Twenty strikers at the American Agricultural Chemical Co. in Roosevelt, N.J., were shot, two fatally, by factory guards. They and other strikers had stopped an incoming train in search of scabs when the guards opened fire – 1915
(Strikes Around the World draws on the experience of fifteen countries—The United States, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Argentina, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Covering the high and low points of strike activity over the period 1968–2005, the study shows continuing evidence of the durability, adaptability and necessity of the strike.)
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 – 1920
Yuba City, Calif., labor contractor Juan V. Corona found guilty of murdering 25 itinerant farm workers he employed during 1970 and 1971 – 1973
Bruce Springsteen makes an unannounced appearance at a benefit for laid-off 3M workers, Asbury Park, N.J. – 1986
Chicago Crib Disaster—A fire breaks out during construction of a water tunnel for the city of Chicago, burning the wooden dormitory housing the tunnel workers. While 46 survive the fire by jumping into the frigid lake and climbing onto ice floes, approximately 60 men die, 29 burned beyond recognition and the others drowned – 1909
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) founded – 1920
The Nazis adopt the “Act on the Regulation of National Labor,” replacing independently negotiated collective agreements. The act read, in part, “The leader of the plant makes the decisions for the employees and laborers in all matters concerning the enterprise… He is responsible for the well-being of the employees and laborers. [They] owe him faithfulness.” – 1934
Hardworking Mickey Mantle signs a new contract with the New York Yankees making him the highest paid player in baseball: $75,000 for the entire 1961 season – 1961
Bruce Springsteen’s “My Hometown,” a eulogy for dying industrial cities, is the country’s most listened-to song. The lyrics, in part: “Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores / Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more / They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks / Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back to your hometown / Your hometown / Your hometown / Your hometown…” – 1986
Some 750,000 steel workers walk out in 30 states, largest strike in U.S. history to that time – 1946
Postal workers begin four-day strike at the Jersey City, N.J., bulk and foreign mail center, protesting an involuntary shift change. The wildcat was led by a group of young workers who identified themselves as “The Outlaws”- 1974
Six hundred police attack picketing longshoremen in Charleston, S.C. – 2000
Indian field hands at San Juan Capistrano mission refused to work, engaging in what was probably the first farm worker strike in California – 1826
(Farmworker’s Friend: The story of Cesar Chavez is a thoughtful and moving book about the inspiring life of American hero Cesar Chavez, founder and long-time leader of the United Farm Workers of America. This sympathetic portrayal of Chavez and his life’s work begins with his childhood, starting from the time his family’s store in Arizona failed during the Great Depression and his entire family was forced into the fields to harvest vegetables for a few cents an hour. It traces his growth as a man and as a leader, talking of his pacifism, his courage in the face of great threats and greater odds, his leadership and his view that the union was more than just a union, it was a community—una causa.)
Birth of Terence V. Powderly, leader of the Knights of Labor – 1849
The United Mine Workers of America is founded in Columbus, Ohio, with the merger of the Knights of Labor Trade Assembly No. 135 and the National Progressive Miners Union – 1890
Five hundred New York City tenants battle police to prevent evictions – 1932
Some 10,000 clothing workers strike in Rochester, N.Y., for the 8-hour day, a 10-percent wage increase, union recognition, and extra pay for overtime and holidays. Daily parades were held throughout the clothing district and there was at least one instance of mounted police charging the crowd of strikers and arresting 25 picketers. Six people were wounded over the course of the strike and one worker, 18-year-old Ida Breiman, was shot to death by a sweatshop contractor. The strike was called off in April after manufacturers agreed not to discriminate against workers for joining a union – 1913
In Allegany County, MD, workers with the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal era public works program employing unmarried men aged 18-25, are snowbound at Fifteen Mile Creek Camp S-53 when they receive a distress call about a woman in labor who needs to get to a hospital. 20 courageous CCC volunteers dig through miles of snow drifts until the woman is successfully able to be transported – 1936
Krueger’s Cream Ale, the first canned beer, goes on sale in Richmond, Va. Pabst was the second brewer in the same year to sell beer in cans, which came with opening instructions and the suggestion: “cool before serving” – 1935
Sojourner Truth addresses first Black Women’s Rights convention – 1851
The Sheet Metal Workers Int’l Association (SMWIA) is founded in Toledo, Ohio, as the Tin, Sheet Iron and Cornice Workers’ Int’l Association – 1888
Two hundred miners are killed in a horrific explosion at the Harwick mine in Cheswick, Pa., Allegheny County. Many of the dead lie entombed in the sealed mine to this day – 1904
(The novel Sixteen Tons carries the reader down into the dark and dangerous coal mines of the early 1900s, as Italian immigrant Antonio Vacca and his sons encounter cave-ins and fires deep below the earth’s surface. Above ground, miners battle gun thugs and corrupt sheriffs at Virden, Matewan and Ludlow in an epic struggle to form a
A 24-hour general strike called for by the Plenario Intersindical de Trabajadores (PIT) in Uruguay demands wage increases, union rights for public employees, the release of political prisoners, and respect for democratic liberties. The strike shut down the capital city and is followed by a series of other strikes that successfully united opposition against the military government.
Editors Note: This is a special editorial from John Dick, a Letter Carrier in Detroit (NALC Branch 3126, Royal Oak Merged).
Bob “Moses” Dick
Yesterday was a milestone for me. Not a day of sadness as much as a day of reflection. January 12th, 2015, was the fifth anniversary of my father’s death. His demise came suddenly. A massive heart attack, then poof; he disappeared from our lives. I remember vividly getting the phone call from Big John. I was setting up my route and my phone kept ringing over and over. I was too busy to answer the damn thing but something didn’t feel right. I answered the fourth time John called. “You have to get to the hospital right away. Something’s wrong with Bob.” I dropped my mail and rushed to the emergency room. My heart sank and then shattered into a million shards when the doctor told me, “There was nothing we could do.” I felt like an orphan.
Bob “Moses” Dick was a proud union man. He had worked at the Ford Utica Trim Shop for thirty years. From 1963 to 1993 he sewed seats for the automobile giant. He was not a fan or a great example of what you might call the “work ethic.” He told me many times as I was growing up that his bosses and even the Ford family only cared about what he could do for them, and he was sure enough gonna return the favor. He said “I got a contract with those folks. I do my thirty years sewin’ those goddam car seats, and in return I have a decent paying job and a secure retirement. I don’t have to like them, and they don’t have to like me. Don’t ever fool yourself, son. You’re just a number to them. A cog in the wheel. I don’t give them any more than I have to.”
He would regale stories to me and my brother about working at the plant. He was outrageously honest, and claimed to have the worst discipline record at the Trim Shop. His temper was legendary, and if he thought a supervisor was acting prickly it was not unusual for him to threaten the health of his bosses. According to Pops, at one discipline meeting his exasperated steward exclaimed, “We have no defense for his actions. We plead insanity!” He loved the UAW, but I am not sure the feeling was completely mutual.
He was proud when I became a letter carrier on October 7th, 2000. The first question he asked me was if I had joined the union. He loved reading my Dicktations and we had him added to our mailing list so that he would receive his own personal copy. He said something to me about my writing that I will never forget. He said I was profound. It was not his style to talk in that way, and all I could say was “Thanks”. His death was premature at the age of 70, but he at least was able to retire at the age of 54 and enjoy 16 years of a Ford pension.
Much has changed in the five short years since my father died. Michigan is now a right- to-work state and America is sliding backwards from the promises it had made to previous generations. The middle class is stagnating economically and the wealth gap between the richest and the poorest is dramatic. Many companies no longer make promises to their workers. My employer, the United States Postal Service, still does. But I have to wonder “For how much longer?”
Our Postmaster General, Patrick R. Donahoe, is retiring in February after a nearly forty year postal career. He started as a mail clerk and worked his way up to the head honcho position of the Service. At a recent speech at the National Press Club honoring his retirement, I was shocked to hear these comments from him: “Most young people aren’t looking for a single employer over the course of their careers. In today’s world, does it really make sense to offer the promise of a government pension to a 22-year-old who is just entering the workforce? And how reliable is that promise?”
Postmaster Donahoe went on to say what the future of the mail would look like. He said “It will not be a person putting a piece of mail in a blue mailbox, but rather a far leaner organization, with a smaller workforce and less generous health care and pension benefits, that competes for e-commerce business, online advertising and other Internet based services.” It is hard to imagine these comments being made from a man who spent his entire career at one organization. Guess he wasn’t wearing his party hat at this retirement dinner!
Postmaster Buzz Kill made some other parting shots at the postal unions for single mindedly fighting to preserve jobs and benefits and the myopic shortsightedness of the mailers for trying to keep postal rates affordable. Rumor has it he kicked a dog and pushed an old lady before the speech was over. For those of us who have been trying to understand the decisions and direction this man has taken the Postal Service over the last several years, this one speech wrapped it all up in a tidy package and put a bow on it for us. He is a true believer in the ‘New America’, where workers have no guarantees or contracts and bounce from job to job every few years. This is the philosophy of our very own Postmaster General.
In February, Megan Brennan will become the new Postmaster General. She has shattered the glass ceiling at L’enfants Plaza and will become the first female to assume that position. I hope she has differing aspirations for what is possible for the United States Postal Service and its workers. We are the nation’s second largest employer, and we are vital to this nation’s economy. The ‘twenty somethings’ I work with deserve a promise from our employer for the hard work they do every do. This is not a job; this is a profession and a career.
A photo of my old man sits on the shot glass shelf of the bar I have in my basement. I will do tonight as I have done many nights in the past; I will raise a glass of strong libation and toast to his memory and honor. The toast will be one of his favorite and I will look at him with a salty tear in my eye; “God Bless the Union!” And for good favor;” Work Sucks!” Sad to see you go, Donahoe
John “Cementhead” Dick