Today in Labor History

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Archive for the category “1870-1879”

January 12, 1876

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Novelist Jack London is born. His classic definition of a scab: “After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, the vampire, He had some awful substance left with which He made a scab. A scab is a two-legged animal with a cork-screw soul, a water-logged brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles.”

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November 24, 1875

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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.”

July 23, 1877

351sfoAnti-Chinese nativist agitators at a huge outdoor rally in San Francisco about the economic depression and unemployment organized by the Workingmen’s Party of the United States incite a two-day riot of ethnic violence against Chinese workers, resulting in four deaths and the destruction of property. Five years later, President Chester Arthur signed the federal Chinese Exclusion Act, prohibiting immigration of Chinese laborers.

April 18, 1872

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATwo days after leaders of the Toronto Typographical Union – whose members are on strike for a nine-hour workday – are arrested for common conspiracy, Canada’s Prime Minister Sir John Macdonald introduces the Trade Union Act to legalize unions in the country.

February 23, 1875

Riverboats_at_MemphisThe country’s oldest maritime union – the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association – is founded when five steamship unions out of Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and Baltimore convene in to join together. Poor steamship design and construction, inadequate training, and the drive for profits and markets led to dangerous working conditions in the late nineteenth century.

January 12, 1876

JackLondonCredo500Novelist Jack London is born. His classic definition of a scab: “After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, the vampire, He had some awful substance left with which He made a scab. A scab is a two-legged animal with a cork-screw soul, a water-logged brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles.”

July 24, 1877

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The first general strike in U.S. history is underway in St. Louis. Led by members of the Workingmen’s Party, it began as an outgrowth of the railroad strike sweeping the country. Workers – skilled and unskilled, black and white – shut down the city for a week until thousands of federal troops and special deputized police arrived, killing at least eighteen people and arresting the strike leaders.

July 22, 1887

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Brewers and brewery workers in San Francisco sign their first collective bargaining agreement, bringing to a close a strike and successful boycott which had lasted several months. The agreement included a closed shop, sick leave, a 10-hour day, minimum wages, overtime pay, and “free beer in moderation while at work.”

July 21,1877

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The Great Railway Strike of 1877 is underway across several states. In Pittsburgh, militia bayoneted and fired on rock-throwing strikers, killing 20 people and wounding 29 others. The workers responded by forcing the militia to take refuge in a railroad roundhouse, and then set fires that razed 39 buildings and destroyed 104 locomotives and 1,245 freight and passenger cars

June 21, 1877

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Ten miners accused of being militant “Molly Maguires” are hanged in Pennsylvania. A private corporation initiated the investigation of the men through a private detective agency. A private police force arrested them, and private attorneys for the coal companies prosecuted them. “The state provided only the courtroom & the gallows,” a judge said many years later.

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