Today in Labor History

Labor history is OUR history

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.”

November 25, 1946


Teachers strike in St. Paul, Minnesota, 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.

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.”

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.

November 20, 1896


Rose Pesotta — union organizer, anarchist, and vice president of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union — is born. Pesotta began working in a shirtwaist factory in New York in 1913 and there became involved with ILGWU Local 25. She went on to organize tirelessly for the union around the country and in 1934 was elected vice president of the ILGWU, the first woman to hold that position. [Photo: Pesotta taken into custody during the 1941 Los Angeles garment strike; she was charged with battery of a police officer.]

November 19, 1915

November 19

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) organizer and songwriter Joe Hill is executed in Utah after having been framed on a murder charge. While in prison, Hill sent a telegram to IWW leader Big Bill Haywood: “Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize!” In a later telegram, he added, “Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”

November 18, 1929


Viljo Rosvall and Janne Voutilainen – two Finnish-Canadian members of the Lumber Workers Industrial Union of Canada from Thunder Bay, Ontario – disappear on their way to recruit sympathetic bushworkers for a strike. Their bodies were found at Onion Lake by a union search party the following spring and the community suspected that they had been murdered by company thugs.

November 17, 1993


The U.S. House of Representatives approves the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), 234 for, 200 against. It passed in the U.S. Senate by 61 for, 38 against. President Bill Clinton signed the agreement into law on December 8, 1993, stating that “NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs.” What it actually meant was job losses, decreased wages, and attacks on public interest laws.

November 15, 1922

arton6769Soldiers open fire into a crowd of 20,000 men, women, and children who are rallying in support of jailed labor leaders during a general strike that has shut down the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador. An estimated 300 people were killed in the space of the two-hour massacre. On November 21, the strike was settled and the workers’ demands were met.

November 14, 1903

november 14The National Women’s Trade Union League is formed in Boston. It was organized as a coalition of working-class women, professional reformers, and women from wealthy and prominent families. Its purpose was to “assist in the organization of women wage workers into trade unions and thereby to help them secure conditions necessary for healthful and efficient work and to obtain a just reward for such work.”

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