Monday, July 7, 2014

Rail union leader Eugene V. Debs is arrested: 250,000 Workers STRIKE

Today in labor history.
July 06
Rail union leader Eugene V. Debs is arrested during the Pullman strike, described by the New York Times as "a struggle between the greatest and most important labor organization and the entire railroad capital" that involved some 250,000 workers in 27 states at its peak – 1894
(The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene V. Debs: We’ve told you about this book before, but perhaps you still haven’t read it. You really should get a copy! Eugene V. Debs was a labor activist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who captured the heart and soul of the nation’s working people. He was brilliant, sincere, compassionate and scrupulously honest. A founder of one of the nation’s first industrial unions, the American Railway Union, he went on to help launch the Industrial Workers of the World -- the Wobblies. A man of firm beliefs and dedication, he ran for President of the United States five times under the banner of the Socialist Party, in 1912 earning 6 percent of the popular vote.)

Transit workers in New York begin what is to be an unsuccessful 3-week strike against the then-privately owned IRT subway. Most transit workers labored seven days a week, up to 11.5 hours a day - 1926
Explosions and fires destroy the Piper Alpha drilling platform in the North Sea, killing 167 oil workers—the worse loss of life ever in an offshore oil disaster. The operator, Occidental, was found guilty of having inadequate maintenance and safety procedures, but no criminal charges were ever brought - 1988

July 6, 1877 – A strike against the Baltimore & Ohio railroad led to a series of strikes across the northeast, known as the Great Railway Strike of 1877. Federal troops were called out for the first time in a labor dispute, helping to crush the strike. (From Shmoop Labor History)

July 6, 1889 - Striking construction workers in Duluth were shot down by the police. The workers, mostly immigrants, went on strike when contractors reneged on an agreement to pay them $1.75 a day. Mayor John Sutphin ordered police to keep strikers away from scabs, leading to fighting between strikers and police. There was an hour-long gun fight on the corner of 20th Avenue West and Michigan Street that killed two strikers and one bystander and wounded an estimated 30 strikers. The police eventually suppressed the strike through violence. (From Workday Minnesota)
July 6, 1892 – Locked out workers out at the Homestead Steel Works battled 300 Pinkerton detectives hired by Carnegie, who owned the Homestead mill. The Pinkertons were there to import and protect scabs brought in to replace striking workers and opened fire on the striking steelworkers who defended themselves with guns and a homemade cannon. 3-7 Pinkertons and 11 union members were killed in the battle. The strike lasted for months, court injunctions eventually helped to crush the union, protecting the steel industry for decades from organized labor. Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman plotted to assassinate Homestead Boss Henry Clay Frick for his role in killing the workers. Berkman later carried out the assassination attempt, failed, and spent years in prison. (From Workday Minnesota, Daily Bleed and Shmoop Labor History)
July 6, 1911 – Wobby and anarchist labor organizer Joe Hill's song "The Preacher & the Slave" first appeared in the IWW’s Little Red Song Book.
Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked how 'bout something to eat
They will answer in voices so sweet
You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die
And the Starvation Army, they play,
And they sing and they clap and they pray,
Till they get all your coin on the drum,
Then they tell you when you're on the bum
Workingmen of all countries, unite
Side by side we for freedom will fight
When the world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we'll sing this refrain
(From the Daily Bleed)

July 6, 1926 – IRT subway workers struck in NYC, protesting the forced signing of yellow-dog contracts which mandated they join company union. (From the Daily Bleed)
1) 6th Regiment Attacking Striking Railworkers
2) Shield used by striking steelworkers as they shot their homemade cannon at Pinkertons
3) Joe Hill

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