This Week In Labor History – September 5

This Week In Labor History – September 5
September 1
Congress declared the first Monday in September Labor Day, a national holiday. The day honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the country. Beginning in the last 19th century, as the trade and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor. “Labor Day” was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, which organized the first parade in New York City. In 1887 Oregon was the first state on the United States to make it an official public holiday. By the time it became an official federal holiday, thirty U.S. states officially celebrated Labor Day. – 1894
The AFL-CIO creates Working America, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization designed to build alliances among non-union working people. – 2003

September 2
The Rock Spring Massacre, also known as the Rock Springs Riot, occurred on this date. The riot, between Chinese immigrant miners and white immigrant miners, was the result of racial tension and an ongoing labor dispute over the Union Pacific Coal Department’s policy of paying Chinese miners to lower wages than white miners. This policy caused the Chinese to be hired over the white miners, which angered the white miners and contributed to the riot. Racial tensions were an even bigger factor in the massacre. When the rioting ended, at least 28 Chinese miners were dead and 15 more injured. – 1885
 
The Battle of Blair Mountain ended on this date in 1921 with the U.S. government bombing striking coal miners by plane, the first time the U.S. government used planes to bomb its own citizens. The Battle of Blair Mountain was one of the largest civil uprisings in U.S. history and the largest armed insurrection since the Civil War. The uprising lasted 5 days and involved 10,000-15,000 coal miners confronting an army of scabs and police. – 1921

September 3
Twenty-five workers died and 55 were injured, unable to escape a  fire at the Imperial Poultry processing plant in Hamlet, North Carolina. Managers had locked fire doors to prevent the theft of chicken nuggets. The plant had operated for 11 years without a single safety inspection. – 1991

September 4
Twelve thousand New York tailors went out on strike to protest the sweatshop system that exploited their labor for half the year, and gave them no work the other half. – 1894
 
More than 140 attendees at a benefit for a civil rights group were injured in the “Peekskill Riots” in Peekskill, New York.The victims were among the 20,000 people leaving a concert featuring African-American Paul Robeson, well-known for his strong pro-unionism, civil rights activism, and left-wing affiliations. The departing concert-goers had to drive through a miles-long gauntlet of rock-throwing racists/ – 1949

September 5
Between 20,000 and 30,000 marchers participated in New York’s first Labor Day parade, demanding the 8-hour day. The parade was filled with banners: “Labor Built the Republic – Labor Shall Rule It”; “To the Workers Should Belong the Wealth”; “Down with the Competitive System”; “Down with Convict Contract Labor”; “Down with the Railroad Monopoly”; and “Children in School Not in Factories”, among others. – 1882

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