Aug 12: This Day in Labor History

You say “UNION”… I will say “POWER”!

On this day in 1946, nearly 100,000 black South African mine workers of the Witwatersrand went on strike in support of a demand for higher wages – 10 shillings a day. They continued the strike for a week in the face of the most savage police terror, in which officially 1,248 workers were wounded and a very large number – officially only 9 – were killed.Lawless police and army violence smashed the strike. The resources of the racist state were mobilized, almost on a war footing, against the unarmed workmen. A profound result of the strike was the effect it had on the thinking of the national liberation movement – almost immediately it shifted significantly from a policy of concession to more dynamic and militant forms of struggle.

According to sahistory.org.za , “The most profound result of the strike, however, was to be the impact it had on the political thinking within the national liberation movement; almost immediately it shifted significantly from a policy of concession to more dynamic and militant forms of struggle.”

South Africans have an absolutely incredible labor history that intersects with the liberation struggle against apartheid and European colonizers. As recently as 2014, the longest strike in the country’s history took place in the platinum industry, and in 2013 nearly 100,000 gold miners went on strike.

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