Today in Labor History April 23

Today in Labor History April 23, 1343: The Saint George’s Night Uprising began in the Duchy of Estonia. Native Estonians tried to expel their Danish and German landlords and rulers. They also wanted to restore their pre-Christian religion. Initially, the Estonians prevailed. But the Teutonic Order eventually invaded and put down the uprising. During the negotiations, the Livonian Master asked the Estonian kings why they had killed so many people. One of the kings replied that any German deserved to be killed, even if he were only two feet tall. Outraged, the Germans hacked the four kings to death, along with their entire retinue.

April 23, 1616: William Shakespeare died on this day.

1800s

Today in Labor History April 23, 1850: William Wordsworth died on this day. His last words were, “If it’s good enough for old Billy Shakespeare, then it’s good enough for me.”

1910s: Wobbly Strikes

Photo of old IWW sticker. From Marshall Law’s private collection. Public Domain

April 23, 1910: The AFL destroyed an IWW strike at the Ball Glass Factory, in Muncie, Indiana. The AFL provided enough scab workers to fill the existing positions and break the Wobbly strike. 

Today in Labor History April 23, 1910: IWW Textile workers voted to strike in New Bedford, MA.

April 23, 1910: All IWW steel unions in the Pittsburgh area were on strike. The conflict began when the authorities arrested the editors of the paper, “Solidarity.”

Today in Labor History April 23, 1910: IWW farmhands went on strike in Yamhill, Oregon, when some were fired for teaching and talking about Industrial Unionism. The workers were demanding a 30-cents per hour raise and a decent bunk house. Farmers tried unsuccessfully to hire strike breakers and started slandering the strikers’ wives. Fellow IWW members from Portland helped bring supplies and sabotaged some of the farmers’ trees.

World War I

April 23, 1918: A General Strike ended conscription of Irish men into the British army during World War I. The British tried to impose conscription on Ireland, but the unions, Catholic priests and nationalist parties fought it.

1950s-1960s

Today in Labor History April 23, 1956: The Canadian Labor Congress was founded on this day. The CLC represented the interests of more than three million affiliated workers.

April 23, 1968: Students took over the administration buildings at Columbia University, in New York, and shut down the university. They were protesting the Vietnam war.

1980s

Today in Labor History April 23, 1980Ida Mae Stull died on this day. She was believed to be the country’s first woman coal miner. She once said, “It’s my desire to use a pick handle because it feels better than a broom handle to me.”

April 23, 1986: Otto Preminger died on this day. Preminger was a Ukrainian-American actor, director and producer. Preminger challenged the boundaries of what was acceptable in Hollywood. For example, “The Man With the Golden Arm” (1955) dealt with drug addiction. “Anatomy of a Murder” (1955) dealt with rape. And “Advise and Consent” addressed homosexuality.

1990s

April 23, 1991: Johnny Thunders died on this day, either from a drug overdose or by homicide. Thunders sang and played guitar with the New York Dolls and solo. I was fortunate enough to see him perform before he died. It was in New York City, at a small club. He announced to us that he was finally clean and then proceeded to fall off his stool several times.

Today in Labor History April 23, 1993: United Farm Workers cofounder Cesar Chavez died at age 66. His most famous labor action was the successful Delano grape strike of 1965-1970. He was inspired by the nonviolent civil disobedience of Gandhi. In addition to strikes, boycotts and pickets, he was famous for going on hunger strikes. Later he became infatuated with the religious cult, Synanon. He used Synanon’s “game” to punish union members and enforce conformity. Chavez also supported the brutal Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos. This alienated Filipino members of the union, as well as many of the religious organizations that had supported the UFW.

April 23, 1999: NATO bombed the headquarters of Radio Television of Serbia. The bomb killed sixteen employees. According to Amnesty International, no one was ever held accountable for the civilian deaths.

2000s

Today in Labor History April 23, 2019: The Hpakant jade mine collapsed in Myanmar, killing four miners and two rescuers. Hpakant is the largest jade mine on Earth. Jade pickers are often migrants from other parts of the country. They live in dilapidated shacks and work as “freelancers,” scavenging through the tailings for small pieces of jade. On July 2, 2020, a landslide at the mine killed 174 miners. The landslide was the worst mining disaster in the nation’s history. The value of Myanmar’s jade industry is over $30 billion per year.

1 thought on “Today in Labor History April 23”

  1. Pingback: Today in Labor History September 1 - Marshall Law

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