Today in Labor History January 31

Today in Labor History January 31, 1606: Guy Fawkes jumped to his death moments before his execution for treason. Guy Fawkes belonged to a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Fawkes, who had converted to Catholicism, also fought in the 80-Years War for Catholic Spain against the Dutch. He later traveled to Spain seeking support for a Catholic rebellion in England.


Today in Labor History January 31, 1891: A Republican uprising broke out in Porto, Portugal, La Revolta do Porto. The rebels marched to the City Council building, proclaimed a republic and unfurled the red and green flag. However, the Municipal Guard attacked, killing rebel soldiers and civilians without discrimination. 300 barricaded themselves in the City Hall, but the Guard forced them to surrender. 12 died and at least 40 were injured in the uprising. The authorities exiled 250 rebels for up to 15 years in Africa.

Brisbane General Strike

Today in Labor History January 31, 1912: A General Strike began in Brisbane, Australia. It lasted until March 6. The strike was a response to the suspension of tramway workers for wearing union badges. Within a few days, the strike committee became the de facto government of Brisbane. No work could be done in the city without the committee’s permission. They created their own independent police force and provided ambulance service for the city. They issued strike coupons, redeemable at stores that were in solidarity with the strikers. People wore red ribbons to show their support and even put them on their dogs and dray horses.

On the second day of the strike, 25,000 people marched, with another 50,000 supporters watching. On Black Friday, February 2, the cops attacked a women’s march with batons. Emma Miller, a trade unionist and suffragist who was in her 70s and weighed less than 80 pounds, pulled out a hat pin and stabbed the rump of the police commissioner’s horse. The horse reared and threw the commissioner. As a result of his injury, he limped for the rest of his life. The courts ultimately ruled in favor of the unionists, and their right to wear union badges while on the job. Errol O’Neill wrote a play about the strike, “Faces in the Street.”


Today in Labor History January 31, 1918: Red Guards killed 15 White Guard soldiers in the Suinula Massacre, during the Finnish Civil War

Today in Labor History January 31, 1919: Bloody Friday occurred when 60,000 demonstrators gathered in George Square, Glasgow, Scotland, in support of a strike. Police launched a vicious and unprovoked attack, bashing heads with their batons. Protesters retaliated with fists, broken bottles and iron railings, forcing the police to retreat. An estimated 10,000 British troops were sent to quash the battle. One cop died months later from injuries sustained during the battle. The strike occurred in the wake of World War I in response to high unemployment. The Scottish TUC and Clyde Workers’ Committee wanted to increase job openings by reducing the work week from 47 hours to 40.


Today in Labor History January 31, 1940: Ida M. Fuller became the first person to receive an old-age monthly benefit check under the new Social Security law. She received a whopping $22.54

Today in Labor History January 31, 1950: President Truman ordered the development of thermonuclear weapons (Hydrogen bombs). The U.S. tested the first thermonuclear weapon in 1952. It was developed by Edward Teller. H-bombs consist of a nuclear fission primary stage, much like older atomic bombs. The fuel for this stage is usually 235U or 239Pu. This is followed by a nuclear fusion reaction using the heavy hydrogen isotope deuterium and tritium. Modern thermonuclear weapons use lithium deuteride. The nuclear fission stage creates a temperature of over 100 million Kelvin (180 million degrees Fahrenheit), flooding the radiation channel with X-rays. The X-ray energy implodes a plutonium spark plug, compressing the secondary stage and driving the plutonium into a supercritical state that drives a fission chain reaction. The fission products heat the thermonuclear fuel to 300 million Kelvin, igniting the fusion reactions.


Today in Labor History January 31, 1971: The Winter Soldier Investigation began in Detroit. The investigation was organized by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War to publicize war crimes and atrocities by the U.S. and its allies in Vietnam.

Today in Labor History January 31, 1971: For the second time in six months, rioting broke out during an anti-war protest in East Los Angeles. Police fired into the crowd, killing one protester. The anti-war demonstrations were organized by the Chicano Moratorium. Chicanos were dying at a higher rate during the Vietnam War than white Americans. During the August 29, 1970 protests, police killed three people, including Journalist Ruben Salazar. Oscar Zeta Acosta portrayed Salazar in his 1973 novel, “The Revolt of the Cockroach People.” Hunter S. Thompson portrayed Acosta as his “Samoan attorney” in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

Today in Labor History January 31, 1972: The IRA called a General Strike, the day after Bloody Sunday occurred in Derry, Northern Ireland.

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