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This week in labor history

“The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night, anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands.” - Will Rogers, American cowboy, newspaper columnist, social commentator.

Wednesday, Oct 25:

What is believed to be the first formal training on first aid in American history took place in Jermyn, Penn., when Dr. Matthew J. Shields instructed 25 coal miners on ways to help their fellow miners. Upon completion of the course each of the miners was prepared and able to render first aid. The training led to marked decreases in serious mining injuries and fatalities. -1899

The Great Hawaiian Dock Strike, a 6-month struggle to win wage parity with mainland dock workers, ends in victory. -1949

Thursday, Oct 26:

Black slavery is formally legalized in Georgia. -1749

After 8 years and at least 1,000 worker deaths, mostly Irish immigrants working 12 hour days for 80 cents, the 350-mile Erie Canal opens, linking the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. Father John Raho wrote to his bishop that “so many die that there is hardly any time to give Extreme Unction to everybody. We run night and day to assist the sick.” - 1825

Friday, Oct 27:

The New York City subway, the first rapid-transit system in America, opens. More than 100 workers died during the construction of the first 13 miles of tunnels and track. -1904

40,000 Philadelphia textile workers were fired in an attempt to purge the factories of “radicals.” The “radicals” were asking for “radical” things such as a 10 hour day , fair pay and less deadly working conditions. -1920

Saturday, Oct 28:

Union organizer Luisa Capetillo is born. She organized tobacco and other agricultural workers in Puerto Rico and later in New York and Florida. In 1916 she led a successful sugar cane strike of more than 40,000 workers on the island. She demanded that her union endorse voting rights for women. In 1919, 3 years before her death, she was arrested for wearing pants in public. -1879

The Gateway Arch, a 630-foot high parabola of stainless steel marking the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the waterfront of St. Louis, Mo., is completed after two and one-half years. Although it was predicted 13 lives would be lost in construction, not a single Ironworker died. -1965

Sunday, Oct 29:

Labor advocate Katsu Goto is strangled to death, his body then strung from an electric pole, on the Big Island of Hawaii by thugs hired by plantation owners. They were outraged over Goto’s work on behalf of agricultural workers and because he opened a general store that competed with the owners’ own company store. -1889

Wall Street crashes, “Black Tuesday”, throwing the world’s economy into a years-long crisis, unemployment in the U.S. hits 25 percent by 1933. The Crash marked the start of the Great Depression. Caused by the Conservative Republican economic philosophy of laissez-faire (“leave it alone”), the free markets were allowed to operate without government interference. Taxes for the rich and corporate regulations were slashed dramatically, monopolies were allowed to form, and inequality of wealth and income reached record levels which caused the entire system to collapse. -1929

Monday, Oct 30:

IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) Union members are beaten, brutally tortured and forced out of town by some of Everett, Washington’s “finest citizens” because they wanted fair pay and less deadly working conditions. -1916

US Attorney General Ed Meese urges employers to begin spying on workers in “locker rooms, parking lots, shipping and mail room areas, and even the nearby taverns to “try to catch them using drugs”. -1986

Tuesday, Oct 31:

Tennessee sends in leased convict laborers to break a coal miner’s strike in Anderson County. The miners revolted, burned the stockades, and sent the captured convicts by train back to Knoxville. -1891

American oral historian, labor journalist, Pulitzer Prize winning author, Studs Terkel dies. He was falsely accused of being a Communist and blacklisted for his social justice activism during the shameful McCarthy era. He once said “We have two Governments in Washington: one run by the elected people, which is a minor part, and one run by the moneyed interests, which control everything.” -2008

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

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