Today in Labor History: Weekend Edition

November 04
Populist humorist Will Rogers was born on this day near Oologah, Indian Territory (later Oklahoma). One of his many memorable quotes: “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.” – 1879

Some 3,000 dairy farmers demonstrate in Neillsville, Wisc., ultimately leading to the freeing of jailed leaders of a milk strike over low prices set by large dairy plants. Tons of fresh milk were dumped on public roads, trains carrying milk were stopped, some cheese plants were bombed during the fight – 1933

After a struggle lasting more than two years, 6,000 Steelworkers members at Bridgestone/Firestone win a settlement in which strikers displaced by scabs got their original jobs back. The fight started when management demanded that the workers accept 12-hour shifts – 1996

November 05
Eugene V. Debs, labor leader, socialist, three-time candidate for president and first president of the American Railway Union, born – 1855

Everett, Wash., massacre, at least seven Wobblies killed, 50 wounded and an indeterminate number missing – 1916

Some 12,000 television and movie writers begin what was to become a 3-month strike against producers over demands for an increase in pay for movies and television shows released on DVD and for a bigger share of the revenue from work delivered over the Internet – 2007
(How familiar do these phrases ring? Unions are responsible for 
budget deficits; they’ve outlived their usefulness; their members are overpaid and enjoy cushy benefits. The only way to save the American economy, many say, is to weaken the labor movement, strip workers of collective bargaining rights, and champion private industry. In They’re Bankrupting Us! And 20 Other Myths about Unions, longtime labor activist and educator Bill Fletcher Jr. makes sense of this debate as he unpacks the 21 myths most often cited by anti-union propagandists.)

November 06
French transport worker and socialist Eugene Pottier dies in Paris at age 71. In 1871 he authored “L’Internationale,” the anthem to international labor solidarity, the first verse of which begins: “Stand up, damned of the Earth; Stand up, prisoners of starvation” – 1887

A coal mine explosion in Spangler, Pa., kills 79. The mine had been rated gaseous in 1918, but at the insistence of new operators it was rated as non-gaseous even though miners had been burned by gas on at least four occasions – 1922
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