Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Today -100: August 30, 1916: Of Hindenburg and Ludendorff, jail breaks, and choo choo trains

Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg is appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff, a staff which is both general and imperial. This puts into place the comedy duo of Hindenburg ‘n Ludendorff, which will run the army and increasingly the country until the end of the war.

German saboteur Robert Fay busts out of the Atlanta federal prison along with an American prisoner in for mail fraud. They pretended to be electricians and a rather trusting guard let them out to repair a wire.

Before a joint session of Congress, Woodrow Wilson presents his proposals to prevent a rail strike: the 8-hour day, a ban on strikes and lockouts while a government board investigates disputes, letting railroads increase their rates to compensate for increased costs, and giving the president the authority to force railroad workers to operate trains transporting troops and military supplies. Congress is dubious, especially about rushing all this legislation through before it adjourns, or indeed before the strike is scheduled to commence. And some Republicans claim the 8-hour day is unconstitutional, because of course they do (the Supreme Court will rule otherwise). This will be the first federal law regulating hours of work in private industry. The unions consider the temporary ban on strikes to amount to slavery, but are mostly okay with the rest of it, you know, the non-slavery bits. Actually, Wilson is talking about giving arbitration decisions the force of law, which seems a little slaveryish, as does literally drafting train crews to run military-related trains.

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