Today in Labor History January 27, 1825: U.S. Congress approved Indian Territory in what is present-day Oklahoma. This paved the way for the Trail of Tears forced relocation of native Americans, which killed 4000-6000 indigenous men, women and children.
Today in Labor History January 27, 1850: Samuel Gompers, president and founder of the American Federation of Labor was born. Gompers became president of the Cigar Makers’ Union in 1875. He helped found the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions in 1881. This later became the American Federation of Labor, which quickly surpassed the Knights of Labor in size and power. Gompers supported the U.S. invention in Cuba and its war against Spain.
He later sided with the anti-imperialists in their opposition to the U.S. annexation of the Philippines. However, his motivation had nothing to do with compassion for the Philippine people, nor for the lives of working-class Americans sent there to kill. Rather, he feared competition from low-paid Filipino workers. For this same reason, he opposed immigration to the U.S. and supported xenophobic legislation, like the Chinese Exclusion Act. Gompers, and the AF of L, supported “class harmony” and the right of bosses to exploit workers. Gompers supposedly said that the “greatest crime an employer can perpetrate against his employees is to fail to operate at a profit.” He led the anti-socialist faction within the AF of L and only lost to them once. And he collaborated with the federal government in their harassment and arrests of members of the IWW.
Today in Labor History January 27, 1891: The Mammoth Mine Explosion in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania, killed over 100 workers. Many were Polish, Hungarian and Italian immigrants. A miner’s oil lamp ignited firedamp in the mine, causing the explosion. However, the explosion killed very few of them directly. Most died from suffocation due to afterdamp.
Today in Labor History January 27, 1918: The Finnish Civil War began. The Whites (led by wealthy landowners) defeated the Reds (led by the Social Democrats), who were trying to create a Finnish Socialist Workers’ Republic. The war lasted three months. 3,500 Whites and 5,700 Reds died in the fighting. However, in the aftermath, the Whites executed another 10,000 Reds and 12,500 Reds died in prison.
Today in Labor History January 27, 1920: Kansas mine workers went on strike against compulsory arbitration.
Today in Labor History January 27, 1951: Operation Ranger began, the first nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site. B-50D bombers dropped the bombs over Frenchman Flat (Area 5). They dropped 5 nuclear bombs during these tests from January through February 1951. The largest was a 22 kiloton Mark-6 Type D Freddy.
Today in Labor History January 27, 1969: A group of African-American auto workers in Detroit who were known as the Eldon Avenue Revolutionary Union Movement led a wildcat strike against racism and poor working conditions. Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) began on July 8, 1968, when a group of Black autoworkers led a wildcat strike that partially shut down Chrysler Corporation’s Dodge Main plant in Hamtramck, Michigan. The movement sprang from a deep mistrust of the existing United Automobile Workers (UAW) union, and a strong anti-imperialist sensibility. DRUM was committed to building a revolutionary movement capable of challenging capitalist exploitation, union complacency, imperialism, and state violence. By 1969, the Revolutionary Union Movement had developed into the communist League of Revolutionary Black Workers.
Today in Labor History January 27, 1986: Hormel management locked out its workers for honoring an Ottumwa, Iowa picket line.
Today in Labor History January 27, 2002: An explosion at a military facility in Lagos, Nigeria, killed over 1,100 people. Another 20,000 were made homeless.
Today in Labor History January 27, 2011: The Yemini Revolution (part of the Arab Spring) began with over 16,000 protesters demonstrating in Sana’a.
Today in Labor History January 27, 2014: The Kobani Canton declared its autonomy from the Syrian Arab Republic during the Rojava conflict. Supporters claim they have implemented a form of libertarian socialism, influenced by American anarchist Murray Bookchin, with decentralization, gender equality and local governance through direct democracy.
They have created worker cooperatives and govern the cantons through district councils, each with one male and one female co-president. The councils have gender quotas requiring at least 40% female participation. They have banned child marriages and honor killings. They are attempting to replace punitive justice with a system of restorative justice. And women play a prominent role on the battlefield, as well as within the political system. Yet private property remains a part of their system, which is inconsistent with Bookchinian anarchism. And according to Andrea Glioti, remnants of the PKK’s Stalinist past remain in Rojava. He cites the ubiquitous portraits of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, often accompanied by the slogan “There’s no life without a leader.”