The staff of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO sent us this great report.
In 1907, Edward Cohen, the president of the Massachusetts American Federation of Labor (AFL) and crusader for strong child labor laws, workers’ rights and workplace safety, was shot and killed by a man attempting to assassinate Gov. Curtis Guild Jr.
This week, a huge bronze plaque honoring Cohen’s achievements and labor’s contributions to Bay State workers was unveiled at the Massachusetts State House. Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes says the dedication of the plaque “is one of the greatest moments in our history.”
Where else is there a plaque that is dedicated to a slain labor leader and which captures all the amazing contributions of the labor movement in such a prominent location as between the offices of the governor and the speaker in our esteemed State House?”
The plaque, titled “Labor in Massachusetts,” was designed and created by artist Meredith Bergmann.
The events depicted on the plaque begin with the 1834 protest by women mill workers in Lowell to fight wage cuts and trace the state’s rich labor history through the fight for a 10-hour workday and, later on, an eight-hour workday, the famous 1912 Bread and Roses strike in Lawrence and the many fights over the years to raise the state’s minimum wage—most recently in 2006. The bottom of the plaque reads “Our Work Continues,” signifying the ongoing fight for workers’ rights in Massachusetts.
Cohen worked as a cigar maker and quickly rose through the ranks of the Massachusetts labor movement. He was instrumental in winning laws establishing workplace safety standards and workers’ compensation.
Cohen also was a champion for children. He was the chief force behind legislation that prevented children under age 16 from working in manufacturing if they could not read and write and a bill banning children under age 16 from working during school hours. Both protected children by emphasizing the central role that education plays in improving the lives of working families.
According to news reports of the day, Cohen was awaiting a meeting with the Guild when a patient from a nearby mental hospital entered the governor’s waiting area and began shooting, hitting Cohen, who died a day later, and wounding another labor official before being disarmed.