Circus workers of the world, unite! Click here to check out this week's Labor History Today podcast.
On this week’s show: A rollicking hour with former union clowns Murray Horwitz and Chris Bricker; both were graduates of the Ringling College of Clowns, Class of 1971 and went on to become professional clowns and then union reps at the Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey Circus. Horwitz went on to become an American playwright, lyricist, NPR broadcaster, and arts administrator, and Bricker is a longtime labor organizer and saw-playing member of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 1000, the acoustic travelling musicians union.
Birthday of machinist Matthew Maguire, who many believe first suggested Labor Day. Others believe it was Peter McGuire, a carpenter - 1850
President Grover Cleveland signs legislation declaring Labor Day an official U.S. holiday. Don’t give him too much credit, though: 23 states had already established the holiday and Cleveland was no friend of labor: a few weeks after the Labor Day declaration he sent in the U.S. Army to crush the historic Pullman Strike. Thirty workers were killed, labor leader Gene Debs was arrested on trumped-up charges of conspiracy, and all the strikers were fired and blacklisted. - 1894
A Liberty Ship named after the founding president of the American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers, is launched in Sausalito, Calif. She replaced a cargo steamship bearing Gompers’ name which had been torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese sub in the South Pacific the previous year - 1944
An executive order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishes the National Labor Relations Board. A predecessor organization, the National Labor Board, established by the Depression-era National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933, had been struck down by the Supreme Court - 1934
The newly-formed Jobs With Justice stages its first big support action, backing 3,000 picketing Eastern Airlines mechanics at Miami Airport - 1987
The U.S. Supreme Court rules in CWA v. Beck that, in a union security agreement, a union can collect as dues from non-members only that money necessary to perform its duties as a collective bargaining representative - 1988
Alabama outlaws the leasing of convicts to mine coal, a practice that had been in place since 1848. In 1898, 73 percent of the state's total revenue came from this source. 25 percent of all Black leased convicts died on the job - 1928
The storied Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, a union whose roots traced back to the militant Western Federation of Miners, and which helped found the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), merges into the United Steelworkers of America - 1967
Up to 40,000 New York construction workers demonstrated in midtown Manhattan, protesting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s awarding of a $33 million contract to a nonunion company. Eighteen police and three demonstrators were injured. "There were some scattered incidents and some minor violence," Police Commissioner Howard Safir told the New York Post. "Generally, it was a pretty well-behaved crowd." – 1998
Labor history courtesy Union Communication Services