The French Revolution
Today in Labor History May 8, 1794: The Committee for Public Safety tried, convicted AND guillotined chemist Antoine Lavoisier on this day. It was during the Reign of Terror that followed the French Revolution. Lavoisier was a reformer who had participated in the revolution. However, he was also an aristocrat and a tax collector. Consequently, this earned him the condemnation of his former comrades. As an academic, he was a well-known plagiarist. Yet, he did play an important role in the history of science by helping to make chemistry more quantitative. He also helped identify oxygen as a reactant in combustion. Additionally, he contributed to the development of the metric system.
Today in Labor History May 8, 1911: The anarchist Magonista army captured Tijuana, with support from IWW members. As result, they now controlled of most of Baja California. During their short revolution, they encouraged the people to take collective possession of the lands. They also supported the creation of cooperatives and opposed the establishment of any new government. Ricardo Flores Magon organized the rebellion from Los Angeles, where he lived. In addition to Tijuana, they also took the cities of Ensenada and Mexicali. However, in the end, the forces of Madero suppressed the uprising. LAPD arrested Magon and his brother Enrique. As a result, both spend nearly two years in prison. Many of the IWW members who fought in the rebellion, later participated in the San Diego free speech fight.
Today in Labor History May 8, 1916: The American Federation of Teachers was founded.
Today in Labor History May 8, 1925: A. Philip Randolph and Milton P. Webster founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. It was the first African-American labor union to sign a collective bargaining agreement with a major U.S. corporation. Famed bluesman Big Bill Broonzy worked as a Pullman porter.
Today in Writing History May 8, 1930: Gary Snyder, American poet, essayist, and translator was born. He was also an environmental activist, of the “deep ecology” strain. Snyder was associated with the Beats and the San Francisco renaissance. And he won the Pulitzer prize for his poetry. As an anarcho-Buddhist, he was the inspiration for the protagonist in Kerouac’s novel “The Dharma Bums.”
May 8, 1936: The Japanese police imprisoned 19 anarchists for “illegal activities.” Over the course of May, authorities arrested another 300 anarchists. And they crippled the Tokyo Print Workers’ Union by incarcerating nearly 100 of its members.
Today in Writing History May 8, 1937: Thomas Pynchon, American novelist was born. What more can I say about this amazing, but reclusive author? Gravity’s Rainbow, V, Vineland, The Crying of Lot 49. All great books.
Today in Labor History May 8, 1945: Germany surrendered in World War II.
May 8, 1945: French soldiers fired on Algerian civilians who were celebrating the Nazi surrender and protesting the French occupation of their country. French settlers and soldiers then attacked civilians in the countryside around Constantine. As a result of these attacks, 6,000-20,000 civilians died. These attacks are known as the Sétif massacre.
May 8, 1962: An estimated 9,000,000 Belgians participated in a ten-minute work stoppage to protest nuclear weapons.
Today in Labor History May 8, 1967: A federal grand jury indicted Mohammed Ali for refusing to be inducted into the armed forces. An all-white jury convicted him on June 20th.
May 8, 1970: The Hard Hat Riot occurred in New York City. 200 construction workers attacked a crowd of Vietnam war protesters. As a result, over 70 people were injured, including four police officers. Peter Brennan, head of the New York building trades, was honored at the Nixon White House two weeks later. Furthermore, Nixon named him Secretary of Labor.
Standoff at Wounded Knee
Today in Labor History May 8, 1973: American Indian Movement (AIM) members surrendered to the authorities. This ended the 71-day standoff at the Pine Ridge Reservation, at Wounded Knee. In 1890, U.S soldiers massacred nearly 300 Lakota people at Wounded Knee. Ever since, native peoples on the Pine Ridge Reservation have faced poverty and racism by their neighbors. They also had a corrupt local government on the reservation.
In response to the corruption, 200 Lakota activists and members of AIM seized control of Wounded Knee on February 27, 1973. They demanded the resignation of their corrupt tribal leader. They also demanded that the U.S. government start obeying its treaties with indigenous peoples. Within hours of the occupation, police surrounded them, marking the beginning of the siege. The cops were joined by federal marshals and national guards, who traded gunfire with AIM activists on a daily basis. Two native activists died in the conflict and one federal agent was shot and paralyzed.
May 8, 1979: Police killed 23 people and wounded 70 outside the municipal cathedral of San Salvador, El Salvador. The victims were members of the Popular Revolutionary Bloc, a coalition of anti-government students, teachers, peasants & workers.
May 8, 1997: 12,000 Steelworkers at Goodyear Tire & Rubber won an 18-day strike for improved wages and job security.