Nagi was 24 years old when police killed him. He was 5 feet tall and weighed 100 lbs. He was a leader of the Arab workers in the United Farm Workers, and was on strike at the El Rancho Farms near Arvin.
In a confrontation in a nearby Kern County, California cafe, Deputy Sheriff Cooper, singled out Nagi, who tried to flee. Cooper smashed Nagi’s head with a five-cell metal flashlight that severed Nagi’s spinal cord from the base of his skull. They left his body lying in the gutter near the rear door of the police car. Three workers were arrested in their attempt to help their fallen brother.
Thousands of UFW workers and supporters attended Nagi’s funeral in 1973. He was eventually buried in Yemen.
Many people are generally aware that private sector unions have lost membership for the last several decades. However, most folks never heard the details of how, during that time, hundreds of thousands of union workers fought pitched battles against the police and national guard, and suffered grave injuries, and even died during their efforts to hold onto their unions.
Here are some of the stories of the workers who were killed during labor’s long, and ongoing retreat.
RUN OVER IN ALABAMA
A strikebreaker in an 18 wheeler ran over and killed 55 year old Walter Fleming, and Keith Cain, 22, as they picketed the National Standard wire plant in Columbiana, Alabama, during a 1993 Steelworkers' strike.
Their fellow strikers nearly went insane with rage. The company closed the plant and the police had to escort the strikebreakers out, under a hail of rocks and pipes. At dusk, strikers carrying bats and clubs still milled around the plant.
Police charged the strikebreaker with two counts of reckless murder.
SHOT IN WEST VIRGINIA
Strikebreakers shot and killed United Mine Worker member John McCoy while he picketed for unpaid back wages at the Bailey Energy Mine near Welch, West Virgina. The police were there, and did some shooting too, according to some accounts. The police say it was a gun battle. The UMW said it was murder. Over a thousand of McCoy's fellow workers attended his funeral in 1990. The 42 year old McCoy left two children behind.
In 2003, a police car run over and killed Michelle Rodgers while she picketed a GE plant in Louisville, Kentucky. The police called it an accident. Rodgers was a 40-year-old single mother of three children, who'd been working double shifts on the dishwasher assembly line to pay bills. She'd worked at GE for 8 years.
She was part of 17,000 workers waging a national strike against GE at 48 plants in 23 states over health care benefits. Strikebreakers hit two other pickets with cars in Lynn, Mass., two months earlier but did not kill them.
Here's a list going back about 40 years:
Five United Farm Workers members
Juan De la Cruz , shot by scabs, near Arvin.
1979, Rufino Contreras, shot by company thugs in an Imperial Valley lettuce field
1983 21 year old Rene Lopez, shot by a company foreman at Sikkema Dairy near Fresno.
Nan Freeman, student, run over on UFW picket line , north of Belle Glade FLA
Two killed at the Greyhound strikes
Robert Waterhouse, run over during the 1990 Greyhound Strike
Ray Phillips, run over during the 1983 Greyhound strike, the scab was never charged
One and possible four miners
John McCoy UMWA
1977-8 111 day coal strike, reportedly 3 killed.
Run over on the picket lines
CWA Picket captain Gerry Horgan, 1989 Verizon NY strike, run over by a scab.
1993-- two Steelworkers Keith Cain and Walter Fleming,
Michelle Rodgers, GE in Kentucky
The Klan shot and killed five union organizers at an anti-Klan rally in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1979.
Sandi Smith, Dr. James Waller, Bill Sampson, Cesar Cauce, Dr. Michael Nathan.
I drew most of these accounts from leftist and union publications, which I've taken at face value.