Today in labor history, the Luddites (19th century textile workers) attacked the Heathcoat and Boden’s Mill in Loughborough, England, sabotaging and damaging machinery. This was a response to substandard workplace conditions, and employers replacing them with less-skilled, low-wage labor.
After the workers smashed 53 frames at the mill, troops were sent in, and six Luddites were executed.
The Luddites are believed to have named themselves after Ned Ludd, an English laborer who destroyed weaving machinery around 1779 out of the belief that it was diminishing employment.
The movement first began in Nottingham, England, where weavers faced competition from a new wide-frame machine that could conduct six times the work of previous machines. High prices and depressed wages plagued the area around this time. The Luddites learned to train, march, and organize – rudimentary attempts at what workers are capable of doing today.
The Luddites were one of the earliest examples of an attempt by workers to stand together and collectively bargain, though on this day in 1816, it was done as a riot.