Friday, August 3, 2012

Today in Labor History—August 3

August 3, 1821 -- Uriah Stephens, founder of the Knights of Labor, was born in Cape May, New Jersey (1821-1882). (From the Daily Bleed)

August 3, 1886 – Labor activist and song writer Florence Reece was born. She had been active in Harlan County, Kentucky coal strikes and penned the famed labor song "Which Side Are You On?" The song was written in 1931 on an old wall calendar while Sheriff J.H. Blair was searching for her husband and ransacking her home. Blair had led his gang of thugs on a violent rampage, beating and murdering union leaders.

They say in Harlan Co.
There are no neutrals there
You'll either be a Union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair.
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
(From the Daily Bleed)

August 3, 1894 – The Pullman strike was called off by the railway union after US troops intervened. (From the Daily Bleed)
Cavalry used against striking Pullman workers
 August 3, 1913 Four died in the so-called "Wheatland riots" when police fired into a crowd of California farmworkers trying to organize for better working conditions. Two labor leaders, one of whom was not even present at the massacre, were later convicted of murder for encouraging workers to organize, which forced officials to shoot and kill. Conditions were terrible with no water for the workers, who routinely contracted dysentery, malaria and typhoid fever. When the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) had struck at the Durst hops farms in Wheatland, California, armed county officials fired on a union meeting. An ensuing gun fight left four dead, including the district attorney & sheriff.  (From the Daily Bleed)

August 3, 1949 – United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 893 won a strike at Vought. (From the Daily Bleed)

August 3, 1972 – The British government declared a state of emergency to allow troops to replace striking longshoremen, forcing Britain's 42,000 striking dock workers back to work. (From the Daily Bleed)

August 3, 1981 – U.S. federal air traffic controllers began a nationwide strike after their union, PATCO, rejected the government's final contract offer. Most of the 13,000 strikers ignored orders to go back to work and were fired on August 5 by President Reagan for participating in an illegal work stoppage. Reagan's action – and the inability of the labor movement to respond to the crisis – led to the rapid downhill spiral of unions. (From Workday Minnesota)

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