Today in Labor History: Weekend Edition

October 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
(Survival of the Fittest: Thanks to unions, construction jobs don’t cost lives the way they used to.  If you’d like to know more about construction unions, especially if you’re considering a career in the trades, read this book.  In clear, easy-to-read language it explains how to be successful in the trades and, directly linked to that success, how to make union construction thrive and prosper.)

Three strikes on works-relief projects in Maryland were underway today, with charges that Depression-era Works Projects Administration jobs were paying only about 28 cents an hour—far less than was possible on direct relief.  Civic officials in Cumberland, where authorities had established a 50-cent-per-hour minimum wage, supported the strikers – 1935

The National Labor Council is formed in Cincinnati to unite Black workers in the struggle for full economic, political and social equality. The group was to function for five years before disbanding, having forced many AFL and CIO unions to adopt non-discrimination policies – 1951

October 28
Union organizer and anarchist Luisa Capetillo is born in Ariecibo, Puerto Rico.  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, three years before her death, she was arrested for wearing pants in public, the first woman in Puerto Rico to do so.  The charges were dropped – 1879

The St. Louis Gateway Arch is completed after two and one-half years. Originally sold as a jobs program for thousands of African Americans in St. Louis suffering from the Depression, the 630-foot high arch of stainless steel marks the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the waterfront of St. Louis, Mo. Although it was predicted 13 lives would be lost in construction, not a single worker died – 1965

October 29
Japanese immigrant and 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 including an unemployment rate in the U.S. that by 1933 hit nearly 25 percent – 1929

Click here for the complete posting. Compiled and edited by David Prosten.