Today in Labor History – January 26, 1695 – In what could be considered the first workers’ compensation agreement in America, pirate Henry Morgan pledges his underlings 600 pieces of eight or six slaves to compensate for a lost arm or leg. Also part of the pirate’s code, reports Roger Newell: shares of the booty were equal regardless of race or sex, and shipboard decisions were made collectively.
1850 – Samuel Gompers, first AFL president, born in London, England. He emigrated to the U.S. as a youth.
1897 – The Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America is chartered by the American Federation of Labor to organize “every wage earner from the man who takes the bullock at the house until it goes into the hands of the consumer.”
1937 – Workers win a two-day sit-down strike at the Brooklyn electric plant that powers the city’s entire subway system.
2009 – A handful of American companies announce nearly 60,000 layoffs today, as the recession that began during the George W. Bush presidency charges full-tilt toward what became known as the Great Recession.