Today in Labor History January 10, 1859: Anarchist Spanish educator Francisco Ferrer was born. Ferrer started the first Modern Schools in Spain and inspired hundreds more to be created throughout the world. He opposed the Church’s monopoly over education and created Spain’s first secular, co-educational schools. In 1909, a kangaroo court convicted him of fomenting an insurrection. The7 executed him by firing squad on October 13, 1909. His execution caused worldwide condemnation and protests. George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as anarchists and radicals like Peter Kropotkin and Emma Goldman protested the execution.
Today in Labor History January 10, 1860: The Pemberton Mill suddenly collapsed in Lawrence, Massachusetts, trapping 900 workers, mostly Irish women. The mill then caught fire, killing 88 and seriously injuring 116. The inquest found that the construction was inferior, too weak to support the brick walls and heavy machinery. The engineer in charge of construction, Captain Charles Bigelow, was aware of this, but acquitted anyway.
Today in Labor History January 19, 1914: IWW labor organizer and folk singer, Joe Hill, was arrested for killing two men during a grocery store robbery. He claimed innocence and the evidence against him was flimsy. However, because of his radical associations, they still framed and convicted him. President Wilson, Hellen Keller (also an IWW member) and the Swedish ambassador all asked for clemency. Hill’s final message from prison, before being shot by firing squad, was “Don’t mourn, Organize!”
His ashes were sprinkled in every state of the union, except Utah because he didn’t want to be found dead in Utah. They were also sprinkled in Canada, Sweden, Australia and Canada. Some of his most famous songs were “The Preacher and the Slave,” “The Rebel Girl,” “There is Power in a Union,” “Casey Jones, the Union Scab,” and “Mr. Block.” In 1988, an envelope containing his remaining ashes was discovered. Abbie Hoffman suggested that folksinger Billy Bragg should consume them and he supposedly did, washed down, of course, with copious beer.
Today in Labor History January 10, 1957: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was founded, with Martin Luther King Jr. as its first president.
Today in Labor History January 10, 1981: The FMLN launched its first major offensive against the Salvadoran military. As a result, they gained control of the departments of Morazan and Chalatenango. They held onto these regions of El Salvador for most of the civil war. In 1989, it became clear after their “final” offensive, that the government could not defeat them. At this point, the U.S., which had previously supported the government’s genocidal war against the Salvadoran people, began to support negotiations. The United Nations estimated that 85% of all civilian killings during the civil war were committed by government forces and government-supported death squads. Despite the peace process, death squad killings continued. There were several during the two months I was there in 1993.
Today in Labor History January 10, 1985: Sandinista Daniel Ortega became president of Nicaragua. He vowed to transform the country into a socialist republic, allied with the Soviet Union and Cuba.
Today in Labor History January 10, 1994: The U.S. Supreme Court let stand the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) despite the lack of an Environmental Impact Statement.
Today in Labor History January 10, 2007: Workers in Guinea launched a General Strike to force President Lansana Conte out of office. By January 21, at least ten workers had been killed. However, on January 22, there were demonstrations across the nation. Police opened fire on protesters in the capital, Conakry, killing at least 17 more. In February, the government imposed martial law. The International Crisis Group warned of civil war that could draw in neighboring Sierre Leone, Liberia and the Ivory Coast.