Today in Labor History February 25, 1843: Lord George Paulet, naval captain, occupied the Kingdom of Hawaii in the name of Great Britain. Paulet and his men controlled the islands for five months, until the U.S. sent warships to expel them. Great Britain supposedly never authorized the invasion. The Hawaiian Kingdom was a sovereign state from 1795-1883. King Kamehameha, from the island of Hawaii, created the state by conquering four other Hawaiian islands and unifying them in 1795. The U.S. acted as its “protector” during these years, preventing the UK and Japan from asserting hegemony. However, in 1898, the U.S. annexed the islands, after U.S. businessmen participated in the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893.
Today in Labor History February 25, 1870: Hiram Rhodes Revels was sworn into the U.S. Senate, becoming the first African American ever to sit in Congress. He was a Republican from Mississippi. His cousins died participating in John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. During the Civil War, he helped recruit and organize two black Union regiments.
Today in Labor History February 25, 1908: The Washington Post proposed that all anarchists should be executed (whether or not they had been convicted of any crime). This came two days after anarchist Giuseppe Alia shot a Catholic priest, Father Heinrichs, in Denver.
Today in Labor History February 25, 1913: The IWW-led silk strike began in Paterson, New Jersey. 25,000 immigrant textile workers walked out when mill owners doubled the size of the looms without increasing staffing or wages. Workers also wanted an 8-hour workday and safer working conditions. Within the first two weeks of the strike, they had brought out workers from all the local mills in a General Strike of weavers and millworkers. Over the course of the strike, the authorities arrested 1,850 workers, including Big Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Cops and soldiers killed five workers during the 208-day strike. The strike ended in failure on July 28.
Today in Labor History February 25, 1941: The outlawed Communist Party of the Netherlands initiated a General Strike in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam in protest of the persecution of Dutch Jews. It started one day after a pogrom in Amsterdam. 300,000 people participated. It was the first public protest against the Nazis in Europe. The Nazis brutally suppressed the strike, ending it after three days.
Today in Labor History February 25, 1948: Klement Gottwal, of the Czech Communist Party, led a coup d’etat in Prague. The Communist takeover ended the Third Czechoslovak Republic.
Today in Labor History February 25, 1986: As a result of ongoing protests, Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos begged President Ronald Regan for advice. Regan told him to “cut and cut cleanly.” That evening, Marcos and his wife Imelda fled the nation aboard a U.S. air force plane, after 20 years of rule. He and his family, and an entourage of 90 people (mostly servants), arrived in Hawaii the next day. They brought 22 crates of cash valued at $717 million, 300 crates of jewelry of unknown value, $4 million worth of unset precious gems, $200,000 in gold bullion, $1 million in Philippine pesos and deposit slips for $124 million in banks in the Cayman Islands. Plus, countless crates of shoes. The Marcos hold the Guinness record for the largest ever theft from a government.