Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Today in Labor History

United Mine Workers reformer Joseph "Jock" Yablonski, his wife and daughter are murdered by hit men hired by union president Tony Boyle, who was to be convicted of the crime and eventually die in prison - 1969
OSHA adopts a grain handling facilities standard to protect 155,000 workers at nearly 24,000 grain elevators from the risk of fire and explosion from highly combustible grain dust - 1987
December 31, 1931 – 60,000 unemployed workers rallied at Pitt Stadium in Pittsburgh, near Father Cox's Shantytown. The shantytown lasted from 1929 to 1932 and was the staging base for the Reverend James Cox's unemployed army. (From the Daily Bleed)
There was no unemployment compensation and welfare did not exist except for widowed mothers. The situation quickly became desperate for tens of thousands of workers and their families.

Only massive government action could deal with a problem of this magnitude. The unemployed themselves began to organize to demand such aid.
They called for sufficient government relief to provide an unemployed family with a survival budget and for the creation of public employment on a large scale. They also organized to combat the evictions and foreclosures of thousands of unemployed renters and homeowners.
On March 6, 1930. International Unemployment Day, 5,000 unemployed gathered at the Pennsylvania Railroad Station. Their march toward downtown was broken up after half a block by dozens of club-wielding police.

Despite this initial setback, protests grew as the Depression deepened. By October,. 1930, the Pittsburgh City Council agreed to appropriate $100,000 for emergency relief, but these funds ran out on January 15, 1931. On that day another demonstration of thousands took place, this time in front of the City Council Building. The rally was sponsored by the Unemployed Councils and their allies. Seven of their members told City Council their demands for free coal and children's winter clothing, as well as public service jobs.
Protests mounted in 1931 and 1932. The councils organized several marches to Washington and Harrisburg. Unlike the famous march led by Pittsburgh's Father James Cox, which was cautiously welcomed by government officials fearful of antagonizing both the religious community and the jobless, many of these marches were met with fierce repression. Marchers returning from Washington after one demonstration were denied entrance to the city by police and forced to camp out on Neville Island.

The protests of the unemployed reached a peak in 1933 and 1934.
Because of actions like these across the nation, President Roosevelt and Congress were forced to act. The WPA, PWA, and CCC Provided millions of temporary jobs. In 1935 the Social Security Act established old age pensions, unemployment compensation and public welfare. It was clear that the organized unemployed had played a major part in winning these gains. Many took this lesson with them into the struggle to build unions in steel and auto.
PHOTO- Unemployment line Pittsburgh, 1933

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