BlueCollarWriter Labor News Update


Labor News Update - 09/7/2023

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Labor History in 2:00

September 7 Wilson Signs the Federal Employees Compensation Act On this day in Labor History the year was 1916.  That was the day that the Federal Employees Compensation Act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson.  The act was sponsored by Senator John Kern, a Democrat from Indiana, and Daniel McGillicuddy, a Democratic Congressman from Maine.  The act provided compensation for federal civil service employees that lost wages because they were hurt or killed on the job.   There was great debate at the time over whether employees injured at work deserved to be compensated.   Before the turn of the twentieth century, those who sustained workplace injuries had little recourse.  Employers blamed workers for accidents and typically refused compensation leaving families destitute.   Edward Gainor, the President of the National Association of Letter Carriers explained the debate around the 1916 proposal saying, “The only question, the fundamental question, involved in this discussion is whether or not society should bear the burden of the injured worker in any industry.”  Increasingly, some lawmakers were beginning to make the case that society should indeed bear that burden.  Workers and labor leaders organized around issues of work place safety and demanded a compensation if they were injured on the job.  The law providing such a safety net for federal employees passed through the House of Representatives by an overwhelming margin of 288 to 6.  Although the Act only applied to federal employees, it was an important step forward in recognizing that all workers deserved to be compensated for workplace injuries.     The federal Office of Workers Compensation Programs that operates today traces its history directly back to the 1916 act.  And because of this 1916 act some Three million federal employees and their families are covered under the acts protections.   
September 7 - ILWU Wins at LongwoodOn this day in labor history, the year was 2011. That was the day hundreds of ILWU strikers blocked railroad tracks near Longview, Washington.  They hoped to stop grain shipments from moving in and out of the EGT Grain Terminal. Longshoremen had been sitting down on the tracks throughout the summer resulting in over a hundred arrests.  No trains had moved in or out of the terminal since July.  But then a federal judge issued an injunction against ILWU pickets.  BNSF railroad tried to move grain once again.  ILWU picketers in Vancouver were able to hold off the train until police forcibly dispersed the crowd.  Then hundreds gathered at Longview to block the train from coming in.  That’s when police went on the offensive.  They used clubs and pepper spray against the longshoremen, arresting 19. They threw ILWU president Bob McEllrath to the ground. Rumors spread that police had broken his arm. Hundreds of regional longshoremen rushed to Longview.  The Seattle and Tacoma ports shut down in protest.  The next morning, 10,000 tons of grain were opened onto the railroad tracks.  The grain export terminal was the first to be built in the Pacific Northwest in almost 30 years.  EGT hoped to undercut the powerful ILWU, who controlled operations at the port since its founding in the 1930s.   The union refused to agree to work 12-hour shifts at straight time.  The EGT hoped to break the hiring hall by refusing to recognize maintenance and inside workers at the terminal.  Then they attempted to fill jobs with workers from the Operating Engineers.  But the ILWU persevered.  By the end of January, EGT backed off many of its demands, negotiations resumed and days later the contract was signed.

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