Today in History, February 9th UMWA Organizers Son Murdered & Tom Mooney
February 9, 1917
California labor activist Tom Mooney was convicted for allegedly setting off a bomb at a San Francisco parade. The case of Mooney and co-defendant Warren Billings became a cause celebre for unions, who said they were victims of an antiunion conspiracy. Eventually, convincing evidence of Mooney’s innocence came to light and he was pardoned in 1939.
On this day in labor history, the year was 1937.
That was the day Sheriff Theodore Middleton and his deputies in Harlan County shot into the house of UMWA organizer Marshall Musick, killing his 15 year-old son, Bennett.
Musick organized for UMWA’s District 19.
He traveled all over Harlan County. As a district organizer, he was beaten, arrested, and evicted from company housing repeatedly.
Some of the mines were organized in Harlan County but barely.
Many coal operators controlled area sheriff departments and restricted daily life of miners and their union representatives.
Organizing drives started in January 1937.
Union men faced extreme physical violence.
Organizers were tear gassed in early January.
Their cars were dynamited later that month.
Musick and his wife were shot at and warned repeatedly to leave town.
Another organizer had his door busted down by deputies and his house ransacked.
Musick finally agreed to leave town to keep his family safe.
When he arrived in Pineville on February 9, he learned his son had been killed in a firestorm of bullets shot into his house.
On March 22, the LaFollette Committee on Civil Liberties opened hearings into Bloody Harlan.
It lasted for six weeks.
The high court drama appeared every day in the Courier Journal.
The Justice Department indicted 69 Harlan County Coal Operators and law officers for criminal conspiracy to violate the Wagner Act.
Meanwhile, the new National Labor Relations Board answered UMWA charges and found in the union’s favor.
The Board issued a cease and desist order against interference with union activity and ordered the reinstatement of 60 coal miners.
Union membership soared to 9000.
The UMWA would continue for decades to fight to keep Harlan County organized.
2:00 minute audio here: https://laborhistoryin2.podbean.com/e/february-9-umwa-organizers-son-murdered/jwirr likes this"P.S. please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard.": Flowers for Algernon
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