The labor movement has deep roots in Illinois.

Chicago Sun Times

The labor movement has deep roots in Illinois — here’s why

Illinois is home to five of the most significant figures and events in the history of the nation’s labor movement, including the strike that led to the creation of Labor Day.

A 1909 photo of striking textile workers featuring Mother Jones.

In this 1909 photo, Mother Jones and her army of striking Philadelphia textile workers start out on their descent on New York. The textile workers say they intend to show the people of the country their condition by marching through big cities. Pierce & Jones Photographers

The U.S. is celebrating the 125th anniversary of Labor Day as a national holiday on Monday.

Without Illinois, the holiday might not even exist.

From organizing unions to effecting labor laws, our state has played a vital historical role as a flashpoint — sometimes involving violence and danger — for workplace fairness. These are some of the key figures and events of that struggle.

Mother Jones

She lost her own family, so she adopted a new one: a huge one, lifting up the cause of labor.

In the process, Mother Jones became perhaps the greatest labor force in the history of Illinois.

An Irish immigrant and dressmaker, Mary Harris landed in Memphis, Tennessee, where she met and wed George Jones, a foundry worker and union supporter. They’d had four children by 1867, when an epidemic of yellow fever claimed the entire household, save Mary. The 30-year-old widow relocated to Chicago to start anew with a dress shop, but it was lost in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

She scraped to get by, sometimes sewing piecework for wealthy Chicago families. As she’d gaze out their picture windows, she gained a keen eye and soft heart for disenfranchised.

Mother Jones, born Mary Harris, an Irish immigrant whose labor-rights moxie won over Illinois workers. Provided by the Journal Star of Peoria

Jones gravitated to organizing with the Knights of Labor, then the United Mine Workers. Her labor-rights moxie quickly won over workers. She’d travel to help wherever the call — garment workers in Chicago, steelworkers in Pittsburgh, bottle washers in Milwaukee — railing against companies and corporations for fair wages and safe working conditions.

At the close of the 19th century, Illinois became a labor battleground, especially for downstate miners, drawing her attention. After she died in 1930, she was buried among the miners laid to rest at Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive. Her simple marker carries some uncharacteristically purple prose, in part extolling: “She gave her life to the world of labor, her blessed soul to heaven.”

It’s almost a shame she isn’t remembered there from one of her most telling quotes: “I’m not a humanitarian. I’m a hell raiser.”

The Haymarket Affair

With the explosion of a stick of dynamite, the Haymarket Affair became a key flashpoint of the U.S. labor movement.

By May 1886, Chicago had become a labor battleground, with pro-labor forces fighting for better working conditions and pay. The tug of war also included radical anarchists who wanted to overthrow capitalism, sparking fear among much of the public.

This 1886 engraving shows Methodist pastor Samuel Fielden speaking, the bomb exploding, and the riot beginning simultaneously.
This 1886 engraving was the most widely reproduced image of the Haymarket Affair. It shows Methodist pastor Samuel Fielden speaking, the bomb exploding, and the riot beginning simultaneously. In reality, Fielden had finished speaking before the explosion. Harper’s Weekly

 

To advance the idea of an eight-hour workday, a labor rally was set for May 4 — a day after police fired upon on an angry mob of striking Chicago workers, killing two. The rally seemed peaceful, ending as a throng of police stepped through to disperse attendees. Then a stick of dynamite was hurled at the police, killing seven cops and one civilian. In return, officers started firing into the crowd, wounding dozens.

Eight men were arrested and convicted in connection with the bombing, though the thrower was never found. Still, four were hanged. At the gallows, one said, “The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.”

His words proved prescient. Though a wave of xenophobia had swept the nation immediately after the bombing, public skepticism gradually grew over what increasingly seemed like a sham prosecution. Of the other four defendants, one committed suicide while the other three were sent to prison; however, they were later pardoned.

The martyrdom of the defendants fueled pro-labor forces, eventually leading to the eight-hour workday, along with the creation of International Workers’ Day on May 1.

The Pullman Strike

The Pullman Strike was the first national strike in American history, riveting the country to the burgeoning labor movement.

South of Chicago, the Pullman Co. not only built and leased passenger train cars but set up a company town of Pullman, allegedly as a model community. But during a recession in 1893, the company laid off workers and cut wages yet did not reduce rents.

This 1894 political cartoon depicts an employee being squeezed by Pullman between two halves of a vise representing high rent and low wages.
This 1894 political cartoon depicts “the condition of laboring man at Pullman.” The employee is being squeezed by Pullman between high rent and low wages.   Provided by the Journal Star of Peoria

 

Led by the American Railway Union, 4,000 Pullman workers went on strike May 22, 1894. Gradually, the strike grew nationally: By June 30, 125,000 workers on 29 railroads had walked off the job rather than handle Pullman cars. The strike shut down much of the nation’s freight and passenger traffic west of Detroit.

In early July, the federal government (leaning on antitrust and commerce laws) obtained a court injunction ordering ARU leaders from inciting workers to refuse to work. President Grover Cleveland sent federal troops into Chicago. As the city swarmed with more than 14,000 troops and policemen, 6,000 rioters destroyed hundreds of railcars on July 6. The next day, federal troops responded to an assault by firing into a mob, killing as many as 30 people.

Pullman strikers outside Arcade Building in Pullman, Chicago, in 1894. The Illinois National Guard can be seen guarding the building during the Pullman Railroad Strike.
Pullman strikers outside Arcade Building in Pullman, Chicago, in 1894. The Illinois National Guard can be seen guarding the building during the Pullman Railroad Strike. Provided by the Journal Star of Peoria

 

Public opinion, originally in favor of workers, switched to opposition as rail service languished. Federal troops were recalled on July 20, effectively ending the strikes. The company agreed to rehire strikers, as long as they sign a pledge to never join a union. But their rents were not reduced.

As a conciliatory gesture to the labor movement, President Cleveland and Congress created Labor Day.

The Herrin Massacre

In 1922, a nation recoiled in horror at gruesome strike violence in downstate Illinois.

That month, the United Mine Workers continued a nationwide strike. However, at the Southern Illinois Coal Co.’s strip mine near Herrin, workers kept working to pull coal from the earth but not ship it out.

In mid-June, however, the owner decided to violate the agreement and ship coal. When the union workers refused, he fired them and called in replacements from Chicago — 50 men unaware they had been hired as strikebreakers in an area where 90 percent of the workforce carried a union card.

On June 21, shots rang out at the mine, though accounts differ as to who pulled the trigger first. Regardless, soon one strikebreaker and two strikers were dead, with a third seriously wounded. Union men from the entire region thundered to the mine, en route grabbing guns and ammunition from shops.

Two photographs of damage from the coal miners strike at the Southern Illinois Coal Co. mine in Herrin, Illinois, during the Herrin Massacre. The upper photograph shows the remains of a supply house that was dynamited and burned, while the lower photo sho
Two photographs of damage from the coal miners strike at the Southern Illinois Coal Co. mine in Herrin, Illinois, during the Herrin Massacre.
Provided by the Journal Star of Peoria

 

Realizing their outnumbered predicament, the strikebreakers agreed to stop work in exchange for safe passage out. On the morning of June 22, they came out of the mine, and union workers marched them toward town, along the way killing the mine’s one-legged superintendent.

After several miles of walking, the group reached a barbwire fence. Strikers lined up the scabs against the fence and told them to run for their lives. As they clawed to climb the fence, strikers opened fire, killing and wounding many.

The final death toll was 23. In the aftermath, prosecutors obtained 214 indictments. But when the first few resulted in acquittals by sympathetic local juries, the rest were dropped.

The nation reacted to the massacre with disgust. President Warren Harding characterized it as a “shocking crime, barbarity, butchery, rot and madness.”

The Cherry Mine Disaster

Though touted for modern safeguards, the St. Paul Coal Co. Mine sparked one of the worst disasters in mining history.

The mine, located in Cherry about 50 miles northeast of Peoria, was considered to be secure when it opened in 1905. But on Nov. 13, 1909, an electric outage prompted miners to light kerosene lanterns and torches to continue to pull coal from the deep mine.

Shortly after noon, embers from a wall lantern dropped below into a coal car filled with hay for mules. Flames spread to support timbers and quickly raced through the mine.

This postcard shows the ruins of the fan building (with the semicircular roof) as a result of the Cherry Mine Disaster.
This postcard shows the ruins of the fan building (with the semicircular roof) as a result of the Cherry Mine Disaster.
Provided by the Journal Star of Peoria

 

Of 490 miners, 200 men and boys managed to scramble out. Meanwhile, a large shaft fan was reversed in an attempt to blow out the fire but only succeeded in spreading the blaze. The mine’s two shafts were shut to smother the fire, but the tactic cut off oxygen to miners and allowed black damp (a suffocating mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen) to build up in the mine.

Twelve volunteers went down a shaft in a lift to attempt a rescue. All died.

Eight days after the ordeal began, 21 survivors were brought to the surface, though two later died. In the end, 259 men and boys died.

Several families lost two or more relatives. Among the dead were a father-son team, the Kralls, whose bodies were found locked in an embrace.

This 1909 photo shows mourners and coffins in the wake of the Cherry Mine Disaster.
This 1909 photo shows mourners and coffins in the wake of the Cherry Mine Disaster. Provided by the Journal Star of Peoria

 

The disaster also claimed the lives of brothers John, Morrison, David and James Love, immigrants from Scotland. A surviving Love brother, William, later married the widow of one of the men who died while trying to rescue the trapped miners.

The Cherry Mine Disaster inspired a crackdown on child-labor laws and led to mine-safety rules that eventually paved the way to modern worker’s compensation laws.

This story is part of the Illinois Important Dates series, a collection of stories written by newspapers around the state, including the Chicago Sun-Times, and distributed by the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors Association and the Illinois Press Association.

Can we stop sugarcoating horror now?

Chicago Sun Times

Can we stop sugarcoating horror now?

From World War II to the latest gun massacre, the media is too quick to spin horror into a heroic story.

With the anniversary of the start of World War II nearly upon us, a New Jersey publicist sent me an email last week, pitching the feel-good story of Dutch teenage girls seducing and killing Nazi officers.

My first thought was: “It’s always the anniversary of some World War II event. The beginning. The end. Pearl Harbor. D-Day …”

My second thought was: “Yeah. Sept. 1. Sunday. Thanks for the advance notice. Making it … 75 … no, started 1939 … 80 years.”)

Girls killing Nazis. Tempting. Who wants to swim the depths of horror? To risk drowning in humanity’s bottomless evil? To realize just how tenuous our foothold on civilization’s shore? Very human to pluck at thrilling tales of heroism, bobbing on this sea of gore.

But can you do that too much?

The media rushes so quickly to comfort that it overshoots reality. What used to be a ray of relief from general horror has become the main event. And not just regarding the Holocaust. We’re too keen to put the bright spin on atrocity. Ten seconds of shock, then straight to “Wind Beneath My Wings,” and closure.

I’d suspected it before, after mass shootings, like the one Saturday in Texas. The grim law enforcement chiefs assemble around a podium to share what little is known about the killer. But not before they put in a plug for first responders — didn’t they work great together? Kudos all around for a job well-done!

Then the heroes are trotted out, dead or alive. The media can’t celebrate them fast enough, people who shielded their loved ones, who herded the terrified schoolchildren into an empty classroom and cowered in the darkness. Humanity at its best!

Of course, it’s merited. A tough job, to confront an armed madman, to bind up victims, to squeegee up the mess. Even tougher to exhibit courage in a deadly situation. Who could complain about celebrating heroes?

Me, I guess. Apologies. But someone has to. The blood has barely stopped flowing, and we’re spinning the nightmare into something inspiring. A tendency we must resist. Because it isn’t pretty. Maybe unexamined prettification is part of the problem. Dial back the hero stuff and start tweeting pictures of the slain, their heads blown open and guts hanging out. Because that’s the reality. That’s the bottom line. Fewer flickering candles and piles of teddy bears, more bodies stacked like cordwood. Fewer heroes, more weeping moms, their faces twisted in the agony of loss.

And don’t worry, the dead don’t mind. Those in the past are unaffected by whatever we do. Whether celebrated or forgotten, revered or ridiculed, their pain is over. It is their stories that remain current, perspectives to use as tools to construct our present and grope toward some kind of future.

That’s why viewing the truth unvarnished is so important. Germany, defeated, looked the horror it created in the eye, owned it and moved on, achieving a sort of redemption, a place back at the table of humanity. This allowed Germany to welcome a million Muslim refugees, benefiting both the immigrants and themselves. The dead are buried, but these people are here now.

Japan, also defeated, brushed aside its shame, using the pair of A-bombs to spin themselves as victims — nobody cries like a bully — and avoided learning its lesson. They preferred clinging to notions of superiority. No immigrants for them, sullying their supposed purity. They prefer to die a slow, demographic death, the nation hollowing out, aging, in decline.

We don’t have to choose between lambs to the slaughter or resistance fighters. It’s possible to achieve a balance, to view the mountain of horror and its thin gilding of hope. Both Anne Frank and the million voiceless Jewish children who died in the Holocaust.

When we make history into a pretty story, we set ourselves up for a fall. The election of Barack Obama was initially spun as a sign that America had awoken from its long nightmare of racism. Turns out, hate is hardier than that. It had only slipped offstage to don a new disguise before returning, invigorated and in charge. That’s another reason to view the past with clear eyes. Because as the man said, it isn’t really past, and if we flee the truth, the truth will come and find us. Then we’ll see it.

10 fascinating facts about the Labor Day holiday

Constitution Daily

10 fascinating facts about the Labor Day holiday

By National Constitution Center Staff          September 2, 2019

The first Monday in September is celebrated nationally as Labor Day. So how did we get the holiday and why is no one quite sure who created it?

1908-WTUL-labordayThe Labor Day holiday grew out of the late 19th century organized labor movement, and it quickly became a national holiday as the labor movement assumed a prominent role in American society. Here’s how it all started, with the facts, as we know them, supplied by the Labor Department, the Library Of Congress, and other sources.

1. The idea first became public in 1882. In September 1882, the unions of New York City decided to have a parade to celebrate their members being in unions, and to show support for all unions. At least 20,000 people were there, and the workers had to give up a day’s pay to attend. There was also a lot of beer involved in the event.

2. The New York parade inspired other unions. Other regions started having parades, and by 1887, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Colorado made Labor Day a state holiday.

3. How did the Haymarket Affair influence Labor Day? On May 4, 1886, a bomb exploded at a union rally in Chicago’s Haymarket Square, which led to violence that killed seven police officers and four others. The incident also led to May 1 being celebrated in most nations as Workers Day. The U.S. government chose Labor Day instead to avoid a celebration on May 1 and New York’s unions had already picked the first Monday in September for their holiday.

4. Two people with similar names are credited with that first New York City event. Matthew Maguire, a machinist, and Peter McGuire, a carpenter, have been linked to the 1882 parade. The men were from rival unions; in 2011, Linda Stinson, a former U.S. Department of Labor’s historian, said she didn’t know which man should be credited – partially because people over the years confused them because of their similar-sounding names.

5. Grover Cleveland helped make Labor Day a national holiday. After violence related to the Pullman railroad strike, President Cleveland and lawmakers in Washington wanted a federal holiday to celebrate labor – and not a holiday celebrated on May 1. Cleveland signed an act in 1894 establishing the federal holiday; most states had already passed laws establishing a Labor Day holiday by that point. Sen. James Henderson Kyle of South Dakota introduced S. 730 to make Labor Day a federal legal holiday on the first Monday of September. It was approved on June 28, 1894.

6. The holiday has evolved over the years. In the late 19th century, celebrations focused on parades in urban areas. Now the holiday is a celebration that honors organized labor with fewer parades, and more activities. It also marks the perceived end of the summer season.

7. Can you wear white after Labor Day? This old tradition goes back to the late Victorian era, where it was a fashion faux pas to wear any white clothing after the summer officially ended on Labor Day. The tradition isn’t really followed anymore. EmilyPost.com explains the logic behind the fashion trend – white indicated you were still in vacation mode at your summer cottage.

8. Labor Day is the unofficial end of Hot Dog season. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council says that between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Americans will eat 7 billion hot dogs.

9. How many people are union members today? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 14.8 million union members in the workforce in 2017. There were 17.7 million in 1983.

10. What is the biggest union today? The National Education Association has about 3 million people who are members, including inactive and lifetime members.

New research targets microplastics detected in Lake Tahoe

Randy Rainbow Video: Cheeto – Christ – Chosen One

Randy Rainbow

August 29, 2019

***NEW VIDEO***

Please rise for the new National Anthem. #CheetoChristStupidCzar#TheChosenOne 🙏

CHEETO CHRIST STUPID-CZAR * Randy Rainbow Song Parody

***NEW VIDEO***Please rise for the new National Anthem. #CheetoChristStupidCzar #TheChosenOne 🙏

Posted by Randy Rainbow on Thursday, August 29, 2019

Norway, Finland and Japan Lead In Clean Energy Innovation

U.S. News and World Report

Sintia Radu, U.S.News & World Report      August 26, 2019 

Iceland mourns loss of glacier destroyed by climate change!

The Rachel Maddow Show

August 20, 2019

The American political system has somehow produced one major political party where nearly every single elected member has decided this is something that is just not happening or if it is, who cares?

How we will explain that in the future will probably not fit on a commemorative plaque.

Watch Rachel Maddow Show clips at MSNBC.com/Rachel

Iceland mourns loss of glacier destroyed by climate change

The American political system has somehow produced one major political party where nearly every single elected member has decided this is something that is just not happening or if it is, who cares? How we will explain that in the future will probably not fit on a commemorative plaque.Watch Rachel Maddow Show clips at MSNBC.com/Rachel

Posted by The Rachel Maddow Show on Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Protesters in Hong Kong form 28-mile human chain.

MSNBC

August 23, 2019

WATCH: Protesters in Hong Kong form 28-mile human chain. http://nbcnews.to/2zdzs6y

Protesters in Hong Kong form 28-mile human chain

WATCH: Protesters in Hong Kong form 28-mile human chain. http://nbcnews.to/2zdzs6y

Posted by MSNBC on Friday, August 23, 2019

NRA Lobbyist Is Worried CHILDREN Won’t Get Assault Rifles As Birthday Gifts Anymore

The Breakdown posted an episode of a Show.  

August 22, 2019

[WATCH] NRA Lobbyist Is Worried CHILDREN Won’t Get Assault Rifles As Birthday Gifts Anymore.

Watch NRA Lobbyist Make The WORST Argument Ever.

[WATCH] NRA Lobbyist Is Worried CHILDREN Won't Get Assault Rifles As Birthday Gifts Anymore.

Posted by The Breakdown on Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Supreme Court decision on the Keystone XL pipeline!

Bold Nebraska was live. Follow

August 23, 2019

Bold Nebraska‘s Jane Fleming Kleeb gives an update on today’s Nebraska Supreme Court decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, and our collective next steps. #NoKXL

Add your name to the #NoKXLpledgebit.ly/nokxlpledge

Bold Nebraska's Jane Fleming Kleeb gives an update on today's Nebraska Supreme Court decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, and our collective next steps. #NoKXLAdd your name to the #NoKXLpledge: bit.ly/nokxlpledge

Posted by Bold Nebraska on Friday, August 23, 2019