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Today in labor history for the week of November 30, 2015

November 30
“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
(The Autobiography of Mother Jones: Mary Harris Jones—“Mother Jones”—was the most dynamic woman ever to grace the American labor movement. Employers and politicians around the turn of the century called her “the most dangerous woman in America” and rebellious working men and women loved her as they never loved anyone else.
She was an absolutely fearless and tireless advocate for working people, especially coal miners. A founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World—the Wobblies—she feared neither soldiers’ guns nor the ruling class’s jails. Here, in her own words, is her story of organizing in steel, railroading, textiles and mining; her crusade against child labor; her fight to organize women; even her involvement in the Mexican revolution.)

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

December 01
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

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

December 02
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
(A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present: McCarthy’s attack on progressive citizens is just one of many eye-openers revealed in Zinn’s book. If your last serious read of American history was in high school—or even in a standard college course—you’ll want to read this amazing account of America as seen through the eyes of its working people, women and minorities.)

Court documents filed in Boston say Walmart 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

December 03
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
(Real World Labor: Economics, Politics & Social History, 2nd edition: With more than 80 articles by leading writers and scholars of the labor movement, this essential anthology addresses recent changes in the nature of work and wages; discrimination by race, gender, and immigration status; militarism and its effects on the working class; union responses to the global financial meltdown; and new forms of rank-and-file organizing and resistance.)

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

December 04
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

December 05
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
(Some unions and workers continue to struggle as a result of the Great Recession. Union Strategies for Hard Times, Helping Your Members and Building Your Union, 2nd Edition, offers guidance for leaders trying to help laid off members, protect those still working, and prevent the gutting of their hard-fought contracts—and their very unions themselves.)

December 06
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 Douglass 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

The Battle Over The Democratic Party: The Establishment vs The Populist

Bernie Sanders (Michael Vadon FLIKR CC )

Bernie Sanders (Michael Vadon FLIKR CC )

Hillary Clinton is lining up endorsements at an unprecedented level before a single vote has been cast. This is being done to make it appear that the nomination is a foregone conclusion. This is the establishment’s way of marginalizing the populist message of Bernie Sanders.  They benefit from the status quo.

So we have a few more endorsements for Hillary Clinton this week.  Nate Silver ‘s 538 blog gives Hillary 447 Endorsement points while Bernie Sanders has only 2.  Both of Bernie’s endorsements were from congressman (Raul Grijalva-AZ, Keith Ellison-MN) while Hillary’s numerous  endorsements come from the vast Democrat party elite and those Democrats hoping to be part of the future elite. This is further indication of the choke-hold corporations and wealthy interests have over the very corporate-friendly Democratic Party. These politicians who have endorsed Hillary are in most cases just backing the most likely nominee for their own selfish political interests. This comes as no surprise to watchers of the political landscape.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the 2015 IAM National Staff Conference in New York, NY. (Photo: Bill Burke/Page One Photography)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the 2015 IAM National Staff Conference in New York, NY. (Photo: Bill Burke/Page One Photography)

Somewhat more surprising is the number of labor unions supporting Hillary Clinton over long time labor union friend Bernie Sanders. I am well aware unions have different issues that are important to their membership, so there can be no criticism if a union backs a certain candidate because of his/her stance on issues. However, when unions support someone primarily because the candidate is seen as “most electable,” then their endorsements can be questioned.

By all accounts, Lee Saunders is a champion of working people and he helped revitalize AFSCME Local 37 in NYC, which is one of the best locals regarding political activism in this country.  Knowing this, his statement regarding their endorsement of Hillary Clinton made me look twice.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders said members want a candidate committed to fixing the economy and raising incomes for hardworking individuals struggling to get by, as well as someone who supports strong unions.  “What we also heard was AFSCME members want the candidate who will be the most effective champion for working families and who will be able to deliver a victory in this critically important election,” he said in a statement. “AFSCME members believe that candidate is Hillary Clinton.

Are union leaders missing the point that this is a Primary, and they should be supporting candidates who most support the rights of working people, and not settle for the candidates most likely to win? They are not picking a horse at Churchill Downs.  There will be a general election in November 2016 and each union can again endorse the candidate they think is best for their members.

Hillary Clinton was a Board Member of  Walmart for six years and never once, according to tapes and recollection, spoke out against Walmart’s fervent anti-unions policies.  She sat silently as Clinton’s fellow board member John Tate frequently blasted unions. Tate was fond of repeating, as he did at a managers’ meeting in 2004 after his retirement, what he said was his favorite phrase: “Labor unions are nothing but blood-sucking parasites living off the productive labor of people who work for a living.” Most activists I know would have had to be removed from the room screaming if they were present to hear these words.

Clinton was outspoken on the board regarding Walmart’s token support for environmental and women’s rights but was silent the issue of  union rights.  The corporate-owned Democratic Party elite have no problem supporting token gestures towards women’s rights or gay rights, but they stare blankly when the issue of labor rights is mentioned. The elite are nervous about changing the economic equation for working people. The current version of the Democratic party has not been an enemy of labor unions like the Republican party is, but they also have not been our  friend.

Bernie Sanders With Verizon WorkersDemocrats have possibly the best champion of working people in our generation with Bernie Sanders as a serious candidate. Bernie speaks truth to power and calls out corporations and the wealthy for fleecing this country’s working people.  The privileged wealthy are benefiting from a tilted playing field as their wealth soars while working people struggle daily to just survive. This  income inequality not been seen since the Gilded Age. Bernie is drawing record crowds to his rallies and his popular support from ordinary Americans would be the dominant political news of the day if it wasn’t for the Trump circus.

SEIU Local 560 President Earl Sweet called the Vermont senator “the most honest man in Washington.”  “There’s no question about what Bernie believes because he has always meant what he said – and to many of us in the labor movement, that’s a breath of fresh air,” he said. “Sen. Sanders has always stood up for workers and the middle class, here in New Hampshire and across the country, which is why we’re proud to give him our enthusiastic endorsement.”

Democratic and union activist’s must ask themselves.  Which side are they on?


November 27, 1937

The musical revue, “Pins & Needles,” opens on Broadway with a cast of International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union members. The show – a “lighthearted look at young workers in a changing society in the middle of America’s most politically engaged city” – ran on Friday and Saturday nights only, because of the casts’ regular jobs. It ran for 1,108 performances before closing.

Source Link

November 26, 1910

Four months before the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, a sweatshop in Newark, New Jersey, catches fire, killing more than two dozen women and girls. The fire made national news and more than 100,000 people flocked to the scene the next day. A coroner’s jury a month later deemed the fire the result of human error: “They died from misadventure and accident.”

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November 24, 1875

The United Cigar Makers of New York affiliates with the Cigar Makers’ International Union (CMIU) to form CMIU Local 144. Samuel Gompers was elected first president of the local and served several terms before going on to serve as the international’s vice president. “[W]e are powerless in an isolated condition,” Gompers said, “while the capitalists are united; therefore it is the duty of every Cigar Maker to join the organization.”

Source Link

Iron Workers Endorse Hillary Clinton for President

 (image Keith Kissel FLIKR)

(image Keith Kissel FLIKR)

Washington, D.C. – The General Executive Council (GEC) of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers voted unanimously Friday, November 20 to endorse Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

Clinton now has the support of nearly 11 million union members across 14 different national unions who have endorsed her campaign.

“As President, I will fight every day to protect and expand workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively, to maintain prevailing wage and labor standards, and to retire with dignity after years of hard work. Because when workers are strong, families are strong—and when families are strong, America is strong,” said Secretary Hillary Clinton. 

The GEC reviewed the qualifications of each candidate for president while coming to its decision.  While the council felt that several other candidates align with ironworker values, none compare to Secretary Clinton when it comes to putting those beliefs into practice.  Clinton’s record of looking out for the jobs that union members rely on was the largest factor in the council’s decision.  Her support for workers’ rights, infrastructure investment and economic opportunity lines up with the union’s priorities for the next administration.  Secretary Clinton’s unmatched experience in government will enable her to deliver on her promises in ways the other candidates cannot.

“I am honored to have earned the endorsement of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Ironworkers,” said Clinton

Secretary Clinton’s readiness to take on the global challenges, threats and opportunities faced by our country also played a role in the union’s decision.  The Secretary was tested as soon as she entered the U.S. Senate by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  Then-Senator Clinton sponsored legislation to provide for the ironworkers and others who sacrificed their health rescuing victims and clearing rubble on “the Pile” in New York and the Pentagon in Virginia.

Between her time in the Senate and her service as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has more post-9/11 defense and foreign policy experience than all other serious presidential candidates, Republican and Democratic, combined.

“The Ironworkers have helped build the mighty American middle class for decades—oftentimes literally, creating good-paying jobs and careers with every bridge and building they work on. They have stood strong against repeated attacks on workers’ rights, as Republicans and their allies have sought to roll back the hard-won progress we’ve achieved for workers and their families. And in our country’s hour of need, after the barbaric attacks of 9/11, they worked tirelessly on ‘the Pile,’ putting in overtime to dismantle tons of wreckage—and, later, to build the soaring Freedom Tower,” stated Clinton

“I have always stood with organized labor, and I will be proud to stand with the Ironworkers as President. As a Senator, I fought to secure critical health care benefits for the brave first and second responders at Ground Zero, and urge Congress to reauthorize the Zadroga Act without delay,” concluded Clinton.

With many jobs connected to the energy and manufacturing sectors, ironworkers are directly affected by new regulations on greenhouse gases and other environmental issues.  In the union’s assessment, other candidates for president have either unconstructively denied climate change or shown a cavalier attitude towards jobs lost due to environmental regulation.  The union expects Clinton to take a balanced approach, protecting the public from pollution while keeping Americans at work building the economy.

The GEC encourages all union ironworkers to register to vote and bring their families to the polls in 2016.  Besides the president, voters across the United States will choose 12 governors, 34 senators, and countless state and local officials.  With right to work legislation on the march in states throughout the country, 2016 is a vital year for ironworkers to make their voices heard.

Today in labor history for the week of November 23, 2015

November 23
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 Romer adds inAncient 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 later, on Nov. 14, 1152 B.C.

Troops are dispatched to Cripple Creek, Colo., to control protests by striking coal miners – 1903

Mine Workers President John L. Lewis walks away from the American Federation of Labor to lead the newly-formed Committee for Industrial Organization. The CIO and the unions created under its banner organized six million industrial workers over the following decade – 1935

The first meeting between members of the newly-formed National Football League Players Association and team owners takes place in New York. Union founders included Frank Gifford, Norm Van Brocklin, Don Shula and Kyle Rote. They were asking for a minimum $5,000 salary, a requirement that their teams pay for their equipment, and a provision for the continued payment of salary to injured players. The players’ initial demands were ignored – 1956

November 24
Led by Samuel Gompers, who would later found the American Federation of Labor, Cigarmakers’ Int’l Union Local 144 is chartered in New York City – 1875

November 25
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
(In Reviving the Strike: How Working People can Regain Power and Transform America, author Joe Burns says if the American labor movement is to rise again it will not be as a result of electing Democrats, the passage of legislation, or improved methods of union organizing. Rather, workers will need to rediscover the power of the strike. Not the ineffectual strike of today, where employees meekly sit on picket lines waiting for scabs to take their jobs, but the type of strike capable of grinding industries to a halt—the kind employed up until the 1960s.)

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

November 26
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 through which the women could flee was locked – 1910
(Are You Prepared? A Guide to Emergency Planning in the Workplace: Today’s headlines, much like those of yester-year, are filled with disaster, from the natural—fire, flood, hurricane, tornado and the like—to the man-made, such as workplace shootings, explosions, accidental releases of toxic chemicals or radiation, even nightmares such as bombings. Are you and your co-workers prepared to respond quickly and safely if disaster strikes? Steps you take today can save lives tomorrow, from having escape plans to knowing how to quickly turn off power and fuel supplies. Includes helpful checklists. Published by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.)

November 27
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

November 28
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

November 29
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

The SS Daniel J. Morrell, a 603-foot freighter, breaks in two during a strong storm on Lake Huron. Twenty-eight of its 29 crewmen died; survivor Daniel Hale was found the next day, near frozen and floating in a life raft with the bodies of three of his crew mates. He had survived for nearly 40 hours in frigid temperatures wearing only a pair of boxer shorts, a life jacket, and a pea coat – 1966

National Labor Relations Board rules that medical interns can Source Link

November 22, 1909

Striking garment worker and International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union organizer Clara Lemlich delivers an impassioned speech for a general strike to support her co-workers who had gone out on strike in early November for better wages, working conditions, and hours. The next day, 20,000 shirtwaist workers took to the streets of New York. An estimated 30,000 workers participated in the 11-week long strike.

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