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A struggle initiated by a group of young African American union leaders against the most visible symbol of Jim Crow hiring in the District of Columbia reaches a peak with a 1943 wartime march against racism.
It is derailed by the duplicity of a President in 1945 and the post World War II anti-communist crusade that destroys many of the campaigns’ leaders and weakens their unions. The fight is not won until schools, parks, theaters and restaurants fall in the battle to desegregate Washington and a brash new union leader confronts the future. Read it here.
A strike wave swept the country in the early 1970s as workers resisted attempts by management to increase profits by squeezing more work out of fewer workers. At a small plant in Beltsville, Maryland that manufactured the pigment that colors steel, workers waged a fierce battle against a management determined to win.
For a moment in time, the workers won a decisive victory. Watch the slide show as management attempts to move a truckload of pigment out of the plant and past the strikers. The workers stopped the truck and won their strike. Watch it here.
The meat cutters union was one of four unions important to winning wage and benefit gains in the retail grocery industry in the 1970s. The others were the retail clerks and separate teamster locals that represented warehouse workers and truck drivers. Normally if one union struck, the others would honor their picket lines
In 1973, the meat cutters struck Giant Food and the other grocery chains locked them out. The teamster locals and the retail clerks union all voted to support the butchers, but national teamster president Frank Fitzsimmons overruled the local unions and refused to authorize a work stoppage. The meat cutters were forced to accept an offer that few would have voted for before the strike.
The solidarity broken at that time has never been fully repaired. Read it here
Before blogs there was the alternative press and the local Washington Free Press hit authorities where it hurt. They published articles on revolution and how to grow marijuana, they posted undercover policemen’s photos and addresses, and broke barriers to free expression wherever they could.
Maryland authorities hit back with a grand jury investigation into “subversion” conducted by the paper. An epic back and forth battle ensued between the paper and authorities in Maryland, Virginia and the District that featured charges of pornography, multiple arrests of vendors, evictions, police break-ins, picketing a judge’s home and outbursts in court. In the end, neither the Free Press nor laws on subversion, pornography or restrictions on news distribution survived this battle in the greater Washington, DC area. Read it here.
Posted November 14
The victory for marriage equality in a November referendum in Maryland owes its success to years of struggle and sacrifice by countless people. This retrospective takes a few photos from the early days of Mattachine Society, the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance to show appreciation for those pioneering efforts.
The three chosen? A 1966 picket of the White House, the third conducted by the Mattachine Society. An undated photo of early gay liberation activists at an anti-Vietnam war demonstration in late 1970 or early 1971. A torchlit march against police repression at the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington, VA in 1972. See them here.
Marie Richardson organized a women’s auxiliary to Washington Red Caps union while a teen. According to the Washington Afro American, she was the first black woman to serve at a national level in a major trade union and helped to organize federal workers in the city. She headed up the Washington, DC branch of the National Negro Congress where she fought employment discrimination, against lynching and worked to aid predominently African American labor unions.
She received little recognition for her efforts after a federal prosecutor decided to make an example of her during the McCarthy era and charged her with failing to disclose her membership in subversive organizations. She was sent to jail for four and a half years before being paroled and she died in obscurity. Read about her here.
The Black Panther Party set an ambitious agenda to hold a Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention that would provide a unified platform for the disparate groups and struggles of the late 1960s.
In 1970 they held a successful rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC and drew 10,000 to Philadelphia for what was termed a plenary session. However, they were unable to find a venue for the Washington, DC convention as thousands streamed into town. Shortly afterwards internal divisions and FBI dirty tricks set in motion a downward spiral for the group. See photos here.
In a town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore beset by unemployment and surrounded by racial terror, 600 black women take on the packing houses in 1938 and win.
The five week strike saw a CIO organizer’s car overturned and burned. Strike leaders houses were broken into. Vigilantes ran a federal mediator and union organizers out of the county and town leaders blocked food shipments to the strikers.
But the women stood strong and the packers gave in. They won a restoration of their pay rates and their union. Read it here.
The influential and powerful Washington Post prepares for battle with its unions by training management to publish the newspaper without union workers. Some pressmen disable the presses before walking out on strike.
The battle ebbs and flows through the city for two and a half months in 1975 as the unions push a boycott and the newspaper has criminal charges brought against the pressmen. The tide finally turns against the pressmen and the city’s labor movement suffers one of its biggest defeats.
Could the pressmen have won? Read about it here.
Attending Penn State on a Navy ROTC scholarship, Joe Acanfora quits the program and changes his major to education and joins with other early gay activists to form a rights group on campus.
He successfully fights to finish his student teaching assignment then prevails in a battle for a teaching certificate against those who question his moral fitness.
But Montgomery County Maryland transfers him out of the classroom and eliminates his job, setting off a firestorm of protest. The courts are determined to keep him out of the classroom and use every conceivable excuse to do so.
What happened to Acanfora? Read it here.