This Week in Labor History 010

West Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion, 2013

West Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion, 2013

"Ask yourself, if unions aren't important in defending the worker's interests, why are the corporations spending billions to destroy them?" -Anonymous

I’m Kevin Cook, and This Week in Labor History:

Wednesday, April 17

In 1905, the Supreme Court held that a maximum-hours law for New York bakery workers was unconstitutional under the due process clause "right to free contract" of the 14th amendment.

In 2013, 15 workers were killed and 100 were injured after a fertilizer plant exploded in West, Texas.

Thursday, April 18

In 1912, the National Guard was called out to protect company profits and crush striking West Virginia coal miners, initiating one of the most violent strikes in the nation’s history. UMWA miners were demanding to be paid the same as other miners in the area, have less deadly working conditions, and to have their union recognized.

In 1913, the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek coal miners, on strike for over a year, endured a cold winter in tents with meager rations. The striking miners suffered humiliation, brutality and death, at the hands of mine guards. They had been machined gunned by an armor-plated train, illegally court martialed, and illegally imprisoned by the state governor, who was protecting the greedy mine owner's profits.

On this day in 1855, Albert Einstein, physicist, pacifist, socialist, refugee of war, and founding member of AFT Local 552, died in Princeton, New Jersey.

In 1968, 200,000 CWA telephone workers went on strike with the Bell System. The strike ended after 18 days, with workers winning wage and benefit increases totaling nearly 20 percent over 3 years.

Friday, April 19

In 1919 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the nation’s “Furniture City,” more than 6,000 workers put down their tools and struck 59 factories for 4 months, in what was to become known as the Great Furniture Strike.

On This day in 1920, the I.W.W. called a strike that lead to the "Bloody Wednesday" massacre on Anaconda Road in Butte, Montana on April 21st. Federal troops arrived on the 22nd, and 500 miners were forced to return to work at the end of a bayonet with government machine guns pointed at them on the 23rd.

In 1995, an American Right-Wing anti-government domestic terrorist’s bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, 99 of whom were government workers. Thirty-five sisters and brothers from the American Federation of Government Employees who worked in the Department of Housing and Urban Development and 16 in the Social Security offices died that day.

Saturday, April 20

This day in 1914 saw the Ludlow Massacre: Colorado State Militia, using machine guns and fire, killed over 20 unarmed people, including 11 children, at a tent city set up by striking coal miners in order to protect the profits of John D. Rockefeller Jr.. By the end of the strike, more than 75 people had been murdered for profit. Newspaper headlines proclaimed, "The Charred Bodies of Two Dozen Women and Children Show That Rockefeller Knows How to Win!"

In 1980, United Auto Workers members ended a successful 172-day strike against International Harvester, protesting management demands for new work rules and mandatory overtime provisions.

In 2010, 11 Workers were killed and 17 were injured when BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore oil drilling platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Lax, profit-focused procedures “that saved significant time and money” for BP and other companies were found to blame. An estimated 5 million barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf before the well was capped after 85 days.

Sunday, April 21

In 1893 on this day, 9 workers were killed in a fire in the Silver Bow #2 mine in Butte, Montana.

In 1920 in Butte, Montana, the Anaconda Road Massacre took place. Company guards shot 17 unarmed striking miners in the back as they attempted to run away. The IWW and the Metal Mine Workers Industrial Union called for a strike in the mines around Butte. They struck to secure higher wages, end rustling cards, and win an 8-hour day. The head of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company had called for "killings and hangings to help end the strike" in the newspaper the day before. The Company then falsely blamed the IWW for the violence and federal troops arrived the next day to impose martial law to protect high profits and end the strike. Miners were forced to march back to the mines at end of bayonets with government machine guns pointed at them...in the land of the free.

Monday, April 22

In 2011, labor activist songwriter Hazel Dickens died at age 75. Among her songs, “They’ll Never Keep Us Down” and “Working Girl Blues.” Dickens didn’t just sing the anthems of labor, she lived them. Her place on many a picket line, staring down gunfire and goon squads, embedded her into the cause.

Tuesday, April 23

In 1820, the Working Men’s Party was founded in New York.

In 1980, Ida Mae Stull, nationally recognized as the country’s first woman coal miner, died.

The Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana shut down on this day in 1982. The Atlantic Richfield Corporation announced that they were suspending their Butte operations. Underground pumps in the Kelley Mine had been shut off at midnight the night before and the Berkeley Pit began to fill with acidic water.

This Week in Labor History is compiled by Kevin D. Curtis For KBMF, I’m Kevin Cook.

In 1938, the Red Jacket Mine explosion occurred on Keen Mountain, Virginia, killing 45 men. Among them was Smith Arrington, who died on his 28th birthday.

This day in 1943 marked the first UAW-CIO labor contract at North American Aviation (NAA).

In 1993, United Farm Workers of America founder, social justice activist, farmworker, Cesar Chavez died in San Luis, Arizona at the age 66.