Today in Labor History

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Archive for the category “1880-1889”

December 7, 1888


Heywood Broun, journalist and founder of the American Newspaper Guild (now The Newspaper Guild – Communications Workers of America), is born in Brooklyn, New York. “Appeasers,” Broun said, “believe that if you keep on throwing steaks to a tiger, the tiger will become a vegetarian.”

November 11, 1887

But, if you think that by hanging us, you can stamp out the labor movement - the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil and live in want and misery - the wage slaves - expect salvation - if this is your opin (1)Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel, and Adolph Fischer, framed for the Haymarket bombing in Chicago, are executed. Spies’ last words — “The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today” — are engraved on the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument in Chicago’s Forest Home Cemetery.

November 6, 1887

s3-internationaleFrench transport worker, revolutionary socialist, and Paris Commune member, Eugene Pottier dies. Pottier was the author of “L’Internationale,” an unparalleled anthem to international labor solidarity.

June 27, 1884

Healthcare-WorkplViolence-Stats-graphicThe Bureau of Labor – which will become the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) – is established. Today, the BLS is a governmental agency that collects, processes, analyzes, and disseminates statistical data on employment, labor, and economics.

February 16, 1883

8279370581_7e24f94b56_bMelting snow collapses the side of a coal mine on a marshy tract of land with no natural drainage near Braidwood, Illinois. Within minutes, the Diamond Mine flooded, killing 74 boys and men, 46 of whose bodies were never recovered. The disaster prompted state legislators to overhaul an 1871 law that allowed individual counties to appoint their own mine inspectors.

February 8, 1888

3587bGerman trade union leader and politician Jakob Kaiser is born. Active in the Christian trade union movement in Germany, Kaiser opposed the Nazis, joined the resistance, and was arrested by the Gestapo. After his release, he went into hiding until World War II ended. After the war, Kaiser helped to found the Free German Trade Union Federation.

November 1, 1887

LoCwomencanecuttingBatonRougeLA18801897WilliamHenryJacksonSugar cane workers in southeastern Louisiana go on strike over wages and being paid in company scrip. The state militia was called in to break the strike of nearly 10,000 mostly African-American workers, displacing them from company housing and forcing them to relocate. On November 22, white “peace and order” vigilantes went on a massacre in the black neighborhoods of Thibodaux where the workers and their families had sought refuge; estimates of between 30-300 people were murdered. Sugar cane workers would not attempt to organize in the region again until the 1950s.

July 6, 1889


Striking laborers employed by contractors on street and sewer improvements in Duluth, Minnesota, attempt to break through the police presence protecting scabs doing their work. The police opened fire and a gun battle ensued that resulted in the deaths of four workers and a bystander; many more were seriously wounded. The state militia was called in and drove the workers back with fixed bayonets. Strike leaders were arrested and the police who participated were given gold medals.

July 5, 1888

July 6

1,500 workers go on strike at the Bryant and May match factory in London after management fires two people suspected of providing information that led to an expose about the appalling working conditions in the factory. The women and girls were subjected to fourteen-hour days, low pay, excessive fines, and the severe health complications of working with white phosphorus. The strike was quickly settled; in 1908 the British government banned the use of white phosphorus in matches.

May 31, 1889


2,209 people die when a dam holding back a private resort lake upstream of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, bursts, releasing 4.8 billion gallons of water. Owners Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick, who had altered the South Fork Dam to allow for development of a resort community for wealthy industrialists, were accused of not maintaining the dam, but the court ruled that the dam break was an “Act of God” and denied the survivors compensation. Carnegie built the town a new library.

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