October 202014.10.20history-debscross
Eugene V. Debs, U.S. labor leader and socialist, dies in Elmhurst, Ill. Among his radical ideas: an 8-hour workday, pensions, workman's compensation, sick leave and social security. He ran for president from a jail cell in 1920 and got a million votes - 1926
(The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene V. Debs: Eugene V. Debs was a labor activist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who captured the heart and soul of the nation’s working people. He was brilliant, sincere, compassionate and scrupulously honest.  A founder of one of the nation’s first industrial unions, the American Railway Union, he went on to help launch the Industrial Workers of the World—the Wobblies.  A man of firm beliefs and dedication, he ran for President of the United States five times under the banner of the Socialist Party, in 1912 earning 6 percent of the popular vote.)

Hollywood came under scrutiny as the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) opened hearings into alleged Communist influence within the motion picture industry.  Dozens of union members were among those blacklisted following as a result of HUAC’s activities - 1947

Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan writes to PATCO President Robert Poli with this promise: if the union endorses Reagan, "I will take whatever steps are necessary to provide our air traffic controllers with the most modern equipment available and to adjust staff levels and work days so that they are commensurate with achieving a maximum degree of public safety." He got the endorsement. Nine months after the election, he fires the air traffic controllers for engaging in an illegal walkout over staffing levels and working conditions - 1980

2014.10.20history-merle.travisDeath of Merle Travis, songwriter and performer who wrote "Sixteen Tons" and "Dark as a Dungeon" – 1983

Two track workers are killed in a (San Francisco) Bay Area Rapid Transit train accident.  Federal investigators said the train was run by a BART employee who was being trained as an operator as members of the Amalgamated Transit Union were participating in what was to be a four-day strike - 2013

October 21
Wisconsin dairy farmers begin their third strike of the year in an attempt to raise the price of milk paid to producers during the Great Depression.  Several creameries were bombed before the strike ended a month later. The economy eventually improved, allowing the farmers to make more money - 1933

October 22
Bank robber Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd is killed by FBI agents near East Liverpool, Ohio. He was a hero to the people of Oklahoma who saw him as a "Sagebrush Robin Hood," stealing from banks and sharing some of the proceeds with the poor - 1934

October 23
President Theodore Roosevelt establishes a fact-finding commission that suspends a nine-months-long strike by Western Pennsylvania coal miners fighting for better pay, shorter workdays and union recognition.  The strikers ended up winning more pay for fewer hours, but failed to get union recognition.   It was the first time that the federal government had intervened as a neutral arbitrator in a labor dispute - 1902

Explosion and fire at Phillips Petroleum refinery in Pasadena, Texas, kills 23 and injures 314 - 19892014.10.20history-phillips.petroleum

Postal workers Joseph Curseen and Thomas Morris die nearly a month after having inhaled anthrax at the Brentwood mail sorting center in Washington, D.C.  Other postal workers had been made ill but survived. Letters containing the deadly spores had been addressed to U.S. Senate offices and media outlets – 2001

October 24
The 40-hour work week goes into effect under the Fair Labor Standards Act, signed by President Roosevelt two years earlier - 1940

U.S. minimum wage increases to 40¢ an hour - 1945

October 25
What many believe to be the first formal training on first aid in American history took place at the Windsor Hotel in Jermyn, Penn., when Dr. Matthew J. Shields instructed 25 coal miners on ways to help their fellow miners.  Upon completion of the course each of the miners was prepared and able to render first aid.  The training led to marked decreases in serious mining injuries and fatalities - 1899
2014.10.20history-educate(Back in 1899 workers were trained to help other workers.  Education for Changing Unions is for those looking for new and better ways to educate workers and communities about unions and the principles for which they stand.  It is filled with spirited new ideas, practical exercises and issues under debate.  It’s written in a clear and accessible style that’s designed to stimulate working people and teachers in many settings and locations.)

Some 25,000 silk dye workers strike in Paterson, N.J. - 1934

In what becomes known as the Great Hawaiian Dock Strike, a 6-month struggle to win wage parity with mainland dock workers, ends in victory - 1949

The Tribune Co. begins a brutal 5-month-long lockout at the New York Daily News, part of an effort to bust the newspaper’s unions - 1990

John Sweeney, president of the Service Employees Int’l Union, elected president of AFL-CIO – 19952014.10.20history-bitter.pill.bookcover
(A Bitter Pill: A Lenny Moss Mystery: As president of SEIU, Sweeney represented hospital workers.  In this entertaining mystery, hospital worker and union steward Lenny Moss and his friends at James Madison Hospital are in the fight of their lives. The new hospital president, Robert “Third Reich” Reichart, has turned the hospital into a for-profit facility and launched a campaign to decertify the union. If successful, the decertification drive will destroy the union and compromise patient care as staffing levels are slashed and departments get outsourced to private firms.)

After a two-year fight, workers at the Bonus Car Wash in Santa Monica, Calif., win a union contract calling for pay increases, better breaks and other gains.  “They didn’t treat us like people,” nine-year employee Oliverio Gomez told the Los Angeles Times - 2011

October 26
After eight years and at least 1,000 worker deaths—mostly Irish immigrants—the 350-mile Erie Canal opens, linking the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. Father John Raho wrote to his bishop that "so many die that there is hardly any time to give Extreme Unction to everybody. We run night and day to assist the sick." - 1825