Today in Labor History January 15


Today in Labor History January 15, 1919: German Freikorps tortured and murdered Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht at the end of the Spartacist uprising. Luxemburg and Liebknecht were two of the most prominent socialists in Germany. The Spartacist uprising was essentially a power struggle between the Spartacists and other Council Communists against the Social Democrats. 500,000 workers participated in the General Strike they called for January 7 to replace the moderate Social Democratic government with a communist one. The Social Democrats utilized the Freikorps, a right-wing paramilitary, to quash the rebellion.

Today in Labor History January 15, 1919: A molasses storage tank exploded in Boston, MA, causing the Great Molasses Flood. The molasses swept through the streets at 35 mph, killing 21 people and injuring 150. People claimed for decades afterwards that they could still smell of molasses on hot summer days.


Today in Labor History January 15, 1929: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on this date. King once said, “We look around every day and we see thousands and millions of people making inadequate wages. Not only do they work in our hospitals, they work in our hotels, they work in our laundries, they work in domestic service, they find themselves unemployed. You see, no labor is really menial unless you’re not getting adequate wages.”

Today in Labor History January 15, 1937 Nationalists and Republicans both withdrew after suffering heavy losses, ending the Second Battle of the Corunna Road, during the Spanish Civil War. The battle took place from December 13, 1936 through January 15, 1937, northwest of Madrid. 15,000 were killed or wounded on each side.


Today in Labor History January 15, 1946: 260,000 U.S. electrical workers struck against General Electric, Westinghouse and General Motors. It was part of the Great Strike Wave of 1946. In that wave, 43,000 oil workers struck in October, 1945; 225,000 autoworkers in November, 1945; 93,000 meatpackers in January, 1946; 750,000 steel workers, in January 1946; 340,000 coal miners, in April, 1946; and 250,000 railroad workers in May 1946. There were also General Strikes in Lancaster, PA; Stamford, CT; Rochester, NY; and Oakland, CA. The strike wave was the largest in U.S. history.

Today in Labor History January 15, 1949: Communist forces took over Tianjin from the Nationalist Government during the Chinese Civil War.

Oliver Sipple

Today in Labor History January 15, 1976: A judge sentenced Sara Jane Moore to life in prison. She had attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in front of the St. Francis Hotel, in San Francisco. It was the second failed attempt on Ford that year. Oliver Sipple, a gay, former marine happened to be standing nearby and thwarted her second shot. Sipple was out of the closet and fairly well-known in the San Francisco gay scene. He was also friends with Harvey Milk, who outed Sipple to journalist Herb Caen. Milk’s rationale: “For once we can show that gays do heroic things, not just all that caca about molesting children and hanging out in bathrooms.”

However, Sipple who was still in the closet with respect to his family, was devastated. His mother disowned him. Family members refused to speak to him. The president refused to invite him to the White House or offer him a medal or commendation. Sipple sued the San Francisco Chronicle for invasion of privacy. But the courts ruled against him. His mental and physical health deteriorated after this. He started drinking heavily and was found dead in his apartment in 1989, at the age of 47.

CNT and Moncloa Pacts

Today in Labor History January 15, 1978: The CNT, the Spanish anarchist trade union, held a demonstration drawing 10,000 protesters in Barcelona to oppose the Moncloa Pacts. The Moncloa Pacts were kind of like a Spanish version of the U.S. National Labor Relations Act. The government’s goal was to control working class militancy and minimize the effects of strikes by channeling union activity through parliamentary-style elections. They knew they needed the support of the large Spanish left and invited all the major unions, including the communist, socialist and anarchist unions. And the government provided funding for the unions based on how many votes they received. The CNT was the only major union to reject the pacts. They understood that the pacts would take away worker power.


Today in Labor History January 15, 1997: A coalition of South Korean labor unions called a General Strike. 600,000 workers participated.

1 thought on “<strong>Today in Labor History January 15</strong>”

  1. Pingback: Today in Labor History January 20 - Michael Dunn

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