On Friday November 29th millions of Americans went out well before dawn to try to save a few dollars on that hot new toy. The annual event now known as ‘Black Friday,’ is the biggest annual revenue draw for retailers. However not everyone who was out on Black Friday was out to shop.
Walmart the nations largest private employer has been leading the race to the bottom by paying most of the their workers just above minimum wage. Walmart also does not guarantee that employees will get a full 40-hour workweek either. These actions by Walmart’s corporate executives have fueled the union organizing efforts of OUR-Walmart.
Organization United for Respect (OUR-Walmart) is a grassroots coalition of workers and union organizers who are trying to help workers find their voice and speak out against their employer. OUR-Walmart made national news on Black Friday last year when they held their first worker’s strikes. The turn out was not as big as they hoped for but they made their point.
This year OUR-Walmart’s Black Friday protests were much bigger. Thousands of protests were held nation wide. Some were massive like the ones in White Plains New York where hundreds of people gathered to protest. Others were small like the one in Somersworth New Hampshire where about twenty protesters showed up at the Walmart Supercenter.
Image courtesy of Occupy Seacoast NH
In a recent interview, David Holt, a member of Occupy Seacoast NH, which organized the Somersworth protest, told me:
“We came out to support Walmart workers who are not paid a living wage. We were also protesting Walmart as the poster child for corporate America, driving for profits for the wealthy in America despite the damage it is doing to hardworking Americans, the economy, and the planet.”
While the group was small they were very diverse. “Attendees included members of the Occupy Seacoast NH group, UNH students who are part of the UNH Peace and Justice League, members of various unions, as well as several concerned citizens,” Holt explained.
David is not a Walmart employee, so I asked David why he chose to take part protesting Walmart?
“Just look at the news,” Holt said. “One Walmart store had a food drive for it’s own employees, they are also currently under investigation for bribery in Mexico, and have been tied in the past to a factory catastrophe in Bangladesh. The list of reasons to protest Walmart is almost limitless, they have caused countless small business to close including smaller chains and their sourcing practices are causing environmental damage all over the world.”
Workers deserve dignity and respect no matter where they work. Walmart does not respect their workers. They pay them the absolute minimum, provide no benefits, and do their best to avoid allowing workers to be ‘full time’. I was very glad to see all of the news coverage and people who took a stand for workers on Black Friday, instead of feeding the corporate greed.
Today in labor history for the week of December 2, 2013
A Chicago “slugger,” paid $50 by labor unions for every scab he “discouraged,” described his job in an interview: “Oh, there ain’t nothing to it. I gets my fifty, then I goes out and finds the guy they wanna have slugged, then I gives it to ‘im” – 1911
The U.S. Senate votes 65-22 to condemn Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisc.) for “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.” McCarthy was a rabid anti-Communist who falsely accused thousands of Americans, mostly people who supported labor, civil rights and other progressive causes, of being traitors – 1954
Court documents filed in Boston say Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has agreed to pay $40 million to 87,500 Massachusetts employees who claimed the retailer denied them rest and meal breaks, manipulated time cards and refused to pay overtime – 2009
Textile strikers win 10-hour day, Fall River, Mass. – 1866
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passes an ordinance setting an 8-hour workday for all city employees – 1867
IWW union Brotherhood of Timber Workers organized – 1910
Canada’s Quebec Bridge, spanning the St. Lawrence River, opens to traffic on this day after the deaths of 89 construction workers in the course of the job. A flawed design was blamed for a 1907 collapse that killed 75; another 13 died in 1916 when a hoisting device failed as the central span was being lifted – 1919
General strike begins in Oakland, Calif., started by female department store clerks – 1946
The express passenger train “20th Century Limited” ends more than 60 years of service when it takes its last run from New York City to Chicago – 1967
Some 5,000 union construction workers in Oahu, Hawaii, march to City Hall in protest of a proposed construction moratorium by the city council – 1976
At least four thousand people die, and as many as 20,000, in one of the largest industrial disasters on record. It happened in Bhopal, India, when poisonous methyl isocyante was released into the atmosphere at a Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant. The results of investigations by Union Carbide and the government were never released to the public; one authoritative independent study laid blame at the feet of Union Carbide for its failures on training, staffing, safety and other issues – 1984
Arrests began today in Middleton, N.J., of teachers striking in violation of a no-strike law. Ultimately 228 educators were jailed for up to seven days before they were released following the Middleton Township Education Association’s agreement to take the dispute to mediation – 2001
President Roosevelt announces the end of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), concluding the four-year run of one of the American government’s most ambitious public works programs. It helped create jobs for roughly 8.5 million people during the Great Depression and left a legacy of highways and public buildings, among other public gains – 1943
UAW President Walter Reuther elected president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations – 1952
Cesar Chavez jailed for 20 days for refusing to end United Farm Workers’ grape boycott – 1970
Unionists John T. and James B. McNamara are sentenced to 15 years and life, respectively, after confessing to dynamiting the Los Angeles Times building during a drive to unionize the metal trades in the city. They placed the bomb in an alley next to the building, set to detonate when they thought the building would be empty; it went off early, and an unanticipated gas explosion and fire did the real damage, killing twenty people. The newspaper was strongly conservative and anti-union – 1911
Ending a 20-year split, the two largest labor federations in the U.S. merge to form the AFL-CIO, with a membership estimated at 15 million – 1955
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney welcomes the collapse of World Trade Organization talks in Seattle, declaring, “No deal is better than a bad deal.” – 1999
The U.S. Department of Labor reports employers slashed 533,000 jobs the month before—the most in 34 years—as the Great Recession surged. The unemployment rolls had risen for seven months before that and were to continue to soar for another 10 months before topping 10 percent and beginning to level off late the following year – 2008 (23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism is a concise blast of eye-opening economic truth-telling; essential reading to understand where free market thinking falls short and how we got to the mess we’re in today.)
African-American delegates meet in Washington, D.C., to form the Colored National Labor Union as a branch of the all-white National Labor Union created three years earlier. Unlike the NLU, the CNLU welcomed members of all races. Isaac Myers was the CNLU’s founding president; Frederick Douglas became president in 1872 – 1869
The Washington Monument is completed in Washington, D.C. On the interior of the monument are 193 commemorative stones, donated by numerous governments and organizations from all over the world; one of them is from the Int’l Typographical Union, founded in 1852. In 1986 the ITU merged into the Communications Workers of America – 1884
A total of 361 coal miners die at Monongah, W.Va., in nation’s worst mining disaster – 1907
Int’l Glove Workers Union of America merges into Amalgamated Clothing Workers – 1961
United Mine Workers begin what is to become a 110-day national coal strike – 1997
Heywood Broun born in New York City. Journalist, columnist and co-founder, in 1933, of The Newspaper Guild – 1888
Steam boiler operators from 11 cities across the country meet in Chicago to form the National Union of Steam Engineers of America, the forerunner to the Int’l Union of Operating Engineers. Each of the men represented a local union of 40 members or fewer – 1896
More than 1,600 protesters staged a national hunger march on Washington, D.C., to present demands for unemployment insurance – 1931
United Hatters, Cap & Millinery Workers Int’l Union merges into Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union – 1982
Last month, we saw Washington at its worst. Driven by the Tea Party, Republican leaders, including Senator Ayotte, recklessly shut down our government and brought our nation to the brink of default. Ignoring voices of reason from working families across New Hampshire, some of our leaders in Congress listened to shouts of “shut it down” and inflicted unnecessary damage to our economy.
The shutdown cost 120,000 jobs in the first two weeks of October and will reduce economic growth by at least .25% in the fourth quarter. Here in New Hampshire it directly impacted 4,069 federal workers and countless residents who rely on federal services.
Thankfully, reason prevailed, Republican leaders relented and Congress appointed negotiators to work on a new budget agreement.
Now it’s on to the next fight in Washington. But before we get caught up in another news cycle where extremists convince us we shouldn’t invest in our future, it is worth noting that a congressional budget is a vision. It is a blueprint that outlines our priorities as a nation. A good budget invests in America. It doesn’t rob our government of the resources it needs to succeed. A good budget properly funds its obligations and promotes the creation of well-paying jobs. It doesn’t bargain away protections for our seniors and it isn’t balanced on the backs of working families.
As Democrats and Republicans spend this month negotiating how to avoid another government shutdown, it is important to remind Washington politicians about what working families need.
The recovery is still being dragged down by the repeated budget crises manufactured by Republicans in Congress. Budget austerity in the Tea Party Congress has already slowed annual economic growth by 0.7%, cost 1.2 million jobs, and increased the unemployment rate by 0.8%, according to Macroeconomic Advisers.
First, Congress should repeal the sequester it created, not replace it. The sequester’s dumb across-the-board cuts have hurt everything from education to child care to medical research. Here in New Hampshire, much attention has been given to the hardworking workers at our Shipyard and National Guard members who have faced furloughs as a result of defense cuts. But sequestration is also forcing layoffs and cutbacks to other critical programs that provide job training, education, and other services.
Repealing the sequester would generate 800,000 jobs by this time next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The next budget should undo this painful damage— and not replace it with other harmful cuts.
Most importantly, policymakers in Washington must reject proposals to cut Social Security, Medicaid, or Medicare benefits. They should avoid deficit hysteria promoted by billionaires and the 1%. Instead of terrifying our parents and grandparents with threats to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits they’ve earned, politicians should protect these vital programs that have shielded the elderly and vulnerable from poverty for generations. Our nation’s safety net should be strengthened, not weakened, because working people need more economic security, not less.
Instead, Congress should look to raise new revenue by repealing the tax subsidies that encourage corporations to send jobs overseas and ending special tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. When the average CEO’s salary for the first morning on the job is the same amount the average worker makes in a year, it’s clear that the wealthiest Americans and corporations making record profits can pay their fair share.
Ending these undeserved and wasteful tax breaks would allow us to invest in our workforce and create the well-paying jobs millions so desperately need. By rebuilding our infrastructure, education, and manufacturing base, we can create good jobs with good benefits and provide relief to our struggling working and middle class. This is America, after all. No job should trap anyone in a vicious cycle of poverty.
By focusing on helping working families instead of how to score political points, Congress can produce a budget that supports an economy that works for all.It is time for Senator Ayotte to realize that instead of shutting down progress, she needs to listen to the needs of the hardworking voters who sent her to Washington.
Richard Trumka is President of the AFL-CIO. Mark MacKenzie is President of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.
Today in labor history for the week of November 25, 2013
Some 10,000 New Orleans workers, black and white, participate in a solidarity parade of unions comprising the Central Trades and Labor Assembly. The parade was so successful it was repeated the following two years – 1883
Teachers strike in St. Paul, Minn., the first organized walkout by teachers in the country. The month-long “strike for better schools” involving some 1,100 teachers—and principals—led to a number of reforms in the way schools were administered and operated – 1946
Nearly 1,550 typesetters begin what is to become a victorious 22-month strike against Chicago newspapers – 1947
George Meany becomes president of the American Federation of Labor following the death four days earlier of William Green – 1952
Canadian postal workers, protesting a Post Office decision to offer discounts to businesses but not individuals, announce that for one week they will unilaterally reduce postage costs by about two-thirds. Declared the Canadian Union of Postal Workers: “(M)embers of the general public, not businesses, can mail letters with 10 cents postage and postal workers will process them without taxing them for insufficient postage” – 1983
Six young women burn to death and 19 more die when they leap from the fourth-story windows of a blazing factory in Newark, N.J. The floors and stairs were wooden; the only door from which the women could flee was locked – 1910 (Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor: Your heart will be broken by this exceptional book’s photographs of children at backbreaking, often life-threatening work, and the accompanying commentary by author Russell Freedman. Photographer Lewis Hine – who himself died in poverty in 1940 – did as much, and perhaps more, than any social critic in the early part of the 20th century to expose the abuse of children, as young as three and four, by American capitalism.)
Some 1,200 workers sit down at Midland Steel, forcing recognition of the United Auto Workers, Detroit – 1936
The pro-labor musical revue, “Pins & Needles,” opens on Broadway with a cast of Int’l Ladies Garment Workers Union members. The show ran on Friday and Saturday nights only, because of the cast’s regular jobs. It ran for 1,108 performances before closing – 1937
William Sylvis, founder of the National Labor Union, born – 1828
National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, precursor to IBEW, founded – 1891
A total of 154 men die in a coal mine explosion at Marianna, Pa. Engineer and General Superintendent A.C. Beeson tells the local newspaper he had been in the mine a few minutes before the blast and had found it to be in perfect condition – 1908
Some 400 New York City photoengravers working for the city’s newspapers, supported by 20,000 other newspaper unionists, begin what is to become an 11-day strike, shutting down the papers – 1953
Clerks, teamsters and building service workers at Boston Stores in Milwaukee strike at the beginning of the Christmas rush. The strike won widespread support—at one point 10,000 pickets jammed the sidewalks around the main store—but ultimately was lost. Workers returned to the job in mid-January with a small pay raise and no union recognition – 1934
National Labor Relations Board rules that medical interns can unionize and negotiate wages and hours – 1999
“Fighting Mary” Eliza McDowell, also known as the “Angel of the Stockyards,” born in Chicago. As a social worker she helped organize the first women’s local of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union in 1902 – 1854
Mother Jones died at the Burgess Farm in Adelphi, Md.; “I’m not a lady, I’m a hell-raiser!” – 1930 (Mother Jones Speaks: Speeches and Writings: Admirers and students of Mother Jones will want this comprehensive collection of her speeches, letters, articles, interviews and testimony before Congressional committees. In her own words, this brave and determined heroine to millions of workers, active from the end of the Civil War until shortly before her death in 1930, explains her life, her mission, her passion on behalf of working people. Here are her fiery speeches to crowds of striking miners, textile workers, railroad workers and others; her correspondence with political and union leaders of her era — even newspaper accounts of her activities that include confrontations with police and militia.)
More than 12,000 members of the Insurance Agents Union strike in 35 states and Washington, D.C., against the Prudential Insurance Co. – 1951
Unionists and activists shut down World Trade Organization meeting, Seattle, Wash. – 1999
The Ford Motor Co. introduces the continuous moving assembly line which can produce a complete car every two-and-a-half minutes – 1913
Kellogg cereal adopts 6-hour day – 1930
African-American Rosa Parks refuses to go to the back of a Montgomery, Ala., bus, fueling the growing civil rights movement’s campaign to win desegregation and end the deep South’s “Jim Crow” laws – 1955 (All Labor Has Dignity: People forget that Dr. King was every bit as committed to economic justice as he was to ending racial segregation. He fought throughout his life to connect the labor and civil rights movements, envisioning them as twin pillars for social reform. As we struggle with massive unemployment, a staggering racial wealth gap, and the near collapse of a financial system that puts profits before people, this collection of King’s speeches on labor rights and economic justice underscore his relevance for today. They help us imagine King anew: as a human rights leader whose commitment to unions and an end to poverty was a crucial part of his civil rights agenda.)
United Garment Workers of America merge with United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union – 1994
Metal Polishers, Buffers, Platers & Allied Workers Int’l Union & United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum & Plastics Workers of America merge with Int’l Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers & Helpers – 1996
It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that a great institution of labor may soon be going extinct. It was announced by the Board of Trustees that the National Labor College would be permanently closing in the near future.
The NLC was the only institution of higher learning that focused on labor studies and worked to provide union members the chance to acquire an advanced degree. Through the years as a college education became more and more important to all workers the college offered union members the opportunity to attend college at a very reasonable price. The AFL-CIO would subsidize some of the tuition costs for AFL-CIO members to keep the rates low enough that any member could afford to attend. This was a major benefit for members looking to further their education and become stronger a voice in the labor movement.
Nobody is denying the fact that recently the school has encountered significant financial problems. As technology rapidly evolves, the school has continued to bolster their online education division. Many of the schools 700+ courses were offered online. This is a great way to provide education to those members who could not move to Maryland to attend college. However the NLC has always retained an actual campus where students could attend, just like any other college. This created an issue for the NLC as attendance at the school dropped and students opted for online courses.
This is where the financial issues arose. The Board made the decision to become a virtual school and offered to sell their entire campus to save the millions of dollars needed to retain it. Sadly the sale of the campus fell through, and the board has opted to close the entire school due to a lack of funding.
I reached out to a Mark King (AFT-FPE) a recent graduate and 2012 Class President to ask him how he felt about the announcement to close the NLC.
“I am heartsick to learn of the closing of The National Labor College, the premier educational institution geared to the educational needs of all workers, but especially focused on union members.
I have learned as much from my fellow students there as I did from my classes. I have learned from more experienced classmates how they dealt with grievences and other issues, shortening my learning curve as a labor official. Thanks to NLC I have friends in the labor movement from around the US – the school served to introduce and connect people from all unions that operate under the auspices of the AFL-CIO as well as those which did not, a huge pro union, pro worker, pro democracy meltingpot that has touched the lives of a great many labor activists. The connections made there will continue to ripple into the future.
I had the honor of being elected President of Student Government. I was elected to give the 2012 commencement speech. NLC has been a big part of my life, and a big part of my hope for the future of the Labor Movement. Working people, working together, beat the forces of nearly unlimited corporate money and insure that Democracy has a chance each election cycle. NLC educated and networked many of these everyday heroes, the loss of this institution dedicated to the Labor Movement is a loss to all Americans.
Sign this petition to let Mr. Trumka know how the loss of NLC affects you. Rumor has it that he could not vote to shut the school down, but abstained…
I’m a graduate of NLC, as well as a current member of the NLC/George Mason ODKM Cohort 3, where I am working toward a Masters Degree that will help me to work within the Labor Movement to the betterment of all working people. I’m paying the education I received there forward by being President of my Local, AFT-FPE #4831 and Secretary For AFT-NH. I’ve chosen my Major so as to do more. I’m dedicating my life to the cause of working folks. NLC helped me find my path. I’m heartfeltly sorry to see the institution is shutting down.”
The closing of the school has raised some new issues; what about the union workers at the school who have a collective bargaining agreement with the school, and what about the students who are looking to finish their degrees?
Recently the Baltimore-Washington Newspaper Guild (CWA-TNG) – the union that represents workers at the National Labor College – released a statement for the NLC to uphold their agreements to the students and the college workers.
“Our union, comprised of professionals and faculty members, calls on the National Labor College and the AFL-CIO to ensure that the student body has a seamless path to finish out their degrees, and that the college meets its contractual obligations to its union-represented staff. How the closure proceeds will reflect greatly on the labor movement, its values and how it honors its obligations to union members, both as students and employees.
The National Labor College was founded and supported by the AFL-CIO to help working families and union members pursue higher education as the cost of college has become increasingly out-of-reach for many American families. A recent report by the College Board found that for 2013-2014, the median tuition and fees price tag was over $11,000 — not including room and board. Since the college’s founding, the AFL-CIO has always subsidized tuition for union members to make the cost of attendance affordable. The AFL-CIO and the National Labor College should continue to work together to ensure moral and contractual obligations to students and staff are met.” (emphasis added)
What will the AFL-CIO – the major benefactor in the college – and the college’s President Paula Peinovich, do to honor the contracts they entered into with these workers and their students? Will they abandon the workers like every other private corporation has done in recent bankruptcy cases, or will they find a way to fill out their collective bargaining agreement?
I do not have the answers to these questions; there are only a handful of people who can. As an advocate for unions, and a strong believer in the collective bargaining process, I would hope that the school would do what is right for the workers first then worry about all the other issues. Protecting workers and holding employers accountable to the collective bargaining agreement is what we in the labor movement are fighting for every day. It would be a detrimental blow to all of us if the AFL-CIO were to abandon workers in this way.
The ball is in your court now, Mr. Trumka.
There is an online petition circulation to show support for the National Labor College and it currently has just shy of 1000 supporters. Click here if you would like to add your name, as I have, to encourage the Mr. Trumka and the entire Board to reconsider their decision to close the school. I have included the text of the petition below.
President Trumka, American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
The National Labor College (NLC) is one of a kind, the only college in the United States with an exclusive mission to serve the educational needs of the labor movement. It is an activist institution made up of students, faculty and alumni who together form a learning community based on a common understanding of the world of work and the ecology of the labor movement. The College respects that its student body is made up of experienced, highly skilled working adults who have multiple commitments to family, job, union and community. In its academic programs, NLC honors higher learning that takes place both inside and outside the collegiate community.
Today, the NLC Board has determined to close the school.
Several costly financial decisions were made such as the decision to renovate the campus in 2006 and then build a 73,000 square foot building on the campus in 2007 (apparently the result of an overly optimistic ‘build it and they will come’ perception at the time). The physical college campus in Maryland is currently for sale and a buyer will eventually be found so that portion of the financial problem will be solved.
The long-term growth opportunity of the college rests in the administration’s promising development of the institution’s online format that now makes courses accessible to millions of workers throughout the world. Some courses could still be offered ‘in person’ via the use of our Central Labor Council offices, local labor union offices and worker’s centers.
I could not imagine a scenario wherein the school would not be financially viable after the sale of the NLC’s Maryland campus is completed and financial resources become available for administering and maintenance of the institution’s online instruction.
Please keep the National Labor College open.
Stop the Closure of the Labor Movement’s Only -The National Labor College
Today in labor history for the week of November 18, 2013
Seattle printers refuse to print anti-labor ad in newspaper – 1919
Thirty-one men died on Lake Michigan with the sinking of the Carl D. Bradley during one of the worst storms in the lake’s history. The 623-foot ship, carrying limestone, broke in two. Four crewmen survived – 1958
Joe Hill, labor leader and songwriter, executed in Utah on what many believe was a framed charge of murder. Before he died he declared: “Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize.” – 1915
The nation’s first automatic toll collection machine is used at the Union Toll Plaza on New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway – 1954
The National Writers Union is founded, representing freelance and contract writers and others in the trade. In 1992 it was to merge into and become a local of the United Auto Workers – 1981
First use of term “scab,” by Albany Typographical Society – 1816 (The Lexicon of Labor is an invaluable resource for all unionists, from rank-and-file activists to newsletter editors and webmasters to union leaders. It offers readable, informative descriptions of more than 500 key terms, places, people and events in American labor history, from explaining who the Wobblies and Knights of Labor were to reporting on the 1997 Teamster strike at UPS. It includes dozens of new terms and developments and introduces a new generation to the labor lexicon.)
Norman Thomas born, American socialist leader – 1884
The time clock is invented by Willard Bundy, a jeweler in Auburn, N.Y. Bundy’s brother Harlow starts mass producing them a year later – 1888
Mine fire in Telluride, Colo., kills 28 miners, prompts union call for safer work conditions – 1901
A total of 78 miners are killed in an explosion at the Consolidated Coal Company’s No. 9 mine in Farmington, W. Va. – 1968
The Great Recession hits high gear when the stock market falls to its lowest level since 1997. Adding to the mess: a burst housing bubble and total incompetence and greed—some of it criminal—on the part of the nation’s largest banks and Wall Street investment firms. Officially, the recession lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, but unemployment still hovers around the 7 percent mark today – 2008
Six miners striking for better working conditions under the IWW banner are killed and many wounded in the Columbine Massacre at Lafayette, Colo. Out of this struggle Colorado coal miners gained lasting union contracts – 1927
The 1,700-mile Alaska Highway (Alcan Highway) is completed, built during World War II on the order of President Roosevelt. Some 11,000 troops, about one-third of them African-Americans, worked on the project, which claimed the lives of an estimated 30 men. Memorials for the veterans are scattered in spots throughout the highway, including the Black Veterans Memorial Bridge, dedicated in 1993. It wasn’t until 1948 that the military was desegregated – 1942
The United Auto Workers Union strikes 92 General Motors plants in 50 cities to back up worker demands for a 30-percent raise. An estimated 200,000 workers are out – 1945
Staten Island and Brooklyn are linked by the new Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time and still the longest in the U.S. Joseph Farrell, an apprentice Ironworker on the project, told radio station WNYC: “The way the wind blows over this water it would blow you right off the iron. That was to me and still is the most treacherous part of this business. When the wind grabs you on the open iron, it can be very dangerous.” Three workers died over the course of the 5-year project – 1964
The promise of telecommuting arrives when the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network—ARPANET, the beginnings of the global internet—is established when a permanent link is created between the University of California at Los Angeles and the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, Calif. – 1969
A fire at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas kills 85 hotel employees and guests and sends 650 injured persons, including 14 firefighters, to the hospital. Most of the deaths and injuries were caused by smoke inhalation – 1980
Flight attendants celebrate the signing into law a smoking ban on all U.S. domestic flights – 1989
Congress approves the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), to take effect Jan. 1 of the following year – 1993
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act takes effect in the nation’s workplaces. It prohibits employers from requesting genetic testing or considering someone’s genetic background in hiring, firing or promotions – 2009 (Your Rights in the Workplace, 9th edition: The most substantial “employee rights” reference we’ve found. This book covers concerns of every worker in every state, in plain language and with what-to-do-about-it advice. Unions remain the best protection on the job, but this guide gives solid explanations on the full range of issues and options, and then some. Topics covered include privacy rights, family leave, discrimination and harassment, wages and hours, hiring and firing, safety on the job. Fully indexed, dozens of resources.)
Some 20,000 female garment workers are on strike in New York; Judge tells arrested pickets: “You are on strike against God” – 1909
The district president of the American Federation of Labor and two other white men are shot and killed in Bogalusa, Ala., as they attempt to assist an African-American organizer working to unionize African-American workers at the Great Southern Lumber Co. – 1919
History’s first recorded (on papyrus) strike, by Egyptians working on public works projects for King Ramses III in the Valley of the Kings. They were protesting having gone 20 days without pay—portions of grain—and put down their tools. Exact date estimated, described as within “the sixth month of the 29th year” of Ramses’ reign—1170BC—in The Spirit of Ancient Egypt, by Ana Ruiz. Scholar John Rome adds in Ancient Lives: The Story of the Pharaoh’s Tombmakers that the strike so terrified the authorities they gave in and raised wages. Romer believes it happened a few years …read more
With Clock Ticking, Congress Must Extend Unemployment Insurance for Granite State Families, Focus on Job Creation
Unveils new report showing that without Congressional action, 1.3 million Americans – including 1,300 Granite Staters – will be cut off from vital unemployment insurance just days after Christmas
Kuster: We must provide critical assistance to long-term unemployed and focus like a laser on helping create jobs
WASHINGTON, D.C. –With critical unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed set to expire just days after Christmas, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) today called on Congress to immediately extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and take aggressive steps to help boost job creation in New Hampshire and across the country. Kuster highlighted a new House Ways and Means Committee report which estimates that without Congressional action, 1.3 million Americans – including 1,300 Granite Staters – will immediately be cut off from unemployment insurance on December 28 if Congress does not reauthorize the program.
“If Congress fails to act soon, more than one thousand Granite Staters will lose their unemployment benefits at the end of the year,” Kuster said. “Losing these vital benefits will be a body-blow to New Hampshire families who are already struggling to find work and make ends meet. After wasting weeks on a pointless government shutdown that hurt our economy, Congress needs to come together to extend these benefits and focus on helping create jobs and opportunity for Granite Staters.”
The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was first authorized in 2008 and has been reauthorized on several occasions since then, most recently as part of the Jan. 1, 2013 fiscal cliff agreement, with the number of weeks of federal benefits substantially reduced over the last two years.
Today in labor history for the week of November 11, 2013
Haymarket martyrs hanged, convicted in the bombing deaths of eight police during a Chicago labor rally – 1887
A confrontation between American Legionnaires and Wobblies during an Armistice Day Parade in Centralia, Wash., results in six deaths. One Wobbly reportedly was beaten, his teeth bashed in with a rifle butt, castrated and hanged: local officials listed his death as a suicide – 1919
A total of 57 crewmen on three freighters die over a 3-day period when their ships sink during a huge storm over Lake Michigan – 1940
Ellis Island in New York closes after serving as the gateway for 12 million immigrants from 1892 to 1924. From 1924 to 1954 it was mostly used as a detention and deportation center for undocumented immigrants – 1954
“Chainsaw Al” Dunlap announces he is restructuring the Sunbeam Corp. and lays off 6,000 workers—half the workforce. Sunbeam later nearly collapsed after a series of scandals under Dunlap’s leadership that cost investors billions of dollars – 1996
A total of 259 miners died in the underground Cherry Mine fire. As a result of the disaster, Illinois established stricter safety regulations and in 1911, the basis for the state’s Workers Compensation Act was passed – 1909 (Fire in the Hole! Fourteen-year-old Mick doesn’t want to end up like his father, a rough-hewn miner working for low wages in the Coeur d’Alene silver-mining district of Idaho. He doesn’t like the militant, often confrontational approach of his father’s union as the men struggle against an uncaring mine owner and would rather do his fighting with words like his mentor, Mr. Delaney, who runs the town newspaper. But when a handful of radicals blow up the mining company’s ore-concentrating mill, Mick’s dreams blow up with it.)
A Western Federation of Miners strike is crushed by the militia in Butte, Mont. – 1914
The Holland Tunnel opens, running under the Hudson River for 1.6 miles and connecting the island of Manhattan in New York City with Jersey City, N.J. Thirteen workers died over its 7-year-long construction – 1927
Striking typesetters at the Green Bay, Wisc., Press Gazette start a competing newspaper, The Green Bay Daily News. With financial support from a local businessman who hated the Press Gazette, the union ran the paper for four years before their angel died and it was sold to another publisher. The Gannett chain ultimately bought the paper, only to fold it in 2005 – 1972
Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union activist Karen Silkwood is killed in a suspicious car crash on her way to deliver documents to a newspaper reporter during a safety investigation of her Kerr-McGee plutonium processing plant in Oklahoma – 1974 (The Killing of Karen Silkwood: This is an updated edition of the groundbreaking book about the death of union activist Karen Silkwood, an employee of a plutonium processing plant, who was killed in a mysterious car crash on her way to deliver important documents to a newspaper reporter in 1974. Silkwood’s death at age 28 was highly suspicious: she had been working on health and safety issues at the plant, and a lot of people stood to benefit by her death.)
Trade unions form the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Organizations, later becoming the AFL. Under the leadership of Samuel Gompers and Peter McGuire, the AFL became the most influential labor organization in the nation – 1881
Women’s Trade Union League founded, Boston – 1903
The American Railway Supervisors Association is formed at Harmony Hall in Chicago by 29 supervisors working for the Chicago & North Western Railway. They organized after realizing that those railroaders working under their supervision already had the benefits of unionization and were paid more for working fewer hours – 1934
The Depression-era Public Works Administration agrees with New York City today to begin a huge slum clearance project covering 20 acres in Brooklyn, where low cost housing for 2,500 families will be completed. It was the first of many such jobs-and-housing projects across the country – 1934
The National Federation of Telephone Workers—later to become the Communications Workers of America—is founded in New Orleans – 1938
To “organize workers into a powerful industrial union,” United Mine Workers of America President John L. Lewis calls a meeting in Pittsburgh’s Islam Grotto, founding the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) – 1938 (There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America is a sympathetic, thoughtful and highly readable history of the American labor movement traces unionism from the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts in the 1820s to organized labor’s decline in the 1980s and struggle for survival and growth today.)
Jimmy Carter-era OSHA publishes standard reducing permissible exposure of lead, protecting 835,000 workers from damage to nervous, urinary and reproductive systems – 1978
Federation of Professional Athletes granted a charter by the AFL-CIO – 1979
Founding convention of the Federation of Trades and Labor Unions is held in Pittsburgh. It urges enactment of employer liability, compulsory education, uniform apprenticeship and child and convict labor laws. Five years later it changes its name to the American Federation of Labor – 1881
A county judge in Punxsutawney, Pa., grants an injunction requested by the Clearfield Bituminous Coal Co. forbidding strikers from speaking to strikebreakers, posting signs declaring a strike is in progress, or even singing hymns. Union leaders termed the injunction “drastic” – 1927
The National Football League Players Association ends a 57-day strike that shortened the season to nine games. The players wanted, but failed to win until many years later, a higher share of gross team revenues – 1982
The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York is founded “to provide cultural, educational and social services to families of skilled craftsmen.” The Society remains in existence to this day – 1785
To the huge relief of Post Office Department employees, the service sets a limit …read more
Editor’s Note: Below is a letter to the editor from a concerned senior and US Military Veteran.
As both a senior citizen retiree on Social Security and Veteran with a small service connected disability pension I would like to take the opportunity of Veterans Day to make a point on cuts to SS and veterans pensions. If we look around at the roads we drive on, the bridges we use, the buildings we work and live in, most of the cars we drive and a multitude of other things that enhance our daily existence we must realize where these came from. They came from the labor and sweat of the American worker who spent their whole life putting into the social security system so they could have a little stability in their golden years. The freedoms to do this were paid for by the blood and dedication of the soldiers, sailors and airmen of the country.
It disturbs me greatly that a grand bargain is now being pushed that will cut these benefits to seniors and disable veterans. This bargain is being pushed by wealthy individuals and corporate CEO’s as a way to corral the debt. I find it abhorrent that billionaires and multimillionaire CEO’s are flying around the country on their private jets pushing a bargain that will cut the benefits of us who are at the lowest end of the wealth scale. These are the people who have benefited the most from our system and have used their money to tilt the tax policies towards them. They want us to invest in IRA’s run by Wall Street when the data shows Wall Street now rakes in management fees that eat up about 70% of the profits in these funds. It is sad to go to the supermarket, big box stores and be greeted by a 70 or 80 year old who lost everything in the last stock market crash and now has to work until their death.
Do not look to cut the budget on the backs of the people who fought for and built this country through their blood and sweat when there are more lucrative vistas. Maybe they could start by removing the wealthy and corporate tax loopholes. The 2.7 trillion dollar SS fund is not a cookie jar to be raided by the wealthy, it is our fire wall against an impoverished life.
Labor Federation mobilizes workers to pressure House Republicans to pass immigration reform with roadmap to citizenship and workers’ rights
Efforts tie into coalition “Cost of Inaction” mobilizations
Today the AFL-CIO announced the release of new, hard hitting television ads that call out Republicans for obstructing comprehensive immigration reform, citing anti-immigrant statements by Republican lawmakers. In addition to the ads, labor will launch in-district mobilizations to increase pressure on House Republicans to support immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship and protection of workers’ rights. Providing 11 million aspiring Americans with the chance to come out of the shadows and contribute to our communities will protect the rights of all workers, the AFL-CIO has said.
These ads represent the next step of the labor movement’s unprecedented nationwide campaign to reform the nation’s broken immigration system and create equal access to the American Dream. The ads will run in Spanish and target districts with large Latino constituencies in Bakersfield, Calif.; Denver, Colo.; Atlanta, Ga.; and Orlando, Fla. The ads will also be broadcast in English in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
“The time for acting on immigration reform is now, and the labor movement has decided to throw down in a big way to make it happen,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Every day, over 1,000 people are deported, while House Republicans refuse to act on immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship and workers’ rights. We won’t stop until the deportation crisis ends and aspiring Americans have the roadmap to citizenship they deserve.”
Online actions and mobilization by the labor movement will tie into coalition actions targeting nine key House Republicans as part of the “Cost of Inaction” campaign.
“I have been working on this since the days of Governor Pete Wilson in California when he tried to demonize immigrants back in the early 1990s,” said AFL-CIO Los Angeles Labor Federation head Maria Elena Durazo. “We know what happened. We saw how that worked out. The time to act is now. Or the Republican Party may never again be able to get support from immigrant communities.”
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