Fifty years ago, African-American sanitation workers in Memphis stood up for dignity, striking to demand recognition of their union — and their humanity.
An unexpected commotion disrupted routine in a busy city center on an April morning one hundred years ago. Armed men commandeered the main post office in a major city in the world’s most powerful empire. One of their leaders interrupted the musings and conversations of those going about their business by reading out a proclamation declaring an Irish Republic.
The Easter Rising of 1916 was underway.
During his years as a local union officer and as a UE organizer, union members nicknamed Ernest Thompson “The Train” because of his ability “to deliver” in negotiations. In 1943 Thompson came out of his shop, American Radiator in New Jersey, to become the first African American organizer on the UE staff. In March of 1947 he took a leave from the national staff to become business agent for UE Local 427, and he was elected vice president and later executive secretary of the Hudson County CIO Industrial Union Council.
March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD), an annual tradition that began over a hundred years ago. While celebrations continue worldwide, few people remember that the holiday was first initiated by American Socialists. As legend would have it, they were inspired to hold a demonstration in order to mark the anniversary of an 1857 female garment workers’ strike in New York.
Since the founding of the United States, working people have had to fight to win, and to keep, the right to vote. And through American history, rich and powerful people, often calling themselves "conservatives", have tried to maintain their privileges by depriving other Americans of the right to vote.
For the past three decades, the conventional wisdom in much of the labor movement has been that all of our present troubles started when Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers in 1981 and broke their union.