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Job Safety: 100 Years Ago, Bosses Had ‘Divine’ Rights, Workers None


A century ago on Workers Memorial Day, millions of men, women and children worked long hours at low pay in jobs that threatened their lives and limbs.

Many of them were immigrants.

“They don't suffer,” George F. Baer said of coal miners who came to America from eastern Europe. “Why, hell, half of them don't even speak English."

Known as “Divine Right” Baer and “George the Last,” he was the fiercely anti-union president of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. The company also owned coal mines.

Baer rates only a few lines in most history books. Even so, he is worth remembering every day, but esp...