roads, 40,000 schools, 3,700 playgrounds, and nearly 1,000 airports (not to mention 250,000 outhouses still badly needed in rural America).
1956 In one of the U.S. auto industry’s more embarrassing missteps, the Ford Motor Co. decides to name its new model the Edsel, after Henry Ford’s only son. Ford executives rejected 18,000 other potential names.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder of Union Communication Services)


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