This Week in Labor History 017


"In every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both, to deceive and overawe the people." -Eugene Debs, Legendary Union leader, ARU and IWW co-founder

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

Wednesday, June 5

In 1917 in Butte, Montana, the Metal Mine Workers Union formed to protest the draft for World War I and the rustling card system. Throughout history, the Butte Union members proved time and time again to be leaders in enlightenment and in progress for the working class.

On this day in 1998, a strike began at a General Motors parts factory in Flint, Michigan that spread and ultimately forced the closure of GM plants across the country for 7 weeks. The Flint workers were protesting the removal of key dies from their plant and feared their jobs would be lost. The company ended the dispute by assuring the plant would remain open until at least the year 2000.

In 2014, San Francisco’s famed cable cars were halted for a 4th straight day and the rest of the city's transit system experienced delays after union drivers called in sick days after overwhelmingly rejecting a new labor contract that would have resulted in pay cuts. The city attorney filed a charge of unfair labor practices against the union.

Thursday, June 6

Debtor’s prisons were abolished on this day in 1778.

In 1937, a general strike by 12,000 autoworkers and others in Lansing, Michigan shut down the city for a month in what was to become known as the city’s “Labor Holiday.” The strike was precipitated by the arrest of 9 workers, including the wife of the auto workers local union president: The arrest left 3 children in the couple’s home unattended.

Friday, June 7

In 1907, State militia were sent to Cripple Creek, Colorado to suppress a Western Federation of Miners (WFM) strike. Rockefeller owned the police and the entire state, and made various promises of peace, and then broke them all by murdering men, women and children in order to keep his profits up. The WFM was founded in Butte, Montana and was considered to be a “radical” union by the capitalists because they had the audacity to ask for less deadly working conditions and fair wages.

In 1913, the Industrial Workers of the World Pageant of Paterson Silk Strike was performed at Madison Square Garden, New York City. In an effort to financially support the Paterson silk strike, artists based in Greenwich Village, New York, organized the play in which the events of the strike were reenacted. During the strike, over 1,850 strikers were arrested, including IWW leaders William Dudley Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. The pageant drew a large crowd.

In 1929, textile workers in Gastonia, North Carolina went on strike. Police Chief Aderholt was accidentally killed by one of his own officers. 6 strike leaders were blamed and got convictions of "conspiracy to murder" and prison sentences of 5 to 20 years.

Saturday, June 8

In 1904, the Colorado Militia attacked striking mine workers at Dunnville, ending with 6 WFM union members murdered and 15 taken prisoner. 79 of the strikers were deported, courtesy of Rockefeller, who owned the state government and militia

In Butte, Montana on this day in 1917, the Granite Mountain/Speculator Mine Fire killed 168 men, resulting in the worst disaster in American metal mining history. "An appalling site that caused the strongest hearts to quail was the cremation of two men who were trapped like rats in a double-decked cage about 20 feet above the collar of the shaft, with flames flying from the shaft like a gigantic torch around them.”

Sunday, June 9

In 1865, Helen Marot is born in Philadelphia to a wealthy family. She went on to organize the Bookkeepers, Stenographers and Accountants Union in New York, and to organize and lead the city's 1909-1910 Shirtwaist Strike. In 1912, she was a member of a commission investigating the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

In 1894, the American Railway Union convened in Chicago, representing 465 local Unions. On the 26th they called a sympathy strike for Pullman workers. “The dance of skeletons bathed in human tears - goes on forever unless you, the American Railway Union, stop it; end it; crush it out!” -Jennie Curtis, President of ARU Local 269.

In 1954, Joseph Welch asked U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy "Have you no sense of decency, sir?" during Senate hearings. McCarthyism destroyed thousands of innocent lives during America’s infamous “Red Scare/McCarthyism” era. McCarthy, later censured by the Senate, died of alcoholism and will forever be known as the shame of our country.

Monday, June 10

In 1892, a massive strike by miners occurred in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. In order to prevent scabs from working the mines while they were on strike, workers destroyed and seized mines. The strike was broken after the state declared martial law in order to protect the company profits.

The Mayor of Monroe, Michigan organized a vigilante mob of 1,400 armed with baseball bats and teargas to break the picket line of 200 striking workers at Newton Steel. Picketers were severely beaten and many hospitalized. 16 workers’ cars were destroyed, 5 cars overturned, and 8 more were dumped into the River Raisin.

Tuesday, June 11

In 1880, Pacifist, Progressive Republican (Republicans were once the progressive Party), union supporter and first Women U.S. Representative Jeannette Rankin was born near Missoula, Montana.

In 1917, the Metal Mine Workers union strike began in Butte, Montana. The new union, formed to protest the draft for World War I and the rustling card system, found special impetus following the Granite Mountain disaster of the 8th (worst disaster in US metal mining history). The Smelter workers held out until September 16th and the MMWU until December 28th.

This Week in Labor History is compiled by Kevin D. Curtis.

For KBMF, I’m Kevin Cook.