Today in Labor History

December 22, 1910

Chicago_Fire_Department_The_Fallen_21_MemorialA fire breaks out in the basement of the Nelson Morris and Co. meatpacking plant in Chicago’s Union Stockyards. Highly flammable chemicals used for meat production and grease soaked wood made conditions ripe for fires in stockyards. Twenty-one firefighters, including the chief, were killed when one of the blazing buildings collapsed with them inside. It was the single greatest loss of professional big-city firefighters in U.S. history until September 11, 2001.

December 21, 1916

e_rap_0105Labor organizer, community activist, and civil rights advocate Emma Tenayuca is born in San Antonio. Her advocacy for the working poor – especially Mexican American women – led her to become known as “La Pasionaria” and was an inspiration to future generations of labor and civil rights activists. “I never thought in terms of fear. I thought in terms of justice.”

December 19, 1908

ulh1909The Union Labor Hospital in Eureka, California – created by newly unionized timber and mill workers as a charitable, non-profit organization – opens for patient care. After ninety years of service in the hospital field, Union Labor Hospital Association established the Union Labor Health Foundation in 1997.

December 16, 1929

December 16New South Wales mounted police open fire on a crowd of 4,000 coal miners – locked out since March – protesting the introduction of scabs at the Rothbury, Australia, mine. One miner was killed and others seriously injured. Earlier in September, the government introduced an “Unlawful Assembly Act,” which declared pickets and protests illegal and authorized the police to break them up.

December 15, 1944

Chico_Mendes_with_Sandino_MendesRubber tapper, trade union leader, and community and environmental activist Chico Mendes is born. Mendes fought to preserve the Amazon rainforest and advocated for the rights of Brazilian workers, peasants, and indigenous peoples. In 1988, a rancher murdered Mendes; he was the nineteenth rural activist murdered that year in Brazil.

December 14, 1990

December 14A general strike in Morocco – called by two of the country’s main labor unions, the General Workers’ Trade Union and the Democratic Confederation of Labor – press for an increase in the minimum wage and an expansion of benefits. 111 people were ultimately sentenced to prison terms of 15 days to 12 years in the government crackdown that took place during the strike.

December 12, 1964

grève2Nine million French workers – more than half of the country’s workforce – participate in a nationwide strike of public service workers over the stagnation of wages under President Charles de Gaulle’s government.

December 11, 2012

RIGHT-to-work-meme-by-glittersnipeMichigan becomes the 24th “right-to-work” state in the United States when Governor Rick Snyder signs legislation hours after the bills – one covering private workers, the other covering public workers – won final approval in the House and five days after he joined with Senate and House majority leaders to announce their plan to enact the law.

December 10, 1906

December 103,000 Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) members at the General Electric plant complex in Schenectady, New York, begin what is believed to be this country’s first sit-down strike.

December 9, 1869

charterKofLThe Knights of Labor – the first national industrial union in the United States – is founded in Philadelphia by Uriah Stephens and eight other Philadelphia garment cutters. By mid-1886, the Knights of Labor had nearly one million members and was the largest labor union at the time in the country.

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