Today in Labor History February 27

1800s

Today in Labor History February 27, 1812: Poet Lord Byron gave his first address as a member of the House of Lords. In his speech, he spoke out in support of Luddite violence against industrialism in his home county of Nottinghamshire. He spoke specifically against the Frame Breaking Act, which gave the death penalty to anyone guilty of breaking a machine. The state hanged 60-70 Luddites during the time the law was on the books. However, most of the time, the courts used other laws to convict them.

Today in Labor History February 27, 1875: Eugene V. Debs became a charter member and secretary of the Vigo Lodge Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen. By 1880, he had become the grand secretary of the union and editor of the Locomotive Fireman’s Magazine. He later led the bitter Pullman strike.

1900s-1910s

Today in Labor History February 27, 1902: John Steinbeck was born on this date in Salinas, California. He wrote numerous novels from the perspective of farmers and working-class people, including “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Tortilla Flats” “Of Mice and Men,” “Cannery Row,” and “East of Eden.” In 1935, he joined the communist League of American Writers. He faced contempt charges for refusing to cooperate with HUAC. The FBI and the IRS harassed him throughout his career. Yet he wrote glowingly about U.S. troops during the Vietnam War. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1962 and the Pulitzer in 1939.

Today in Labor History February 27, 1912: The Times of London published a lead story about a conspiracy of unions planning on taking over ownership of British coal mines. The piece was based on a pamphlet, “The Miner’s Next Step,” which had been printed in Tonypandy, a scene of recent bloodshed between strikers and police during the Tonypandy riots of 1911. The pamphlet, written by the South Wales Miner’s Federation, called for direct action and industrial solidarity. It also called for the elimination of employers and direct worker control.

1930s

Today in Labor History February 27, 1933: An activist torched Berlin’s Reichstag parliament building. The fire occurred exactly four weeks after Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. Marinus Van der Lubbe, a Dutch Council Communist, claimed responsibility. However, Hitler used the fire as a pretext to claim that Communists were plotting against the German government, to suspend civil liberties and violently suppress Communists.

Today in Labor History February 27, 1937: Lincoln Brigadiers attacked Pingarron Hill (Suicide Hill) in the Jarama Valley, Spain. 500 Lincoln Brigadiers fought in this infamous battle. Over 300 died or were wounded. The Lincoln Brigade was made up of Americans who fought against the fascists in Spain, in violation of U.S. law.

1940s

Today in Labor History February 27, 1942: The Seattle School Board accepted the forced resignation of Japanese-American teachers.

Today in Labor History February 27, 1943: The Smith Mine #3 exploded in Red Lodge, Montana, killing 74 workers.

February 27, 1943: The Rosenstrasse protest occurred in Berlin. Non-Jewish wives and relatives of Jewish men targeted for deportation carried out the demonstration. It was the only mass public demonstration by Germans in the Third Reich against the deportation of Jews. The women were successful, too, forcing the Gestapo to release the 1,800 Jews they had in custody in Berlin.

1970s-present

February 27, 1973: 300 Oglala Sioux activists from the American Indian Movement (AIM) liberated and occupied Wounded Knee, South Dakota. This was the site of the infamous Massacre at Wounded Knee (1890). They occupied the site to protest a campaign of terror against them by the FBI and tribal officials

Today in Labor History February 27, 1988: A pogrom against Armenians occurred in Sumgait, Azerbaijan

February 27, 2001: Seattle ACORN workers went on strike. Their office shut down after their employer refused to recognize the Public Interest Workers IU 670 of the IWW.

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