Today in Labor History December 31

1890s

Today in Labor History December 31, 1890: Ellis Island opened on this date in New York City. Millions of immigrant workers passed through Ellis Island, excited to be in the Land of the Free. But then discovered they had to become wage slaves in its factories, mills and mines in order to survive.

1930s

December 31, 1930: American singer-songwriter, guitarist, civil rights activist and actress Odetta was born. Her played and sang folk music, blues, jazz and spirituals. She influenced Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mavis Staples and Janis Joplin. 

Today in Labor History December 31, 1931: 60,000 unemployed workers rallied at Pitt Stadium in Pittsburgh, near Father Cox’s Shantytown. The shantytown lasted from 1929 to 1932 and was the staging base for the Reverend James Cox’s unemployed army. 

December 31, 1933: Edward Heward Bunker was born. Bunker was a crime fiction writer, screenwriter and convicted felon. He wrote the scripts for, and acted in, “Straight Time” (1978), “Runaway Train” (1985) and “Animal Factory.”

1950s-1980s

Today in Labor History December 31, 1955: General Motors became the first U.S. corporation to make over $1 billion in a year. Remember, what’s good for GM is good for America. Therefore it’s good for you!

Today in Labor History December 31, 1982: The authorities declared Martial law in Poland in 1981 in order to suppress the anti-communist Solidarnosc labor movement. They suspended martial law on this date in 1982.

2000s

December 31, 2019: The World Health Organization was informed of cases of pneumonia with an unknown cause, detected in Wuhan, China. These turned out to be the first documented cases of COVID-19. By this date in 2021, there will be over 820,000 official Covid19 deaths, just in the U.S., and nearly 6 million worldwide. The actual number of deaths is likely closer to 20 million by the end of 2021.

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