Today in Labor History March 18, 1741: The New York governor’s complex was burned in an arson attack. The Fort George fire started the New York Conspiracy of 1741. The conspiracy involved a series of fires in Manhattan in the spring of 1741. They were supposedly carried out by slaves and poor whites and Catholics. However, historians disagree as to whether such a plot existed. At the time, Manhattan had the second-largest slave population in the Thirteen Colonies after Charleston, South Carolina.
There had been growing economic competition between poor whites and slaves. Additionally, the war between Britain and Spain was heightening anti-Catholic feelings. Recent slave revolts in South Carolina and Saint John increased the fear among the ruling elite. In the end, the authorities arrested and tried 172 black and white slaves, free blacks and poor whites. Like with the Salem witch trials, just a couple of witnesses implicated many other suspects. They executed 34 people, including seventeen black men, two white men, and two white woman who were hanged. Thirteen other black men who they burnt at the stake.
Today in Labor History March 18, 1834: The authorities sentenced Six farm laborers from Tolpuddle, Dorset, England to be transported to Australia for forming a trade union. The authorities pardoned them in 1836 after mass protests. It was an important influence on British labor movement.
Today in Labor History March 18, 1848: 300 people died in a struggle between citizens and the military in Berlin during the Revolution of 1848.
Today in Labor History March 18, 1871: The Paris Commune began on this date. It started with resistance to occupying German troops and the power of the bourgeoisie. They governed from a feminist and anarcho-communist perspective, abolishing rent and child labor and giving workers the right to take over workplaces abandoned by the owners. The revolutionaries took over control of Paris and held on for two months. The authorities brutally suppressed the uprising in May. During Semaine Sanglante, the nationalist forces slaughtered 15,000-20,000 Communards. They tried and executed or deported hundreds more.
Today in Labor History March 18, 1918: U.S. authorities arrested Mexican anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón under the Espionage Act. They charged him with hindering the American war effort and imprisoned him at Leavenworth, where he died under highly suspicious circumstances. The authorities claimed he died of a “heart attack,” but Chicano inmates rioted after his death and killed the prison guard they believed executed him.
Today in Labor History March 18, 1922: The Indian authorities sentenced Mohandas Gandhi to six years in prison for civil disobedience.
Today in Labor History March 18, 1937: Police evicted striking retail clerks occupying a New York Woolworth’s for the 40-hour week.
Today in Labor History March 18, 1937: Spanish Republican forces defeated Italian fascist volunteers at the Battle of Guadalajara. 2,000 died on the Republican side. 3,000 died on the fascist side.
March 18, 1937: A natural gas explosion in New London, Texas killed over 300 students, teachers and parents in the worst public school disaster in American history. The event led to worldwide sympathy. Even Hitler sent a telegram of condolences.
Today in Labor History March 18, 1968: The staff of San Francisco’s “progressive” rock station KMPX-FM walked out on strike citing a lack of control over programming & “hassles over the whole long-hair riff.” Performers like the Rolling Stones, Joan Baez, the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead requested the station not play their music as long as the station is run by strikebreakers.
March 18, 1969: The U.S. began secretly bombing the Sihanouk Trail in Cambodia. The People’s Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong used the trail to infiltrate South Vietnam. The following year, on this same date, Lon Nol ousted Cambodian Prince Norodom Sihanouk.
Today in Labor History March 18, 1970: The first mass work stoppage in the 195-year history of the U.S. Postal Service began on this date in New York City. The walkout was illegal, giving President Richard Nixon the excuse to send in federal troops to sort the mail. But the strike succeeded in forcing Congress to raise wages and reorganize the postal system and marked a new militancy among postal employees.