Today in Labor History January 29, 1834: Chesapeake and Ohio Canal workers rioted. President Jackson sent in troops to quell the unrest. It was the first time the government used troops to suppress a domestic labor dispute. Workers were rebelling because of terrible working conditions and low pay. George Washington had designed the canal project. He intended it to facilitate transportation of goods from the Chesapeake Bay to the Ohio River Valley. Employers hired construction teams made up mostly of Irish, German, Dutch and black workers. They toiled long hours for low wages in dangerous conditions. From this, and similar projects of the era, came the line: the banks of the canals are lined with the bones of dead Irishmen. Also from this project came the poem:
Ten thousand Micks, they swung their picks, to build the new canal.
But the choleray was stronger ‘n they and twice it killed ‘em all.
Today in Writing History January 29, 1845: The Evening Mirror, in New York, published “The Raven,” by Edgar Allan Poe. It was Poe’s first publication.
Today in Labor History January 29, 1863: A detachment of the California Volunteers (a civil war unit) killed hundreds of Shoshone men, women and children in the Bear River Massacre in present-day Idaho.
Today in Labor History January 29, 1911: The Mexican Liberal Party, led by the anarchist Magonistas, captured the Baja California border town of Mexicali. Many American members of the IWW participated in the revolution, which also conquered and held Tijuana for several days. Lowell Blaisdell writes about it in his now hard to find book, “The Desert Revolution,” (1962).
Today in Labor History January 29, 1932: Wisconsin enacted the first state unemployment insurance law in the U.S.
Today in Labor History January 29, 1936: Rubber workers engaged in a sit-down strike in Akron, Ohio. Their action helped establish the United Rubber Workers as a national union. Working conditions and pay were terrible and workers and virtually no benefits. They engaged in numerous sit-down strikes in the 1930s. Theirs preceded the more famous Flint sit-down strike of 1936-1937. The first American sit-down strike was probably in 1909, when 3,000 members of the IWW engaged in a sit-down strike against General Electric, in Schenectady, NY.