Today in Labor History: January 26

In what could be considered the first workers’ compensation agreement in America, pirate Henry Morgan pledges his underlings 600 pieces of eight or six slaves to compensate for a lost arm or leg. Also part of the pirate’s code, reports Roger Newell: shares of the booty were equal regardless of race or sex, and shipboard decisions were made collectively – 1695

Samuel Gompers, first AFL president, born in London, England. He emigrated to the U.S. as a youth – 1850

The Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America is chartered by the American Federation of Labor to organize “every wage earner from the man who takes the bullock at the house until it goes into the hands of the consumer.” – 1897

Workers win a two-day sit-down strike at the Brooklyn electric plant that powers the city’s entire subway system – 1937

A handful of American companies announce nearly 60,000 layoffs today, as the recession that began during the George W. Bush presidency charges full-tilt toward what became known as the Great Recession – 2009
(Union Strategies for Hard Times, 2nd Edition: What can unions do as the fallout of the Great Recession continues to ravage workers and their unions and threatens to destroy decades of collective bargaining gains? What must local union leaders do to help their laid off members, protect those still working, and prevent the gutting of their hard-fought contracts—and their very unions themselves?
Bill Barry, until recently director of labor studies at the Community College of Baltimore County and a 40-year veteran of the movement, calls on his long history of activism and years of “what works, what doesn’t” discussions with other leaders to come up with a plan to survive these terrible times and even use crisis to build a better future.)
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