Today in Labor History: Weekend Edition
March 28—Martin Luther King, Jr., leads a march of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn. Violence during the march persuades him to return the following week to Memphis, where he was assassinated – 1968
March 29—Sam Walton, founder of the huge and bitterly anti-union Walmart empire, born in Kingfisher, Okla. He once said that his priority was to “Buy American,” but Walmart is now the largest U.S. importer of foreign-made goods—often produced under sweatshop conditions – 1918
March 30—Harry Bridges, Australian-born dock union leader, dies at age 88. He helped form and lead the Int’l Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) for 40 years. A Bridges quote: “The most important word in the language of the working class is ‘solidarity’” – 1990
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Labor Video: Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
On Saturday, March 25, 1911, a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, located on the top three floors of the ten-story Asch Building in Manhattan. Most of the more than 500 workers there that day were immigrant women, some as young as 12 years old. The fire started about 4:30 p.m. and firefighters had the fire mostly under control by 5:15. In all, 146 people died as a result of the fire immediately or soon after as a result of their injuries. Thousands watched from a park and surrounding streets and buildings. Click here to watch the video.