Honor the Day of the Rope

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by PA Sen,
Sharif Street
The Day of the Rope marks the 1887 execution by hanging of 20 Irishmen and mine laborers in response to their efforts to unionize and go on strike after a 20% cut in wages and horrendous working conditions in Pennsylvania.
For four years I’ve been proud to offer a Unanimous Resolution in the PA Senate formally recognizing the Day of The Rope and the Molly Maguires – the name history gave them – and their sacrifice. When we think of the role of government – to protect our communities – we are reminded that the fight for social justice is cyclical; the historical battles we have won at times remain our contemporary struggles. It is important to bring awareness to the Molly Maguires, American heroes whose story still holds significance.
History does not question that coal miners were treated menially and unfairly by coal mine owners, that miners and owners fought over the harsh working conditions. The Molly Maguires’ rejection of conditions that subverted their humanity and uprising helped lay the foundation for unions and, more specifically, the United Mine Workers of America, to galvanize and organize so that workers would benefit from safer working conditions and more regulated pay and hours.
Yet in our own time, unions, in spite of their contributions to shaping the working environment for regular families via paid vacation, sick days, weekends off and many perks we give little thought, have been significantly undermined by the Supreme Court’s Janus decision. This has imperiled unions across America, ruling that “Fair Share” agreements, when applied to public sector workers, violate the First Amendment protections of free association and freedom of speech.” There is perspective in knowing how long and hard Americans have fought for the rights we often take for granted.
The Molly Maguires also remind us of the socio-economic and political implications of their time, which, in some ways, parallels our own. This is evidenced in our failure to provide gainful and dignified employment to regular Americans or PA’s divestment from education and deferred maintenance that has led to toxic work and learning environments for our teachers and students. For millions of Americans, working 40 hours or more a week is not enough to support their families. In fact, one in nine U.S. workers are underpaid and impoverished despite working a 40-hour workweek year-round. After more than a decade with no increase in the federal minimum wage – the longest in U.S. history – there is now no place in America where those working full-time making the federal minimum wage can afford the basic essentials.
Perhaps most importantly is the reality that the Molly Maguires have not yet received the objective mainstream scrutiny earned through their unconstitutional and almost extrajudicial prosecution and execution driven by the private sector. It is a fact that the trials that led to their conviction, imprisonment and execution were initiated by a private corporation through a private, hired detective agency, followed by arrests by a private police force and then prosecution by coal company attorneys. Witnesses were intimidated to commit perjury against the defendants, entrapment was used to accumulate evidence and the jury selection ensured bigotry was a common denominator.
As we work to reform our criminal justice system in Pennsylvania and celebrate our progress, the Molly Maguires are still one of the most shocking displays of undermining due process and constitutional rights in the commonwealth’s history.
As Saint Patrick’s Day approaches and we celebrate Irish contributions to American society, we should never forget those who were imprisoned and those who ultimately gave their lives: James Boyle, Alexander Campbell, James Carroll, John Donahue, Michael J. Doyle, Thomas Duffy, Edward Kelly, Hugh McGehan, Thomas Munley, James Roarity, Dennis Donnelly, Thomas Fisher, Patrick Hester, John Kehoe, Peter McHugh and Patrick Tully, Martin Bergin, James McDonnell, Peter McManus and Charles Sharpe.
I am proud to continue to offer a Unanimous Consent Resolution in the Senate marking 144th anniversary of The Day of the Rope in Pennsylvania and celebrating the contributions of the Molly Maguire’s to American society. God Bless.

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