Learn What Happened Today in Labor History April 1

Today in Labor History April 1, 1649: Diggers occupied St. George’s Hill, in Surrey, England. They seized the land to hold in common in order to grow food. As a result of their success, other Digger communities followed in other regions. The Diggers are sometimes seen as forerunners of modern anarchism. In 1966, members of the San Francisco Mime Troupe formed a Diggers group and gave away free food in Golden Gate Park. The original Diggers influenced the anti-roads and squatting movements in England and elsewhere. They inspired the Leon Rosselsen song, “The World Turned Upside Down.” Billy Bragg performs the song in the Youtube video, above.

Pre-World War I

April 1, 1882:  Coal Heavers struck against the Suez Canal Company in Port Said.

Today in Labor History April 1, 1907: San Francisco laundry workers struck in order to win higher wages and the 8-hour day.

1920s

April 1, 1920: The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) published T-Bone Slim’s, The Popular Wobbly,” in their “One Big Union Monthly.” T-Bone Slim (Matti Valentin Huhta) was a poet, songwriter, hobo and IWW labor activist.

Today in Labor History April 1, 1924: West Virginia miners walked out at the Coal River Colliery Company (CRC). The strike was unusual because CRC was an investment venture of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE), with stock owned by members of the Brotherhood. The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) called the strike because the company refused to pay the current union wage scale.

April 1, 1929: Textile workers struck at the Loray Mill, in Gastonia, N.C. Because of union successes in the north, textile mills started moving to the South in the 1890s. This escalated after the 1909 Shirtwaist strike (which preceded the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist fire). And the IWW-led Lawrence (1912) and Patterson (1913) strikes. The latter two strikes were led by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Big Bill Haywood and Carlo Tresca. The Gastonia strike was violent and bloody. Police arrested dozens of strikers. A pregnant woman, Ella Mae Wiggins, wrote and performed songs during the strike. The strike ended soon after goons murdered her. Woody Guthrie called Wiggins the pioneer of the protest ballad.

Wiley Cash wrote a wonderful novel about Ella Mae Wiggins and the Gastonia strike, “The Last Ballad.” Jess Walter wrote a really great novel about the Spokane free speech fight, featuring Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, called “The Cold Millions.” Other novels about the Gastonia strike include Sherwood Anderson’s, “Beyond Desire,” and Mary Heaton Vorse’s, “Strike!”

1930s-1950s

Today in Labor History April 1, 1932: 500 hungry school children marched through Chicago’s downtown to the Board of Education offices. They demanded that the school system provide them with food.

April 1, 1946: The U.S. military put down the 400,000-strong mine workers strike, on orders of President Truman.

April 1, 1946: An 8.6 magnitude earthquake struck the Aleutian Islands, in Alaska. As a result of the temblor, a tsunami spread across the Pacific, with waves ranging from 45-130 feet high. It obliterated a local lighthouse, killing all five lighthouse keepers. In Hilo, Hawaii, the tsunami killed 173 people and destroyed 488 buildings.

Today in Labor History April 1, 1951: 40,000 textile workers struck six southern states because they wanted higher pay, pensions and health and accident insurance.

April 1, 1955: Greek Cypriots launched an uprising in order to end British rule over the island.

1960s

April 1, 1961: Local 101 began a 6-week strike against Brooklyn Union Gas Company.

Today in Labor History April 1, 1963: The longest newspaper strike in U.S. history ended on this date. As a result of the strike, the nine major papers in New York City ceased publication for 100 days.

1970s

April 1, 1976: Surrealist artist, Max Ernst, died. In addition to being an artist, he was an anti-Fascist. He was literally chased out of France by the Gestapo. And he opposed Stalin’s Moscow trials. Furthermore, much of his art had anti-Fascist and anti-Stalinist themes. He produced “Fireside Angel” (or “Angel of the Hearth and Home”) after the Spanish Fascists defeated the Republicans. Ernst said, “this was an ironic title for a sort of ungainly beast that tramples down and destroys everything in its path. It was the impression I had at the time of what was likely to happen in the world, and I was right.”

1980s-2000s

April 1, 1980: New York City transit workers began an eleven-day strike. As a result, they won a 17% raise over the next two years.

Today in Labor History April 1, 1990: The federal government raised the minimum wage to a whopping $3.80 per hour.

April 1, 1991: They raised the minimum wage again, to an even whoppinger $4.25 per hour.

April 1, 2001: The Netherlands legalized same-sex marriages.

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