Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Today in Labor History: April 20

April 20, 1812— Luddites attacked factories in Middleton, Manchester, Bolton, Ashton,  Oldham and Cheshire England in protest of new technologies that were throwing them out of work. (From the Daily Bleed)

Ruins of Ludlow Mining Camp
National Guard Arrive in Ludlow
April 20, 1914—Ludlow Massacre, Colorado. National Guards opened fire on a mining camp during a strike in Ludlow, Colorado, killing five miners, two women, and twelve children. By the end of the strike, more than 75 people had been killed. The strike involved 10,000 members of the united Mine Workers of America (UMW), 1,200 of whom had been living in the Ludlow tent colony. Many of the “Guards” were actually goons and vigilantes hired by the Ludlow Mine Field owner, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who were temporarily sworn into the State Militia for the occasion. During the assault, they opened fire on strikers and their families with machine guns and set fire to the camp.
Armored "Death Car" (With Mounted Machine Guns)
Mining was (and still is) a dangerous job. At the time, Colorado miners were dying on the job at a rate of more than 7 deaths per 1,000 employees. The working conditions were not only unsafe, but terribly unfair, too. Workers were paid by the ton for coal that they extracted, but were unpaid for so-called “dead work” like shoring up unstable roofs and tunnels. This system encouraged miners to risk their lives by ignoring safety precautions and preparations so that they would have more time to extract and deliver coal. Miners also lived in “company towns” where the boss not only owned their housing and the stores that supplied their food and clothing, but charged inflated prices for these services. Furthermore, the workers were paid in “scrip,” a currency that was valid only in the company towns. So even if workers had a way to get to another store, they had no money to purchase anything. Therefore, much of what the miners earned went back into the pockets of their bosses. (From Labor History, The Daily Bleed, Wikipedia and Workday Minnesota)

April 20, 1948 - United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther was shot and seriously wounded by would-be assassins. He survived and ultimately died in a plane crash in 1970. Reuther also survived an attempted kidnapping in April, 1938, while his brother Victor was shot and nearly killed by police in 1949. The UAW headquarters was also bombed in 1949. Both Walter and Victor were again nearly killed in a small private plane near Dulles Airport. Despite this history of attempts on his life, virtually no media addressed the possibility that his actual death may have been an assassination. (From The Daily Bleed, and Workday Minnesota)

April 20, 1985 - 250,000 people marched in Washington, D.C., to protest US policy in Central America. (From The Daily Bleed)

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