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Local Lodge 1487 Golf Outing - Poplar Creek Country ClubAugust 15, 2019
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Today in Labor History

This Week in Labor History: 7/15 – 7/21

July 15

Some 50,000 lumberjacks strike for 8-hour day – 1917

Ralph Gray, an African-American sharecropper and leader of the Share Croppers Union, is murdered in Camp Hill, Ala. – 1931

A half-million steelworkers begin what is to become a 116-day strike that shutters nearly every steel mill in the country. Management wanted to dump contract language limiting its ability to change the number of workers assigned to a task or to introduce new work rules or machinery that would result in reduced hours or fewer employees – 1959

July 16

Ten thousand workers strike Chicago’s Int’l Harvester operations – 1919

Martial law declared in strike by longshoremen in Galveston, Texas – 1920

San Francisco Longshoreman’s strike spreads, becomes 4-day general strike – 1934

July 17

Two ammunition ships explode at Port Chicago, Calif., killing 322, including 202 African-Americans assigned by the Navy to handle explosives. It was the worst home-front disaster of World War II. The resulting refusal of 258 African-Americans to return to the dangerous work underpinned the trial and conviction of 50 of the men in what is called the Port Chicago Mutiny – 1944

July 18

The Brotherhood of Telegraphers begins an unsuccessful 3-week strike against the Western Union Telegraph Co. – 1883

Some 35,000 Chicago stockyard workers strike – 1919

Hospital workers win 113-day union recognition strike in Charleston, S.C. – 1969

July 19

Women’s Rights Convention opens in Seneca Falls, N.Y. Delegates adopt a Declaration of Women’s Rights and call for women’s suffrage – 1848

An amendment to the 1939 Hatch Act, a federal law whose main provision prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity, is amended to also cover state and local employees whose salaries include any federal funds – 1940

July 20

New York City newsboys, many so poor that they were sleeping in the streets, begin a 2-week strike. Several rallies drew more than 5,000 newsboys, complete with charismatic speeches by strike leader Kid Blink, who was blind in one eye. The boys had to pay publishers up front for the newspapers; they were successful in forcing the publishers to buy back unsold papers – 1899

Two killed, 67 wounded in Minneapolis truckers’ strike—”Bloody Friday” – 1934

Postal unions, Postal Service sign first labor contract in the history of the federal government—the year following an unauthorized strike by 200,000 postal workers – 1971

July 21

Local militiamen are called out against striking railroad workers in Pittsburgh. The head of the Pennsylvania Railroad advises giving the strikers “a rifle diet for a few days and see how they like that kind of bread.” – 1877

Compressed air explosion kills 20 workers constructing railroad tunnel under the Hudson River – 1880

IWW leads a strike at Hodgeman’s Blueberry Farm in Grand Junction, Mich. – 1964

Radio station WCFL, owned and operated by the Chicago Federation of Labor, takes to the airwaves with two hours of music. The first and only labor-owned radio station in the country, WCFL was sold in 1979 – 1926

A die-cast operator in Jackson, Mich., is pinned by a hydraulic Unimate robot, dies five days later. Incident is the first documented case in the U.S. of a robot killing a human – 1984

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 7/8 – 7/14

July 08

First anthracite coal strike in U.S. – 1842

Labor organizer Ella Reeve “Mother” Bloor born on Staten Island, N.Y. Among her activities: investigating child labor in glass factories and mines, and working undercover in meat packing plants to verify for federal investigators the nightmarish working conditions that author Upton Sinclair had revealed in The Jungle – 1862

The Pacific Mail Steamship Co. fires all employees who had been working an 8-hour day, then joins with other owners to form the “Ten-Hour League Society” for the purpose of uniting all mechanics “willing to work at the old rates, neither unjust to the laborers nor ruinous to the capital and enterprise of the city and state.” The effort failed – 1867

Founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W., or Wobblies) concludes in Chicago. Charles O. Sherman, a former American Federation of Labor organizer, is elected president – 1905

Some 35,000 members of the Machinists union begin what is to become a 43-day strike that shuts down five major U.S. airlines, about three-fifths of domestic air traffic. The airlines were thriving, and wages were a key issue in the fight – 1966

July 09

The worst rail accident in U.S. history occurs when two trains pulled by 80-ton locomotives collided head-on at Dutchman’s curve in west Nashville, Tenn. 101 people died, another 171 were injured – 1918

New England Telephone “girls” strike for 7-hour workday, $27 weekly pay after four years’ service – 1923

New York City subway system managers in the Bronx attempt to make cleaning crews on the IRT line work faster by forcing the use of a 14-inch squeegee instead of the customary 10-inch tool. Six workers are fired for insubordination; a 2-day walkout by the Transport Workers Union wins reversal of the directive and the workers’ reinstatement – 1935

Fourteen volunteer firefighters and one Forest Service employee die fighting the Rattlesnake wildfire in California’s Mendocino National Forest. The blaze was set by an arsonist – 1953

United Packinghouse, Food & Allied Workers merge with Amalgamated Meat Cutters & Butcher Workmen – 1968

Five thousand demonstrators rally at the state capitol in Columbia, S.C., in support of the “Charleston Five,” labor activists charged with felony rioting during a police attack on a 2000 longshoremen’s picket of a non-union crew unloading a ship – 2001

July 10

Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and civil rights activist, born – 1875

Some 14,000 federal and state troops finally succeed in putting down the strike against the Pullman Palace Car Co., which had been peaceful until July 5, when federal troops intervened in Chicago, against the repeated protests of the governor and Chicago’s mayor. A total of 34 American Railway Union members were killed by troops over the course of the strike – 1894

A powerful explosion rips through the Rolling Mill coal mine in Johnstown, Pa., killing 112 miners, 83 of whom were immigrants from Poland and Slovakia – 1902

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce holds a mass meeting of more than 2,000 merchants to organize what was to become a frontal assault on union strength and the closed shop. The failure of wages to keep up with inflation after the 1906 earthquake had spurred multiple strikes in the city – 1916

Sidney Hillman dies at age 59. He led the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, was a key figure in the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations and was a close advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt – 1946

July 11

Striking coal miners in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, dynamite barracks housing Pinkerton management thugs – 1892

After seven years of labor by as many as 2,800 construction workers, the Triborough Bridge opens in New York. Actually a complex of three bridges, it connects the boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens. Construction began on Black Friday, 1929, and New Deal money turned it into one of the largest public works projects of the Great Depression – 1936

A nine-year strike begins at the Ohio Crankshaft Division of Park-Ohio Industries in Cleveland. Overcoming scabs, arrests and firings, UAW Local 91 members hung on and approved a contract in 1992 with the company—now under new management—that included company-funded health and retirement benefits, as well as pay increases – 1983

July 12

Bisbee, Ariz., deports Wobblies; 1,186 miners sent into desert in manure-laden boxcars. They had been fighting for improved safety and working conditions – 1917

The Screen Actors Guild holds its first meeting. Among those attending: future horror movie star (Frankenstein’s Monster) and union activist Boris Karloff – 1933

July 13

Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union organized in Tyronza, Ark. – 1934

Detroit newspaper workers begin 19-month strike against Gannett, Knight-Ridder. The strike was to become a lockout, which lasted four years more – 1995

July 14

The Great Uprising nationwide railway strike begins in Martinsburg, W.Va., after railroad workers are hit with their second pay cut in a year. In the following days, strike riots spread through 17 states. The next week, federal troops were called out to force an end to the strike – 1877

Woody Guthrie, writer of “This Land is Your Land” and “Union Maid,” born in Okemah, Okla. – 1912

Italian immigrants and anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are convicted in Massachusetts of murder and payroll robbery—unfairly, most historians agree—after a 2-month trial, and are eventually executed. Fifty years after their deaths the state’s governor issued a proclamation saying they had been treated unfairly and that “any disgrace should be forever removed from their names.” – 1921

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 7/1 – 7/7

July 01

The American Flint Glass workers union is formed, headquartered in Pittsburgh. It was to merge into the Steelworkers 140 years later, in 2003 – 1873

Steel workers in Cleveland begin what was to be an 88-week strike against wage cuts – 1885

Homestead, Pa., steel strike. Seven strikers and three Pinkertons killed as Andrew Carnegie hires armed thugs to protect strikebreakers – 1892

The Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers stages what is to become an unsuccessful 3-month strike against U.S. Steel Corp. Subsidiaries – 1901

One million railway shopmen strike – 1922

Some 1,100 streetcar workers strike in New Orleans, spurring the creation of the po’ boy sandwich by a local sandwich shop owner and one-time streetcar man. “Whenever we saw one of the striking men coming,” Bennie Martin later recalled, “one of us would say, ‘Here comes another poor boy.’” Martin and his wife fed any striker who showed up – 1929

In what was to be a month-long strike, 650,000 steelworkers shut down the industry while demanding a number of wage and working condition improvements. They won all their demands, including a union shop – 1956

National Association of Post Office & General Service Maintenance Employees, United Federation of Postal Clerks, National Federation of Post Office Motor Vehicle Employees & National Association of Special Delivery Messengers merge to become American Postal Workers Union – 1971

Int’l Jewelry Workers Union merges with Service Employees Int’l Union – 1980

Graphic Arts Int’l Union merges with Int’l Printing & Graphic Communications Union to become Graphic Communications Int’l Union, now a conference of the Teamsters – 1983

Copper miners begin a years-long, bitter strike against Phelps-Dodge in Clifton, Ariz. Democratic Gov. Bruce Babbitt repeatedly deployed state police and National Guardsmen to assist the company over the course of the strike, which broke the union – 1983

Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union merges with Int’l Ladies’ Garment Workers Union to form Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees – 1995

Int’l Chemical Workers Union merges with United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union – 1996

The Newspaper Guild merges with Communications Workers of America – 1997

United American Nurses affiliate with the AFL-CIO – 2001

July 02

The first Walmart store opens in Rogers, Ark. By 2014 the company had 10,000 stores in 27 countries, under 71 different names, employing more than 2 million people. It is known in the U.S. and most of the other countries in which it operates for low wages and extreme anti-unionism – 1962

President Johnson signs Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forbidding employers and unions from discriminating on the basis of race, color, gender, nationality, or religion – 1964

The Labor Dept. reports that U.S. employers cut 467,000 jobs over the prior month, driving the nation’s unemployment rate up to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent – 2009

July 03

Children, employed in the silk mills in Paterson, N.J., go on strike for 11-hour day and 6-day week. A compromise settlement resulted in a 69-hour work week – 1835

Feminist and labor activist Charlotte Perkins Gilman born in Hartford, Conn. Her landmark study, “Women and Economics,” was radical: it called for the financial independence of women and urged a network of child care centers – 1860

July 04

Albert Parsons joins the Knights of Labor. He later became an anarchist and was one of the Haymarket martyrs – 1876

AFL dedicates its new Washington, D.C., headquarters building at 9th St. and Massachusetts Ave. NW. The building, still standing, later became headquarters for the Plumbers and Pipefitters – 1916

Five newspaper boys from the Baltimore Evening Sun died when the steamer they were on, the Three Rivers, caught fire near Baltimore, Md. They are remembered every year at a West Baltimore cemetery, toasted by former staffers of the now-closed newspaper – 1924

With the Great Depression underway, some 1,320 delegates attended the founding convention of the Unemployed Councils of the U.S.A., organized by the U.S. Communist Party. They demanded passage of unemployment insurance and maternity benefit laws and opposed discrimination by race or sex – 1930

Two primary conventions of the United Nations’ Int’l Labor Organization come into force: Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize – 1950

Building trades workers lay the cornerstone of the Freedom Tower on the site of the World Trade Center in New York City. The WTC had been leveled by a terrorist attack three years earlier. Nearly 3,000 died at the WTC and in other attacks in the eastern U.S. on the same day – 2004

July 05

During a strike against the Pullman Palace Car Company, which had drastically reduced wages, buildings constructed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago’s Jackson Park were set ablaze, reducing seven to ashes – 1894

West Coast Longshoremen’s Strike, Battle of Rincon Hill, San Francisco. Some 5,000 strikers fought 1,000 police, scabs and national guardsmen. Two strikers were killed, 109 people injured. The incident, forever known as “Bloody Thursday,” led to a general strike – 1934

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the National Labor Relations Act – 1935

Three firefighters, a state policeman and an employee of Doxol Gas in Kingman, Arizona are killed in a propane gas explosion. Eight more firefighters were to die of burns suffered in the event – 1973

Fourteen firefighters are killed battling the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain in Glenwood Springs, Colo. – 1994

July 06

Two strikers and a bystander are killed, 30 seriously wounded by police in Duluth, Minn. The workers, mostly immigrants building the city’s streets and sewers, struck after contractors reneged on a promise to pay $1.75 a day – 1889

Two barges, loaded with Pinkerton thugs hired by the Carnegie Steel Co., land on the south bank of the Monongahela River in Homestead, Pa., seeking to occupy Carnegie Steel Works and put down a strike by members of the Amalgamated Association of Iron & Steel Workers – 1892

Rail union leader Eugene V. Debs is arrested during the Pullman strike, described by the New York Times as “a struggle between the greatest and most important labor organization and the entire railroad capital” that involved some 250,000 workers in 27 states at its peak – 1894

Transit workers in New York begin what is to be an unsuccessful 3-week strike against the then-privately owned IRT subway. Most transit workers labored seven days a week, up to 11.5 hours a day – 1926

Explosions and fires destroy the Piper Alpha drilling platform in the North Sea, killing 167 oil workers—the worst loss of life ever in an offshore oil disaster. The operator, Occidental, was found guilty of having inadequate maintenance and safety procedures, but no criminal charges were ever brought – 1988

July 07

Striking New York longshoremen meet to discuss ways to keep new immigrants from scabbing. They were successful, at least for a time. On July 14, 500 newly arrived Jews marched straight from their ship to the union hall. On July 15, 250 Italian immigrants stopped scabbing on the railroad and joined the union – 1882

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones begins “The March of the Mill Children,” when, accompanied part of the way by children, she walked from Philadelphia to President Theodore Roosevelt’s home on Long Island to protest the plight of child laborers. One of her demands: reduce the children’s work week to 55 hours – 1903

Cloak makers begin what is to be a 2-month strike against New York City sweatshops – 1910

Workers begin construction on the Boulder Dam (now known as Hoover Dam) on the Colorado River, during the Great Depression. Wages and conditions were horrible—16 workers and work camp residents died of the heat over just a single 30-day period—and two strikes over the four years of construction led to only nominal improvements in pay and conditions – 1931

Some 500,000 people participate when a two-day general strike is called in Puerto Rico by more than 60 trade unions and many other organizations. They are protesting privatization of the island’s telephone company – 1998

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 6/24 – 6/30

June 24

Birth of Agnes Nestor, president of the Int’l Glove Workers Union and longtime leader of the Chicago Women’s Trade Union League. She began work in a glove factory at age 14 – 1880

Seventeen workers are killed as methane explodes in a water tunnel under construction in Sylmar, Calif. – 1971

June 25
More than 8,000 people attend the dedication ceremony for The Haymarket Martyrs Monument in Chicago, honoring those framed and executed for the bombing at Haymarket Square on May 4, 1886 – 1893

Fair Labor Standards Act passes Congress, banning child labor and setting the 40-hour work week – 1938

At the urging of Black labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph, Franklin Roosevelt issues an executive order barring discrimination in defense industries – 1941

Congress passes the Smith-Connally War Labor Disputes Act over President Franklin Roosevelt’s veto. It allows the federal government to seize and operate industries threatened by strikes that would interfere with war production. It was hurriedly created after the third coal strike in seven weeks – 1943

A total of 21 workers are killed when a fireworks factory near Hallett, Okla., explodes – 1985

Decatur, Ill., police pepper-gas workers at A.E. Staley plant gate one year into the company’s two-and-a-half-year lockout of Paperworkers Local 7837 – 1994

June 26

Members of the American Railway Union, led by Eugene V. Debs, refuse to handle Pullman cars, in solidarity with Pullman strikers. Two dozen strikers were killed over the course of the strike – 1894

The 189-mile-long St. Lawrence Seaway opens, making the Great Lakes accessible to Atlantic shipping. Thousands of laborers toiled for decades to make it happen; indirectly and directly, the Seaway today supports 75,000 jobs in Canada and 150,000 in the U.S. – 1959

June 27

Emma Goldman, women’s rights activist and radical, born in Lithuania. She came to the U.S. at age 17 – 1869

The Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the “Wobblies,” is founded at a 12-day-long convention in Chicago. The Wobbly motto: “An injury to one is an injury to all.” – 1905

Congress passes the National Labor Relations Act, creating the structure for collective bargaining in the United States – 1935

A 26-day strike of New York City hotels by 26,000 workers—the first such walkout in 50 years—ends with a 5-year contract calling for big wage and benefit gains – 1985

A.E. Staley locks out 763 workers in Decatur, Ill. The lockout was to last two and one-half years – 1993

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that state and local public-sector unions cannot require nonunion members to pay anything to support the collective bargaining, grievance-handling and other costs of union work on their behalf. Voting with the 5-4 majority was Neil Gorsuch, who had just been named to the court by President Donald Trump – 2018

June 28

Birthday of machinist Matthew Maguire, who many believe first suggested Labor Day. Others believe it was Peter McGuire, a carpenter – 1850

President Grover Cleveland signs legislation declaring Labor Day an official U.S. holiday – 1894

A Liberty Ship named after the founding president of the American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers, is launched in Sausalito, Calif. She replaced a cargo steamship bearing Gompers’ name which had been torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese sub in the South Pacific the previous year – 1944

The federal government sues the Teamsters to force reforms on the union, the nation’s largest. The following March, the government and the union sign a consent decree requiring direct election of the union’s president and creation of an Independent Review Board – 1988

June 29

What is to be a 7-day streetcar strike begins in Chicago after several workers are unfairly fired. Wrote the police chief at the time, describing the strikers’ response to scabs: “One of my men said he was at the corner of Halsted and Madison Streets, and although he could see fifty stones in the air, he couldn’t tell where they were coming from.” The strike was settled to the workers’ satisfaction – 1885

An executive order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishes the National Labor Relations Board. A predecessor organization, the National Labor Board, established by the Depression-era National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933, had been struck down by the Supreme Court – 1934

IWW strikes Weyerhauser and other Idaho lumber camps – 1936

Jesus Pallares, founder of the 8,000-member coal miners union, Liga Obrera de Habla Espanola, is deported as an “undesirable alien.” The union operated in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado – 1936

The Boilermaker and Blacksmith unions merge to become Int’l Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers – 1954

The newly-formed Jobs With Justice stages its first big support action, backing 3,000 picketing Eastern Airlines mechanics at Miami Airport – 1987

The U.S. Supreme Court rules in CWA v. Beck that, in a union security agreement, a union can collect as dues from non-members only that money necessary to perform its duties as a collective bargaining representative – 1988

June 30

Alabama outlaws the leasing of convicts to mine coal, a practice that had been in place since 1848. In 1898, 73 percent of the state’s total revenue came from this source. 25 percent of all Black leased convicts died on the job – 1928

The Walsh-Healey Act took effect today. It requires companies that supply goods to the government to pay wages according to a schedule set by the Secretary of Labor – 1936

The storied Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, a union whose roots traced back to the militant Western Federation of Miners, and which helped found the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), merges into the United Steelworkers of America – 1967

Up to 40,000 New York construction workers demonstrated in midtown Manhattan, protesting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s awarding of a $33 million contract to a nonunion company. Eighteen police and three demonstrators were injured. “There were some scattered incidents and some minor violence,” Police Commissioner Howard Safir told the New York Post. “Generally, it was a pretty well-behaved crowd.” – 1998

Nineteen firefighters die when they are overtaken by a wildfire they are battling in a forest northwest of Phoenix, Ariz. It was the deadliest wildfire involving firefighters in the U.S. in at least 30 years – 2013

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 6/17 – 6/23

June 17

Twenty-one young women and girls making cartridges for the Union Army at the Washington, D.C. arsenal during the Civil War are killed in an accidental explosion. Most of the victims were Irish immigrants. A monument was erected in the Congressional Cemetery, where 17 of the workers were buried – 1864

Susan B. Anthony goes on trial in Canandaigua, N.Y., for casting her ballot in a federal election the previous November, in violation of existing statutes barring women from the vote – 1873

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones leads a rally in Philadelphia to focus public attention on children mutilated in the state’s textile mills. Three weeks later the 73-year-old will lead a march to New York City to plead with President Theodore Roosevelt to help improve conditions for the children – 1903

Twelve trade unionists meet in Pittsburgh to launch a drive to organize all steelworkers. It was the birth of the United Steelworkers of America (then called the Steel Workers Organizing Committee). By the end of the year 125,000 workers joined the union in support of its $5-a-day wage demand – 1936

10,000 African-American tobacco leaf workers initiate a sit-down strike at the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem, NC during the height of legalized segregation. The strikers’ refusal to work in poor conditions for little pay in a segregated environment sparked seven years of hard struggle for workplace democracy and influenced the trajectory of the civil-rights movement of the 1960s – 1943

Nine firefighters are killed, eight more injured when a large section of Boston’s Hotel Vendom collapses on them. The firefighters were performing cleanup when the collapse occurred, having successfully fought a fire at the luxury hotel earlier in the day – 1972

June 18

Union and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph and others meet with President Roosevelt about a proposed July 1 March on Washington to protest discrimination in war industries. A week later, Roosevelt orders that the industries desegregate – 1941

June 19

Eight-hour work day adopted for federal employees – 1912

AFL President Sam Gompers and Secretary of War Newton Baker sign an agreement establishing a three-member board of adjustment to control wages, hours and working conditions for construction workers employed on government projects. The agreement protected union wage and hour standards for the duration of World War I – 1917

A pioneering sit-down strike is conducted by workers at a General Tire Co. factory in Akron, Ohio. The United Rubber Workers union was founded a year later. The tactic launched a wave of similar efforts in the auto and other industries over the next several years – 1934

The Women’s Day Massacre in Youngstown, Ohio, when police use tear gas on women and children, including at least one infant in his mother’s arms, during a strike at Republic Steel. One union organizer later recalled, “When I got there I thought the Great War had started over again. Gas was flying all over the place and shots flying and flares going up and it was the first time I had ever seen anything like it in my life…” – 1937

ILWU begins a 4-day general strike in sugar, pineapple, and longshore to protest convictions under the anti-communist Smith Act of seven activists, “the Hawaii Seven.” The convictions were later overturned by a federal appeals court – 1953

June 20

Birth of Albert Parsons, Haymarket martyr – 1848

The American Railway Union, headed by Eugene Debs, is founded in Chicago. In the Pullman strike a year later, the union was defeated by federal injunctions and troops, and Debs was imprisoned for violating the injunctions – 1893

Henry Ford recognizes the United Auto Workers, signs contract for workers at River Rouge plant – 1941

Striking African-American auto workers are attacked by KKK, National Workers League, and armed White workers at Belle Isle amusement park in Detroit. Two days of riots follow, 34 people are killed, more than 1,300 arrested – 1943

The Taft-Hartley Labor Management Relations Act, curbing strikes, is vetoed by President Harry S. Truman. The veto was overridden three days later by a Republican-controlled Congress – 1947

Oil began traveling through the Alaska pipeline. Seventy thousand people worked on building the pipeline, history’s largest privately-financed construction project – 1977

Evelyn Dubrow, described by the New York Times as organized labor’s most prominent lobbyist at the time of its greatest power, dies at age 95. The Int’l Ladies’ Garment Workers Union lobbyist once told the Times that “she trudged so many miles around Capitol Hill that she wore out 24 pairs of her size 4 shoes each year.” She retired at age 86 – 2006

A report issued by the National Center for Education Statistics says that nearly one in five teachers hold down an income-producing job outside the classroom – 2018

June 21

In England, a compassionate parliament declares that children can’t be required to work more than 12 hours a day. And they must have an hour’s instruction in the Christian Religion every Sunday and not be required to sleep more than two in a bed – 1802

Ten miners accused of being militant “Molly Maguires” are hanged in Pennsylvania. A private corporation initiated the investigation of the 10 through a private detective agency. A private police force arrested them, and private attorneys for the coal companies prosecuted them. “The state provided only the courtroom and the gallows,” a judge said many years later – 1877

The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the right of unions to publish statements urging members to vote for a specific congressional candidate, ruling that such advocacy is not a violation of the Federal Corrupt Practices Act – 1948

An estimated 100,000 unionists and other supporters march in solidarity with striking Detroit News and Detroit Free Press newspaper workers – 1997

June 22

A total of 86 passengers on a train carrying members of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus are killed, another 127 injured in a wreck near Hammond, Indiana. Five days later the dead are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Forest Park, Ill., in an area set aside as Showmen’s Rest, purchased only a few months earlier by the Showmen’s League of America – 1918

Violence erupted during a coal mine strike at Herrin, Ill. A total of 36 were killed, 21 of them non-union miners – 1922

June 23

Charles Moyer, president of the Western Federation of Miners, goes to Butte, Mont. in an attempt to mediate a conflict between factions of the miner’s local there. It didn’t go well. Gunfight in the union hall killed one man; Moyer and other union officers left the building, which was then leveled in a dynamite blast – 1914

Congress overrides President Harry Truman’s veto of the anti-worker Taft-Hartley Act. The law weakened unions and let states exempt themselves from union requirements. Twenty states immediately enacted open shop laws and more followed – 1947

OSHA issues standard on cotton dust to protect 600,000 workers from byssinosis, also known as “brown lung” – 1978

A majority of the 5,000 textile workers at six Fieldcrest Cannon textile plants in Kannapolis, N.C., vote for union representation after an historic 25-year fight – 1999

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 6/10 – 6/16

The mayor of Monroe, Mich. organizes a vigilante mob of 1,400 armed with baseball bats and teargas to break the organizing picket line of 200 striking workers at Newton Steel. The line is broken; eight are injured and hospitalized. Sixteen workers’ cars were vandalized, five cars overturned, and eight more were dumped into the River Raisin – 1937

U.S. Supreme Court rules in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. that preliminary work activities, where controlled by the employer and performed entirely for the employer’s benefit, are properly included as working time. The decision is known as the “portal to portal case” – 1946

President Kennedy signs a law mandating equal pay to women who are performing the same jobs as men (Equal Pay Act) – 1963

June 11

Representatives from the AFL, Knights of Labor, populists, railroad brotherhoods and other trade unions hold a unity conference in St. Louis but fail to overcome their differences – 1894

Police shoot at maritime workers striking United Fruit Co. in New Orleans; one killed, two wounded – 1913

John L. Lewis dies. A legendary figure, he was president of the United Mine Workers from 1920 to 1960 and a driving force behind the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations – 1969

June 12

Fifty thousand members of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen employed in meatpacking plants walk off their jobs; demands include equalization of wages and conditions throughout U.S. plants – 1904

The U.S. Supreme Court invalidates two sections of a Florida law: one required state licensing of paid union business agents, the other required registration with the state of all unions and their officers – 1945

Major League Baseball strike begins, forces cancellation of 713 games. Most observers blamed team owners for the strike: they were trying to recover from a court decision favoring the players on free agency – 1981

June 13

Congress creates a Bureau of Labor, under the Interior Department. It later became independent as a Department of Labor without executive status in the Department of Commerce and Labor; in 1913 it became the Department of Labor we know today – 1884

Tony Mazzocchi born in Brooklyn, N.Y. An activist and officer in the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union, he was a mentor to Karen Silkwood, a founder of the Labor Party, and a prime mover behind the 1970 passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act – 1926

June 14

Unions legalized in Canada – 1872

The first commercial computer, UNIVAC I, is installed at the U.S. Census Bureau – 1951

June 15

The Metal Trades Department of what is now the AFL-CIO is founded – 1908

The Congress of Industrial Organizations expels the Fur and Leather Workers union and the American Communications Association for what it describes as communist activities – 1947

Battle of Century City, as police in Los Angeles attack some 500 janitors and their supporters during a peaceful Service Employees Int’l Union demonstration against cleaning contractor ISS. The event generated public outrage that resulted in recognition of the workers’ union and spurred the creation of an annual June 15 Justice for Janitors Day – 1990

June 16

Eight local unions organize the Int’l Fur Workers Union of U.S. and Canada. The union later merged with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen – 1913

Railroad union leader and socialist Eugene V. Debs speaks in Canton, Ohio, on the relation between capitalism and war. Ten days later he is arrested under the Espionage Act, eventually sentenced to 10 years in jail – 1918

The National Industrial Recovery Act became law, but was later to be declared unconstitutional. It established the right to unionize, set maximum hours and minimum wages for every major industry, abolished sweatshops and child labor. The Wagner Act, in effect today, was approved two years later to legalize unionization – 1933

Inacom Corp., once the world’s largest computer dealer, sends most of its 5,100 employees an email instructing them to call a toll-free phone number; when they call, a recorded message announces they have been fired – 2000

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 6/3 – 6/9

Int’l Ladies Garment Workers Union founded – 1900

A federal child labor law, enacted two years earlier, was declared unconstitutional – 1918

More than 1,000 Canadian men, working at “Royal Twenty Centers” established by the Canadian government to provide work for single, unemployed homeless males during the Great Depression, begin an “On to Ottawa Trek” to protest conditions at the camps. They were being paid 20 cents a day plus food and shelter to build roads, plant trees and construct public buildings – 1935

The National Labor Relations Board rules that tribal governments and their enterprises are subject to federal labor law – 2004

June 04

Massachusetts becomes the first state to establish a minimum wage – 1912

The House of Representatives approves the Taft-Hartley Act. The legislation allows the president of the United States to intervene in labor disputes. President Truman vetoed the law but was overridden by Congress – 1947

The AFL-CIO opens its new headquarters building, in view of the White House – 1956

Gov. Jerry Brown signs the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, the first law in the U.S. giving farmworkers collective bargaining rights. The legislation came after years of effort by the United Farm Workers union – 1975

June 05

Thirty-five members of the Teamsters, concerned about the infiltration of organized crime in the union and other issues, meet in Cleveland to form Teamsters for a Democratic Union – 1976

A strike begins at a General Motors Corp. parts factory in Flint, Mich., that spreads and ultimately forces the closure of GM plants across the country for seven weeks. The Flint workers were protesting the removal of key dies from their plant and feared their jobs would be lost. The company ended the dispute by assuring the plant would remain open until at least the year 2000 – 1998

June 06

The U.S. Employment Service was created – 1933

A general strike by some 12,000 autoworkers and others in Lansing, Mich., shuts down the city for a month in what was to become known as the city’s “Labor Holiday.” The strike was precipitated by the arrest of nine workers, including the wife of the auto workers local union president: The arrest left three children in the couple’s home unattended – 1937

U.S. President Harry S. Truman and American Federation of Musicians President James Petrillo perform a piano duet at the union’s convention in Asbury Park, N.J. – 1948

Labor Party founding convention opens in Cleveland, Ohio – 1996

June 07

Militia sent to Cripple Creek, Colo., to suppress Western Federation of Miners strike – 1904

Sole performance of Pageant of the Paterson (N.J.) Strike, created and performed by 1,000 mill workers from the silk industry strike, New York City – 1913

Striking textile workers battle police in Gastonia, N.C. Police Chief O.F. Aderholt is accidentally killed by one of his own officers. Six strike leaders are convicted of “conspiracy to murder” and are sentenced to jail for from five to 20 years – 1929

Founding convention of the United Food and Commercial Workers. The merger brought together the Retail Clerks Int’l Union and the Amalgamated Meatcutters and Butcher Workmen of North America – 1979

The United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club announce the formation of a strategic alliance to pursue a joint public policy agenda under the banner of Good Jobs, A Clean Environment, and A Safer World – 2006

June 08

A battle between the Militia and striking miners at Dunnville, Colo., ended with six union members dead and 15 taken prisoner. Seventy-nine of the strikers were deported to Kansas two days later – 1904

Spectator mine disaster kills 168, Butte, Mont. – 1917

Some 35,000 members of the Machinists union begin what is to become a 43-day strike—the largest in airline history—against five carriers. The mechanics and other ground service workers wanted to share in the airlines’ substantial profits – 1966

The earliest recorded strike by Chinese immigrants to the U.S. occurred when stonemasons, who were brought to San Francisco to build the three-story Parrott granite building—made from Chinese prefabricated blocks—struck for higher pay – 1852

New York City drawbridge tenders, in a dispute with the state over pension issues, leave a dozen bridges open, snarling traffic in what the Daily News described as “the biggest traffic snafu in the city’s history” – 1971

June 09

Helen Marot is born in Philadelphia to a wealthy family. She went on to organize the Bookkeepers, Stenographers and Accountants Union in New York, and to organize and lead the city’s 1909-1910 Shirtwaist Strike. In 1912, she was a member of a commission investigating the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire – 1865

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 5/27 – 6/2

May 27

The U.S. Supreme Court declares the Depression-era National Industrial Recovery Act to be unconstitutional, about a month before it was set to expire – 1935

The CIO-affiliated Insurance Workers of America merges with its AFL counterpart, the Insurance Agents International Union to form the Insurance Workers International Union. The union later became part of the United Food and Commercial Workers – 1959

May 28

The Ladies Shoe Binders Society formed in New York – 1835

Fifteen women were dismissed from their jobs at the Curtis Publishing Company in Philadelphia for dancing the Turkey Trot. They were on their lunch break, but management thought the dance too racy – 1912

At least 30,000 workers in Rochester, N.Y., participate in a general strike in support of municipal workers who had been fired for forming a union – 1946

May 29

Animators working for Walt Disney begin what was to become a successful 5-week strike for recognition of their union, the Screen Cartoonists’ Guild. The animated feature Dumbo was being created at the time and, according to Wikipedia, a number of strikers are caricatured in the feature as clowns who go to “hit the big boss for a raise” – 1941

A contract between the United Mine Workers and the U.S. government establishes one of the nation’s first union medical and pension plans, the multi-employer UMWA Welfare and Retirement Fund – 1946

The United Farm Workers of America reaches agreement with Bruce Church Inc. on a contract for 450 lettuce harvesters, ending a 17-year-long boycott. The pact raised wages, provided company-paid health benefits to workers and their families, created a seniority system to deal with seasonal layoffs and recalls, and established a pesticide monitoring system – 1996

UAW members at General Motors accept major contract concessions in return for 17.5 percent stake in the financially struggling company – 2009

May 30

The Ford Motor Company signs a “Technical Assistance” contract to produce cars in the Soviet Union, and Ford workers were sent to the Soviet Union to train the labor force in the use of its parts. Many American workers who made the trip, including Walter Reuther, a tool and die maker who later was to become the UAW’s president, returned home with a different view of the duties and privileges of the industrial laborer – 1929

In what became known as the Memorial Day Massacre, police open fire on striking steelworkers at Republic Steel in South Chicago, killing ten and wounding more than 160 – 1937

The Ground Zero cleanup at the site of the World Trade Center is completed three months ahead of schedule due to the heroic efforts of more than 3,000 building tradesmen and women who had worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week for the previous eight months – 2002

May 31

The Johnstown Flood. More than 2,200 die when a dam holding back a private resort lake burst upstream of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The resort was owned by wealthy industrialists including Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick. Neither they nor any other members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club were found guilty of fault, despite the fact the group had created the lake out of an abandoned reservoir – 1889

Some 25,000 White autoworkers walk off the job at a Detroit Packard Motor Car Co. plant, heavily involved in wartime production, when three Black workers are promoted to work on a previously all-White assembly line. The Black workers were relocated and the Whites returned – 1943

Rose Will Monroe, popularly known as Rosie the Riveter, dies in Clarksville, Ind. During WWII she helped bring women into the labor force – 1997

June 01

The Ladies Federal Labor Union Number 2703, based in Illinois, was granted a charter from the American Federation of Labor. Women from a wide range of occupations were among the members, who ultimately were successful in coalescing women’s groups interested in suffrage, temperance, health, housing and child labor reform to win state legislation in these areas – 1888

Union Carpenters win a 25¢-per-day raise, bringing wages for a 9-hour day to $2.50 – 1898

Congress passes the Erdman Act, providing for voluntary mediation or arbitration of railroad disputes and prohibiting contracts that discriminate against union labor or release employers from legal liability for on-the-job injuries – 1898

Nearly 3,500 immigrant miners begin Clifton-Morenci, Ariz., copper strike – 1903

Some 12,500 longshoremen strike the Pacific coast, from San Diego to Bellingham, Wash. Demands included a closed shop and a wage increase to 55¢ an hour for handling general cargo – 1916

As many as 60,000 railroad shopmen strike to protest cuts in wages – 1922

Extinguishing the light of hope in the hearts and aspirations of workers around the world, the Mexican government abolishes siestas—a mid-afternoon nap and work break which lengthened the work day but got people through brutally hot summer days – 1944

Farm workers under the banner of the new United Farm Workers Organizing Committee strike at Texas’s La Casita Farms, demand $1.25 as a minimum hourly wage – 1966

Dakota Beef meatpackers win 7-hour sit-down strike over speed-ups, St. Paul, Minn. – 2000

General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The filing made the automaker the largest U.S. industrial company to enter bankruptcy protection. It went on to recover thanks to massive help from the UAW and the federal government – 2009

June 02

Twenty-six journeymen printers in Philadelphia stage the trade’s first strike in America over wages: a cut in their $6 weekly pay – 1786.

A constitutional amendment declaring that “Congress shall have power to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under eighteen years of age” was approved by the Senate today, following the lead of the House five weeks earlier. But only 28 state legislatures ever ratified the amendment—the last three in 1937—so it has never taken effect – 1924

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that President Harry Truman acted illegally when he ordered the Army to seize the nation’s steel mills to avert a strike – 1952

Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and Textile Workers Union of America merge to form Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union – 1976

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 5/20 – 5/26

May 20

The Railway Labor Act takes effect today. It is the first federal legislation protecting workers’ rights to form unions – 1926

Some 9,000 rubber workers strike in Akron, Ohio – 1933

May 21

Italian activists and anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, widely believed to have been framed for murder, go on trial today. They eventually are executed as part of a government campaign against dissidents – 1921

The “Little Wagner Act” is signed in Hawaii, guaranteeing pineapple and sugar workers the right to bargain collectively. After negotiations failed, a successful 79-day strike shut down 33 of the territory’s 34 plantations and brought higher wages and a 40-hour week – 1945

Nearly 100,000 unionized SBC Communications Inc. workers begin a 4-day strike to protest the local phone giant’s latest contract offer – 2004

May 22

Eugene V. Debs imprisoned in Woodstock, Ill., for role in Pullman strike – 1895

While white locomotive firemen on the Georgia Railroad strike, Blacks who are hired as replacements are whipped and stoned—not by the union men, but by white citizens outraged that Blacks are being hired over Whites. The Engineers union threatens to stop work because their members are being affected by the violence – 1909

Civil Service Retirement Act of 1920 gives federal workers a pension – 1920

President Lyndon B. Johnson announces the goals of his Great Society social reforms: to bring “an end to poverty and racial injustice” in America – 1964

May 23

An estimated 100,000 textile workers, including more than 10,000 children, strike in the Philadelphia area. Among the issues: 60-hour workweeks, including night hours, for the children – 1903

The Battle of Toledo begins today: a five-day running battle between roughly 6,000 strikers at the Electric Auto-Lite company of Toledo, Ohio, and 1,300 members of the Ohio National Guard. Two strikers died and more than 200 were injured. The battle began in the sixth week of what ultimately became a successful two-month fight for union recognition and higher pay. One guardsman told a Toledo Blade reporter: “Our high school graduation is … tonight and we were supposed to be getting our diplomas” – 1934

U.S. railroad strike starts, later crushed when President Truman threatens to draft strikers – 1946

The Granite Cutters Int’l Association of America merges with Tile, Marble, Terrazzo, Finishers & Shopmen, which five years later merged into the Carpenters – 1983

May 24

After 14 years of construction and the deaths of 27 workers, the Brooklyn Bridge over New York’s East River opens. Newspapers call it “the eighth wonder of the world” – 1883

Some 2,300 members of the United Rubber Workers, on strike for 10 months against five Bridgestone-Firestone plants, agree to return to work without a contract. They had been fighting demands for 12-hour shifts and wage increases tied to productivity gains – 1995

May 25

Pressured by employers, striking shoemakers in Philadelphia are arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy for violating an English common law that bars schemes aimed at forcing wage increases. The strike was broken – 1805

Philip Murray is born in Scotland. He went on to emigrate to the U.S., become founder and first president of the United Steelworkers of America, and head of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) from 1940 until his death in 1952 – 1886

Two company houses occupied by non-union coal miners are blown up and destroyed during a strike against the Glendale Gas & Coal Co. in Wheeling, W. Va. – 1925

Thousands of unemployed WWI veterans arrive in Washington, D.C., to demand early payment of a bonus they had been told they would get, but not until 1945. They built a shantytown near the U.S. Capitol but were burned out by U.S. troops after two months – 1932

The notorious 11-month Remington Rand strike begins. The strike spawned the “Mohawk Valley (N.Y.) formula,” described by investigators as a corporate plan to discredit union leaders, frighten the public with the threat of violence, employ thugs to beat up strikers, and other tactics. The National Labor Relations Board termed the formula “a battle plan for industrial war” – 1936

The AFL-CIO begins what is to become an unsuccessful campaign for a 35-hour workweek, with the goal of reducing unemployment. Earlier tries by organized labor for 32- or 35-hour weeks also failed – 1962

President Donald Trump signs a series of executive orders designed to make it easier to fire federal employees, limit the ability of unions to defend their members, and directing federal agencies to renegotiate federal employee union contracts so as to “reduce waste.” David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees said the actions are “more than union busting – it’s democracy busting.” A federal judge (who had been appointed by Pres. Barack Obama) later struck down key parts of the orders – 2018

May 26

Men and women weavers in Pawtucket, R.I., stage nation’s first “co-ed” strike – 1824

Western Federation of Miners members strike for 8-hour day, Cripple Creek, Colo. – 1894

American Labor Union founded -1902

Actors’ Equity Assn. is founded by 112 actors at a meeting in New York City’s Pabst Grand Circle Hotel. Producer George M. Cohan responds: “I will drive an elevator for a living before I will do business with any actors’ union.” Later a sign will appear in Times Square reading: “Elevator operator wanted. George M. Cohan need not apply” – 1913

IWW Marine Transport Workers strike, Philadelphia – 1920

Some 100,000 steel workers and miners in mines owned by steel companies strike in seven states. The Memorial Day Massacre, in which ten strikers were killed by police at Republic Steel in Chicago, took place four days later, on May 30 – 1937

Ford Motor Co. security guards attack union organizers and supporters attempting to distribute literature outside the plant in Dearborn, Mich., in an event that was to become known as the “Battle of the Overpass.” The guards tried to destroy any photos showing the attack, but some survived—and inspired the Pulitzer committee to establish a prize for photography – 1937

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 5/13 – 5/19

May 13

Western Federation of Miners formed in Butte, Mont. – 1893

The Canadian government establishes the Department of Labour. It took the U.S. another four years – 1909

Some 10,000 IWW dock workers strike in Philadelphia – 1913

UAW President Douglas A. Fraser is named to the Chrysler Corp. board of directors, becoming the first union representative ever to sit on the board of a major U.S. corporation – 1980

Thousands of yellow cab drivers in New York City go on a 1-day strike in protest of proposed new regulations. “City officials were stunned by the (strike’s) success,” The New York Times reported – 1998

May 14

Milwaukee brewery workers begin 10-week strike, demanding contracts comparable to East and West Coast workers. The strike was won because Blatz Brewery accepted their demands, but Blatz was ousted from the Brewers Association for “unethical” business methods – 1953

May 15

Pope Leo XIII issues revolutionary encyclical ‘Rerum novarum’ in defense of workers and the right to organize. Forty years later to the day, Pope Pius XI issues ‘Quadragesimo anno,’ believed by many to be even more radical than Leo XIII’s – 1891

U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Samuel Gompers and other union leaders for supporting a boycott at the Buck Stove and Range Co. in St. Louis, where workers were striking for a 9-hour day. A lower court had forbidden the boycott and sentenced the unionists to prison for refusing to obey the judge’s anti-boycott injunction – 1906

The Library Employees’ Union is founded in New York City, the first union of public library workers in the United States. A major focus of the union was the inferior status of women library workers and their low salaries – 1917

The first labor bank opens in Washington, D.C., launched by officers of the Machinists. The Locomotive Engineers opened a bank in Cleveland later that year – 1920

Death of IWW songwriter T-Bone Slim, New York City – 1942

Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathan Kwitney reports that AFL-CIO President George Meany, Secretary-Treasurer Lane Kirkland and other union officials are among the 60 leading stockholders in the 15,000-acre Punta Cana, Dominican Republic resort. When the partners needed help clearing the land, the Dominican president sent troops to forcibly evict stubborn, impoverished tobacco farmers and fishermen who had lived there for generations, according to Kwitney’s expose – 1973

May 16

Minneapolis general strike backs Teamsters, who are striking most of the city’s trucking companies – 1934

U.S. Supreme Court issues Mackay decision, which permits the permanent replacement of striking workers. The decision had little impact until Ronald Reagan’s replacement of striking air traffic controllers (PATCO) in 1981, a move that signaled anti-union private sector employers that it was OK to do likewise – 1938

Black labor leader and peace activist A. Philip Randolph dies. He was president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and first Black on the AFL-CIO executive board, and a principal organizer of the 1963 March on Washington – 1979

May 17

Supreme Court outlaws segregation in public schools – 1954

Twelve Starbucks baristas in a midtown Manhattan store, declaring they couldn’t live on $7.75 an hour, signed cards demanding representation by the Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies – 2004

May 18

In an early job action by baseball players, the Detroit Tigers refuse to play after team leader Ty Cobb is suspended: he went into the stands and beat a fan who had been heckling him. Cobb was reinstated and the Tigers went back to work after the team manager’s failed attempt to replace the players with a local college team: their pitcher gave up 24 runs – 1912

Amalgamated Meat Cutters union organizers launch a campaign in the nation’s packinghouses, an effort that was to bring representation to 100,000 workers over the following two years – 1917

Jerry Wurf, who was to serve as president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) from 1964 to his death in 1981, born in New York City. The union grew from about 220,000 members to more than 1 million during his presidency – 1919

Big Bill Haywood, a founding member and leader of the Industrial Workers of the World (the Wobblies), dies in exile in the Soviet Union – 1928

Atlanta transit workers, objecting to a new city requirement that they be fingerprinted as part of the employment process, go on strike. They relented and returned to work six months later – 1950

Insurance Agents Int’l Union and Insurance Workers of America merge to become Insurance Workers Int’l Union (later to merge into the UFCW) – 1959

Oklahoma jury finds for the estate of atomic worker Karen Silkwood, orders Kerr-McGee Nuclear Co. to pay $505,000 in actual damages, $10 million in punitive damages for negligence leading to Silkwood’s plutonium contamination – 1979

May 19

Two hundred sixteen miners die from an explosion and its aftermath at the Fraterville Mine in Anderson County, Tenn. All but three of Fraterville’s adult males were killed. The mine had a reputation for fair contracts and pay—miners were represented by the United Mine Workers—and was considered safe; methane may have leaked in from a nearby mine – 1902

Shootout in Matewan, W. Va., between striking union miners (led by Police Chief Sid Hatfield) and coal company agents. Ten died, including seven agents – 1920

The Steel Workers Organizing Committee, formed by the Congress of Industrial Organizations, formally becomes the United Steelworkers of America – 1942

A total of 31 dockworkers are killed, 350 workers and others are injured when four barges carrying 467 tons of ammunition blow up at South Amboy, N.J. They were loading mines that had been deemed unsafe by the Army and were being shipped to the Asian market for sale – 1950

William Burrus, president of the 360,000-member American Postal Workers Union from 2001-2010, dies at age 81. He is believed to be the first African American to be elected president of a national union by direct member voting – 2018

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 5/6 – 5/12

May 06

Works Progress Administration (WPA) established at a cost of $4.8 billion—more than $80 billion in 2015 dollars—to provide work opportunities for millions during the Great Depression – 1935

Four hundred Black women working as tobacco stemmers walk off the job in a spontaneous revolt against poor working conditions and a $3 weekly wage at the Vaughan Co. in Richmond, Va. – 1937

May 07

The Knights of St. Crispin union is formed at a secret meeting in Milwaukee. It grew to 50,000 members before being crushed by employers later that year – 1867

Two die, 20 are injured in “Bloody Tuesday” as strikebreakers attempt to run San Francisco streetcars during a strike by operators. The strike was declared lost in 1908 after many more deaths, including several in scab-operated streetcar accidents – 1907

Philadelphia’s longest transit strike ends after 44 days. A key issue in the fight was the hiring and use of part-timers – 1977

May 08

The constitution of the Brotherhood of the Footboard was ratified by engineers in Detroit, Mich. Later became the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers – 1863

About 200 construction workers in New York City attack a crowd of Vietnam war protesters four days after the Kent State killings. More than 70 people were injured, including four police officers. Peter Brennan, head of the New York building trades, was honored at the Nixon White House two weeks later, eventually named Secretary of Labor – 1970

Some 12,000 Steelworker-represented workers at Goodyear Tire & Rubber win an 18-day strike for improved wages and job security – 1997

May 09

The first Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women was held on this date in New York City. Attendees included women of color, the wives and daughters of slaveholders, and women of low economic status – 1837

Japanese workers strike at Oahu, Hawaii’s Aiea Plantation, demanding the same pay as Portuguese and Puerto Rican workers. Ultimately 7,000 workers and their families remained out until August, when the strike was broken – 1909

Legendary Western Federation of Miners leader William “Big Bill” Haywood goes on trial for murder in the bombing death of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg, who had brutally suppressed the state’s miners. Haywood ultimately was declared innocent – 1907

Longshoremen’s strike to gain control of hiring leads to general work stoppage, San Francisco Bay area – 1934

Hollywood studio mogul Louis B. Mayer recognizes the Screen Actors Guild. SAG leaders reportedly were bluffing when they told Mayer that 99 percent of all actors would walk out the next morning unless he dealt with the union. Some 5,000 actors attended a victory gathering the following day at Hollywood Legion Stadium; a day later, SAG membership increased 400 percent – 1937

United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther and his wife May die in a plane crash as they travel to oversee construction of the union’s education and training facility at Black Lake, Mich. – 1971

Four thousand garment workers, mostly Hispanic, strike for union recognition at the Farah Manufacturing Co. in El Paso, Texas – 1972

May 10

Thanks to an army of thousands of Chinese and Irish immigrants, who laid 2,000 miles of track, the nation’s first transcontinental railway line was finished by the joining of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific lines at Promontory Point, Utah – 1869

U.S. & Canadian workers form Western Labor Union. It favors industrial organization and independent labor party politics – 1898

A federal bankruptcy judge permits United Airlines to legally abandon responsibility for pensions covering 120,000 employees – 2005

May 11

Nationwide railway strike begins at Pullman, Ill. Nearly 260,000 railroad workers ultimately joined the strike to protest wage cuts by the Pullman Palace Car Co. – 1894

Seventeen crewmen on the iron ore freighter Henry Steinbrenner die when the ship, carrying nearly 7,000 tons of ore, sinks during a violent storm on Lake Erie. Another 16 crewmen survived – 1953

May 12

Laundry & Dry Cleaning Int’l Union granted a charter by the AFL-CIO – 1958

Int’l Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots merges with Longshoremen’s Association – 1971

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raid the Agriprocessors, Inc. slaughterhouse and meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa, arresting nearly 400 immigrant workers. Some 300 are convicted on document fraud charges. The raid was the largest ever until that date. Several employees and lower and mid-level managers were convicted on various charges, but not the owner—although he later was jailed for bank fraud and related crimes – 2008

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 4/22 – 4/28

April 22

Songwriter, musician and activist Hazel Dickens dies at age 75. Among her songs: “They’ll Never Keep Us Down” and “Working Girl Blues.” Cultural blogger John Pietaro: “Dickens didn’t just sing the anthems of labor, she lived them. Her place on many a picket line, staring down gunfire and goon squads, embedded her into the cause” – 2011

April 23

The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) is founded through a merger of the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada (TLC) and the Canadian Congress of Labour (CCL), the two major union congresses in Canada at the time. The CLC represents the interests of more than three million affiliated workers – 1956

Death of Ida Mae Stull, nationally recognized as the country’s first woman coal miner – 1980

United Farm Workers of America founder Cesar Chavez dies in San Luis, Ariz., at age 66 – 1993

April 24

The Int’l Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union halts shipping on the West Coast in solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Philadelphia journalist who many believed was on death row because he was an outspoken African-American – 1999

An eight-story building housing garment factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapses, killing 1,129 workers and injuring 2,515. A day earlier cracks had been found in the structure, but factory officials, who had contracts with Benneton and other major U.S. labels, insisted the workers return to the job the next day – 2013

April 25

The New York Times declares the struggle for an 8-hour workday to be “un-American” and calls public demonstrations for the shorter hours “labor disturbances brought about by foreigners.” Other publications declare that an eight-hour workday would bring about “loafing and gambling, rioting, debauchery and drunkenness” – 1886

IWW Marine Transport Workers begin West Coast strike – 1923

The Reverend Ralph David Abernathy and 100 others are arrested while picketing a Charleston, S.C., hospital in a demand for union recognition – 1969

Supreme Court rules that employers may not require female employees to make larger contributions to pension plans in order to obtain the same monthly benefits as men – 1978

April 26

The U.S. House of Representatives passes House Joint Resolution No. 184, a constitutional amendment to prohibit the labor of persons under 18 years of age. The Senate approved the measure a few weeks later, but it was never ratified by the states and is still technically pending – 1924

On the orders of President Roosevelt, the U.S. Army seizes the Chicago headquarters of the unionized Montgomery Ward & Co. after management defies the National Labor Relations Board – 1944

April 27

First strike for 10-hour day, by Boston carpenters – 1825

James Oppenheim’s poem “Bread and Roses” published in IWW newspaper Industrial Solidarity – 1911

President Dwight Eisenhower signs Executive Order 10450: Security Requirements for Government Employment. The order listed “sexual perversion” as a condition for firing a federal employee and for denying employment to potential applicants – 1953

A cooling tower for a power plant under construction in Willow Island, West Virginia collapses, killing 51 construction workers in what is thought to be the largest construction accident in U.S. history. OSHA cited contractors for 20 violations, including failures to field test concrete. The cases were settled for $85,000—about $1,700 per worker killed – 1978

April 28

Coal mine collapses at Eccles, W.Va., killing 181 workers – 1914

A total of 119 die in Benwood, W.Va., coal mine disaster – 1924

United Wallpaper Craftsmen & Workers of North America merges with Pulp, Sulfite & Paper Mill Workers – 1958

American Federation of Hosiery Workers merges with Textile Workers Union of America – 1965

Congress creates OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The AFL-CIO sets April 28 as “Workers Memorial Day” to honor all workers killed or injured on the job every year – 1971

First “Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” promoted by the Ms. Foundation, to boost self-esteem of girls with invitations to a parent’s workplace – 1993

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 4/15 – 4/21

April 15

A. Philip Randolph, civil rights leader and founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, born in Crescent City, Fla. – 1889

Eight members of the Musicians union die in the sinking of the Titanic. According to survivors, they played their instruments until nearly the end. Five weeks later a concert organized by the union to benefit the musicians’ families, held in a theater donated for the evening by impresario Flo Ziegfeld, featured the talents of 500 musicians. The evening ended with a rendering of “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” the hymn being played as the ship went down. The union at the time was called the Musical Mutual Protective Union Local 310, the New York affiliate of the American Federation of Musicians – 1912

IWW union Agricultural Workers Organization formed in Kansas City, Mo. – 1915

Teacher unionists gather at the City Club on Plymouth Court in Chicago to form a new national union: the American Federation of Teachers – 1916

Start of ultimately successful six-day strike across New England by one of the earliest women-led American unions, the Telephone Operators Department of IBEW – 1919

Transport Workers Union founded – 1934

The first McDonald’s restaurant opens, in Des Plaines, Ill., setting the stage years later for sociologist Amitai Etzioni to coin the term “McJob.” As defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, a McJob is “an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, especially one created by the expansion of the service sector” – 1955

April 16

Employers lock out 25,000 New York City garment workers in a dispute over hiring practices. The Int’l Ladies’ Garment Workers Union calls a general strike; after 14 weeks, 60,000 strikers win union recognition and the contractual right to strike – 1916

Five hundred workers in Texas City, Texas die in a series of huge oil refinery and chemical plant explosions and fires – 1947

An estimated 20,000 global justice activists blockade Washington, D.C., meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund – 2000

April 17

The Supreme Court holds that a maximum-hours law for New York bakery workers is unconstitutional under the due process clause of the 14th amendment – 1905

An explosion at a West Texas fertilizer plant kills 15 people and injures nearly 300 when 30 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate—stored in sheds without sprinkler systems—caught fire. Of those killed, ten were emergency responders – 2013

April 18

West Virginia coal miners strike, defend selves against National Guard – 1912

After a four-week boycott led by Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., bus companies in New York City agree to hire 200 Black drivers and mechanics – 1941

April 19

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, the nation’s “Furniture City,” more than 6,000 immigrant workers—Germans, Dutch, Lithuanians and Poles—put down their tools and struck 59 factories for four months in what was to become known as the Great Furniture Strike – 1911

An American domestic terrorist’s bomb destroys the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, 99 of whom were government employees – 1995

April 20

Nearly 10,000 demonstrators celebrate textile workers’ win of a 10-percent pay hike and grievance committees after a one-month strike, Lowell, Mass. – 1912

Ludlow massacre: Colorado state militia, using machine guns and fire, kill about 20 people—including 11 children—at a tent city set up by striking coal miners – 1914

An unknown assailant shoots through a window at United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther as he is eating dinner at his kitchen table, permanently impairing his right arm. It was one of at least two assassination attempts on Reuther. He and his wife later died in a small plane crash under what many believe to be suspicious circumstances – 1948

National Association of Post Office Mail Handlers, Watchmen, Messengers & Group Leaders merge with Laborers – 1968

United Auto Workers members end a successful 172-day strike against International Harvester, protesting management demands for new work rules and mandatory overtime provisions – 1980

April 21

New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller signs Taylor Law, permitting union organization and bargaining by public employees, but outlawing the right to strike – 1967

Some 12,500 Goodyear Tire workers strike nine plants in what was to become a 3-week walkout over job security, wage and benefit issues – 1997

Mary Doyle Keefe, who in 1943 posed as “Rosie the Riveter” for famed painter Norman Rockwell, dies at age 92 in Simsbury, Connecticut. Published on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in May 1943, Rosie came to symbolize women factory workers during World War II. (The Rockwell painting is sometimes conjoined in peoples’ memories with a similarly-themed poster by Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller, “We Can Do It!” created the year before.) – 2015

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 4/8 – 4/14

April 08

A total of 128 convict miners, leased to a coal company under the state’s shameful convict lease system, are killed in an explosion at the Banner coal mine outside Birmingham, Ala. The miners were mostly African-Americans jailed for minor offenses – 1911

President Wilson establishes the War Labor Board, composed of representatives from business and labor, to arbitrate disputes between workers and employers during World War I – 1918

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) is approved by Congress. President Franklin Roosevelt proposed the WPA during the Great Depression of the 1930s when almost 25 percent of Americans were unemployed. It created low-paying federal jobs providing immediate relief, putting 8.5 million jobless to work on projects ranging from construction of bridges, highways and public buildings to arts programs like the Federal Writers’ Project – 1935

President Harry S. Truman orders the U.S. Army to seize the nation’s steel mills to avert a strike. The Supreme Court ruled the act illegal three weeks later – 1952

April 09

IWW organizes the 1,700-member crew of the Leviathan, then the world’s largest vessel – 1930

April 10

Birth date of Frances Perkins, named secretary of labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, becoming the first woman to hold a cabinet-level office – 1880

A total of 133 people, mostly women and girls, are killed when an explosion in the loading room tears apart the Eddystone Ammunition Works in Eddystone, Pa., near Chester. Of the dead, 55 were never identified – 1917

Birth date of Dolores Huerta, a co-founder, with Cesar Chavez, of the United Farm Workers – 1930

Dancers from the Lusty Lady Club in San Francisco’s North Beach ratify their first-ever union contract by a vote of 57-15, having won representation by SEIU Local 790 the previous summer. The club, which later became a worker-owned cooperative, closed in 2013 – 1997

Tens of thousands of immigrants demonstrate in 100 U.S. cities in a national day of action billed as a campaign for immigrants’ dignity. Some 200,000 gathered in Washington, D.C. – 2006

April 11

Ford Motor Company signs first contract with United Auto Workers – 1941

Jackie Robinson, first Black ballplayer hired by a major league team, plays his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbetts Field – 1947

United Mine Workers President W. A. “Tony” Boyle is found guilty of first-degree murder, for ordering the 1969 assassination of union reformer Joseph A. “Jock” Yablonski. Yablonski, his wife and daughter were murdered on December 30, 1969. Boyle had defeated Yablonski in the UMW election earlier in the year—an election marred by intimidation and vote fraud. That election was set aside and a later vote was won by reformer Arnold Miller – 1974

Some 34,000 New York City Transit Authority workers, eleven days into a strike for higher wages, end their walkout with agreement on a 9-percent increase in the first year and 8 percent in the second, along with cost-of-living protections – 1980

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issues regulations prohibiting sexual harassment of workers by supervisors in the workplace – 1980

Police in Austin, Minn., tear-gas striking Hormel meatpacking workers. Seventeen strikers are arrested on felony riot charges – 1986

Some 25,000 marchers in Watsonville, Calif., show support for United Farm Workers organizing campaign among strawberry workers, others – 1997

April 12

A group of “puddlers”—craftsmen who manipulated pig iron to create steel—met in a Pittsburgh bar and formed The Iron City Forge of the Sons of Vulcan. It was the strongest union in the U.S. in the 1870s, later merging with two other unions to form what was to be the forerunner of the United Steel Workers – 1858

Birth of Florence Reece, active in Harlan County, Ky., coal strikes and author of famed labor song “Which Side Are You On?” – 1900

The Union Label and Service Trades Department is founded by the American Federation of Labor. Its mission: promote the products and services of union members – 1909

Twenty “girl millworkers,” attempting to relieve striking pickets at the Garfield, New Jersey, mill of Forstmann and Huffmann, were beaten “when they did not move fast enough to suit” 30 special deputies who ordered them off the site, according to a news report – 1912

Chris Turner is born in Floyd, Va. He went on to become a NASCAR driver and attempted, along with Fireball Roberts and Tim Flock, to organize the other drivers into a union in 1961 in the hope of better purses, a share in broadcasting rights and retirement benefits for the drivers. He was banned by NASCAR and was unsuccessful when he sued for reinstatement. The court said he was an individual contractor, not an employee of NASCAR or any track – 1924

The Toledo (Ohio) Auto-Lite strike begins today with 6,000 workers demanding union recognition and higher pay. The strike is notable for a 5-day running battle in late May between the strikers and 1,300 members of the Ohio National Guard. Known as the “Battle of Toledo,” the clash left two strikers dead and more than 200 injured. The 2-month strike, a win for the workers’ union, is regarded by many labor historians as one of the nation’s three most important strikes – 1934

April 13

Int’l Hod Carriers & Building Laborers’ Union (today’s Laborers’ Int’l Union) is founded, as 25 delegates from 23 Local Unions in 17 cities—representing 8,186 Laborers—meet in Washington, D.C. – 1903

A 17-year-old Jimmy Hoffa leads his co-workers at a Kroger warehouse in Clinton, Indiana, in a successful job action: by refusing to unload a shipment of perishable strawberries, they forced the company to give in to their demands. Among other things: the “strawberry boys” had to report to work at 4:30 a.m., stay on the job for 12 hours, and were paid 32¢ an hour—only if growers arrived with berries to unload. Plus, they were required to spend three-fourths of any earnings buying goods from Kroger – 1930

Labor leader and Socialist Party founder Eugene V. Debs is imprisoned for opposing American entry into World War I. While in jail he ran for president, received 1 million votes – 1919

Teaching and research assistants at Harvard University vote to join the United Auto Workers – 2018

April 14

More than 100 Mexican and Filipino farm workers are arrested for union activities, Imperial Valley, Calif. Eight were convicted of “criminal syndicalism” – 1930

John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath published – 1939

The United Steelworkers and the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers unions merge to form the largest industrial union in North America – 2005

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 4/1 – 4/7

April 01

Many believe that Cincinnati on this day became the first U.S. city to pay fire fighters a regular salary. Others say no, it was Boston, back in 1678, exact date unknown – 1853

United Mine Workers of America win 8-hour day – 1898

San Francisco laundry workers strike for wage increases and an 8-hour day – 1907

What was to become a 13-week strike begins today in Hopedale, Mass., when hundreds of workers seeking higher pay and a 9-hour day gathered in the street near the Draper Corp. loom-making plant. The president of the company declared: “We will spend $1 million to break this strike,” and, in fact, did, aided by hundreds of sworn “special policemen” with clubs. Police were drawn from a three-state area as well – 1913

Unionized miners at West Virginia’s Coal River Colliery Co. (CRC) strike for union scale. CRC was an investment venture of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE), with shares owned by BLE members – 1924 (Source: Conflict at Coal River Collieries: The UMWA Versus the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, by Thomas J. Robertson & Ronald L. Lewis)

Strike of cotton mill workers begins in Gastonia, N.C. During the strike, police raided the strikers’ tent colony; the chief of police was killed. The strike leaders were framed for murder and convicted, but later freed – 1929

Some 400,000 members of the United Mine Workers strike for higher wages and employer contributions to the union’s health and welfare fund. President Truman seizes the mines – 1946

Forty thousand textile workers strike in cotton and rayon mills of six southern states, seeking higher pay, sickness and accident insurance, and pensions – 1951

Longest newspaper strike in U.S. history, 114 days, ends in New York City. Workers at nine newspapers were involved – 1963

Major league baseball players begin what is to become a 13-day strike, ending when owners agree to increase pension fund payments and to add salary arbitration to the collective bargaining agreement – 1972

Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters merges with Brotherhood of Railway, Airline & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees – 1978

Eleven-day strike by 34,000 New York City transit workers begins, halts bus and subway service in all five boroughs before strikers return to work with a 17 percent raise over two years plus a cost-of-living adjustment – 1980

United Cement, Lime & Gypsum Workers Int’l Union merges with Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers & Helpers – 1984

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers granted a charter by the AFL-CIO – 1989

The U.S. minimum wage increases to $3.80 per hour – 1990

The United Mine Workers of America dedicates the John L. Lewis Mining and Labor Museum at Lewis’ boyhood home in Lucas, Iowa – 1990

The U.S. minimum wage increases to $4.25 per hour – 1991

Players begin the first strike in the 75-year history of the National Hockey League. They win major improvements in the free agency system and other areas of conflict, and end the walkout after 10 days – 1992

April 02

The Union Label Trades Department is chartered by the American Federation of Labor. Its mission: promote the products and services produced in America by union members, especially those products identified by a union label, shop card, store card, and service button – 1909

The Supreme Court declares unconstitutional a 1918 Washington, D.C., law establishing a minimum wage for women – 1923

Major league baseball players end a 232-day strike, which began the prior August 12 and led to the cancellation of the 1994 postseason and the World Series – 1995

April 03

Some 20,000 textile mill strikers in Paterson, N.J., gather on the green in front of the house of Pietro Botto, the socialist mayor of nearby Haledon, to receive encouragement by novelist Upton Sinclair, journalist John Reed and speakers from the Wobblies. Today, the Botto House is home to the American Labor Museum – 1913

UAW Local 833 strikes the Kohler bathroom fixtures company in Kohler, Wisc. The strike ends six years later after Kohler is found guilty of refusing to bargain, agrees to reinstate 1,400 strikers and pay them $4.5 million in back pay and pension credits – 1954

Martin Luther King Jr. returns to Memphis to stand with striking AFSCME sanitation workers. This evening, he delivers his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in a church packed with union members and others. He is assassinated the following day – 1968

April 04

The first issue of The Labor Review, a “weekly magazine for organized workers,” was published in Minneapolis. Edna George, a cigar packer in Minneapolis, won $10 in gold for suggesting the name “Labor Review.” The Labor Review has been published continuously since then, currently as a monthly publication – 1907

Unemployed riot in New York City’s Union Square – 1914

Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, where he had been supporting a sanitation workers’ strike. In the wake of this tragedy, riots break out in many cities, including Washington, D.C. – 1968

Some 1,700 United Mine Workers members in Virginia and West Virginia beat back concessions demanded by Pittston Coal Co. – 1989

The Democratic governors of New York and California sign legislation enacting phased-in $15-per-hour minimum wages for workers in their states. Since 2009, the federal minimum had been stagnating at $7.25 – 2016

April 05

Columnist Victor Riesel, a crusader against mob infiltration of unions, was blinded in New York City when an assailant threw sulfuric acid in his face. He was also an FBI informer for decades, a proponent of the McCarthy era blacklisting that weakened unions for over a generation, and a crusader against unions connecting with anti-war student activism in the 1960’s and 70’s – 1956

Some 14,000 teachers strike Hawaii schools, colleges – 2001

A huge underground explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, W. Va., kills 29 miners. It was the worst U.S. mine disaster in 40 years. The Massey Energy Co. mine had been cited for two safety infractions the day before the blast; 57 the month before, and 1,342 in the previous five years. Six years later Massey’s CEO at the time of the disaster, Don Blankenship, was sentenced to one year in jail – 2010

April 06

The first slave revolt in the U.S. occurs at a slave market in New York City’s Wall Street area. Twenty-one Blacks were executed for killing nine Whites. The city responded by strengthening its slave codes – 1712

Birth of Rose Schneiderman, prominent member of the New York Women’s Trade Union League, an active participant in the Uprising of the 20,000, the massive strike of shirtwaist workers in New York City led by the Int’l Ladies Garment Workers’ Union in 1909, and famous for an angry speech about the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire: “Every week I must learn of the untimely death of one of my sister workers…Too much blood has been spilled. I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. The only way they can save themselves is by a strong working-class movement” – 1882

A sympathy strike by Chicago Teamsters in support of clothing workers leads to daily clashes between strikebreakers and armed police against hundreds and sometimes thousands of striking workers and their supporters. By the time the fight ended after 103 days, 21 people had been killed and 416 injured – 1905

50 workers at Connecticut Automotive Specialty Company (Casco) in Bridgeport, CT, conduct a sit-down strike to win recognition of the UE as their bargaining agent while other workers and allies picket outside the plant. Within 24 hours they won a wage increase and union recognition – 1937

What was to become a two-month strike by minor league umpires begins, largely over money: $5,500 to $15,000 for a season running 142 games. The strike ended with a slight improvement in pay – 2006

April 07

National Labor Relations Board attorney tells ILWU members to “lie down like good dogs,” Juneau, Alaska – 1947

Some 300,000 members of the National Federation of Telephone Workers, soon to become CWA, strike AT&T and the Bell System. Within five weeks all but two of the 39 federation unions had won new contracts – 1947

Fifteen thousand union janitors strike, Los Angeles – 2000

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 3/25 – 3/31

March 25

Toronto printers strike for the 9-hour day in what is believed to be Canada’s first major strike – 1872

First “Poor People’s March” on Washington, in which jobless workers demanded creation of a public works program. Led by populist Jacob Coxey, the 500 to 1,000 unemployed protesters became known as “Coxey’s Army” – 1894

A total of 146 workers are killed in a fire at New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, a disaster that would launch a national movement for safer working conditions – 1911

An explosion at a coal mine in Centralia, Ill., kills 111 miners. Mineworkers President John L. Lewis calls a 6-day work stoppage by the nation’s 400,000 soft coal miners to demand safer working conditions – 1947

March 26

San Francisco brewery workers begin a 9-month strike as local employers follow the union-busting lead of the National Brewer’s Association and fire their unionized workers, replacing them with scabs. Two unionized brewers refused to go along, kept producing beer, prospered wildly and induced the Association to capitulate. A contract benefit since having unionized two years earlier, certainly worth defending: free beer – 1868

March 27

Mother Jones is ordered to leave Colorado, where state authorities accuse her of “stirring up” striking coal miners – 1904

U.S. Supreme Court rules that undocumented workers do not have the same rights as Americans when they are wrongly fired – 2002

March 28

Members of Gas House Workers’ Union Local 18799 begin what is to become a 4-month recognition strike against the Laclede Gas Light Co. in St. Louis. The union later said the strike was the first ever against a public utility in the U.S. – 1935

Martin Luther King, Jr., leads a march of striking sanitation workers, members of AFSCME Local 1733, in Memphis, Tenn. Violence during the march persuades him to return the following week to Memphis, where he was assassinated – 1968

March 29

Ohio makes it illegal for children under 18 and women to work more than 10 hours a day – 1852

Sam Walton, founder of the huge and bitterly anti-union Walmart empire, born in Kingfisher, Okla. He once said that his priority was to “Buy American,” but Walmart is now the largest U.S. importer of foreign-made goods—often produced under sweatshop conditions – 1918

“Battle of Wall Street,” police charge members of the United Financial Employees’ Union, striking against the New York Stock Exchange and New York Curb Exchange (now known as the American Stock Exchange). Forty-three workers are arrested in what was to be the first and only strike in the history of either exchange – 1948

National Maritime Union of America merges with National Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association – 1988

March 30

Chicago stockyard workers win 8-hour day – 1918

At the height of the Great Depression, 35,000 unemployed march in New York’s Union Square. Police beat many demonstrators, injuring 100 – 1930

The federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act is enacted – 1970

Harry Bridges, Australian-born dock union leader, dies at age 88. He helped form and lead the Int’l Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) for 40 years. A Bridges quote: “The most important word in the language of the working class is ‘solidarity’” – 1990

Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild announce that the membership has voted to merge with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, creating the 150,000-member SAG-AFTRA – 2012

March 31

President Martin Van Buren issues a broadly-applicable executive order granting the 10-hour day to all government employees engaged in manual labor – 1840

Cowboys earning $40 per month begin what is to become an unsuccessful two-and-a-half-month strike for higher wages at five ranches in the Texas Panhandle – 1883

Cesar Chavez born in Yuma, Ariz.- 1927

Construction begins on the three-mile Hawk’s Nest Tunnel through Gauley Mountain, W. Va., as part of a hydroelectric project. A congressional hearing years later was to report that 476 laborers in the mostly Black, migrant workforce of 3,000 were exposed to silica rock dust in the course of their 10-hour-a-day, six-days-a-week shifts and died of silicosis. Some researchers say that more than 1,000 died – 1930

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs legislation establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps to help alleviate suffering during the Depression. By the time the program ended after the start of World War II it had provided jobs for more than six million men and boys. The average enrollee gained 11 pounds in his first three months – 1933

Wisconsin state troopers fail to get scabs across the picket line to break a 76-day Allis-Chalmers strike in Milwaukee led by UAW Local 248. The plant remained closed until the government negotiated a compromise – 1941

Federal judge Sonia Sotomayor, later to become a Supreme Court justice, issues an injunction against baseball team owners to end a 232-day work stoppage – 1995

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 3/18 – 3/24

March 18

Six laborers in Dorset, England—the “Tolpuddle Martyrs”—are banished to the Australian penal colony for seven years for forming a union, the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. Some 800,000 residents of the United Kingdom signed petitions calling for their release – 1834

Police evict retail clerks occupying New York Woolworth’s in fight for 40-hour week – 1937

The Post Office’s first mass work stoppage in 195 years begins in Brooklyn and Manhattan and spreads to 210,000 of the nation’s 750,000 postal employees. Mail service is virtually paralyzed in several cities, and President Nixon declares a state of emergency. A settlement comes after two weeks – 1970

The Los Angeles City Council passes the first living wage ordinance in California. The ordinance required almost all city contractors to pay a minimum wage of $8.50 an hour, or $7.25 if the employer was contributing at least $1.25 toward health benefits, with annual adjustments for inflation – 1997

Walmart agrees to pay a record $11 million to settle a civil immigration case for using undocumented immigrants to do overnight cleaning at stores in 21 states – 2005

As the Great Recession continues, President Obama signs a $17.6 billion job-creation measure a day after it is passed by Congress – 2010

March 19

U.S. Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the Adamson Act, a federal law that established an eight-hour workday, with overtime pay, for interstate railway workers. Congress passed the law a year earlier to avert a nationwide rail strike – 1917

In an effort to block massive layoffs and end a strike, New York City moves to condemn and seize Fifth Avenue Coach, the largest privately owned bus company in the world – 1962

Three workers are killed, five injured during a test of the Space Shuttle Columbia – 1981

March 20

Michigan authorizes formation of workers’ cooperatives. Thirteen are formed in the state over a 25-year period. Labor reform organizations were advocating “cooperation” over “competitive” capitalism following the Civil War and several thousand cooperatives opened for business across the country during this era. Participants envisioned a world free from conflict where workers would receive the full value of their labor and freely exercise democratic citizenship in the political and economic realms – 1865

Fifty-eight workers are killed, 150 injured when a boiler explosion levels the R.B. Grover shoe factory in Brockton, Mass. The four-story wooden building collapsed and the ruins burst into flames, incinerating workers trapped in the wreckage – 1905

The American Federation of Labor issues a charter to a new Building Trades Department. Trades unions had formed a Structural Building Trades Alliance several years earlier to work out jurisdictional conflicts, but lacked the power to enforce Alliance rulings – 1908

Members of the Int’l Union of Electrical Workers reach agreement with Westinghouse Electric Corp., end a 156-day strike – 1956

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that employers could not exclude women from (the often highest paying) jobs where exposure to toxic chemicals could potentially damage a fetus – 1991

Three hundred family farmers at a National Pork Producers Council meeting in Iowa protest factory-style hog farms – 1997

March 21

American Labor Union founded – 1853

March 22

Mark Twain, a lifelong member of the Int’l Typographical Union (now part of CWA), speaks in Hartford, Conn., extolling the Knights of Labor’s commitment to fair treatment of all workers, regardless of race or gender – 1886

The Grand Coulee Dam on Washington state’s Columbia River begins operation after a decade of construction. Eight thousand workers labored on the project; 77 died – 1941

Eight hundred striking workers at Brown & Sharpe in Kingstown, R.I. are tear-gassed by state and local police in what was to become a losing 17-year-long fight by the Machinists union – 1982

A 32-day lockout of major league baseball players ends with an agreement to raise the minimum league salary from $68,000 to $100,000 and to study revenue-sharing between owners and players – 1990

A bitter six-and-a-half-year UAW strike at Caterpillar Inc. ends. The strike and settlement, which included a two-tier wage system and other concessions, deeply divided the union – 1998

March 23

Trial of 101 Wobblies, charged with opposing the draft and hindering the war effort, begins in Chicago – 1918

Norris-La Guardia Act restricts injunctions against unions and bans yellow dog contracts, which require newly-hired workers to declare they are not union members and will not join one – 1932

Five days into the Post Office’s first mass work stoppage in 195 years, President Nixon declares a national emergency and orders 30,000 troops to New York City to break the strike. The troops didn’t have a clue how to sort and deliver mail: a settlement came a few days later – 1970

Coalition of Labor Union Women founded in Chicago by some 3,000 delegates from 58 unions and other organizations – 1974

Fifteen workers die, another 170 are injured when a series of explosions rip through BP’s Texas City refinery. Investigators blamed a poor safety culture at the plant and found BP management gave priority to cost savings over worker safety – 2005

March 24

Groundbreaking on the first section of the New York City subway system, from City Hall to the Bronx. According to the New York Times, this was a worker’s review of the digging style of the well-dressed Subway Commissioners: “I wouldn’t give th’ Commish’ners foive cents a day fer a digging job. They’re too shtiff” – 1900

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 3/11 – 3/17

March 11

Luddites smash 63 “labor saving” textile machines near Nottingham, England – 1811

Transport Workers Union members at American Airlines win 11-day national strike, gaining what the union says was the first severance pay clause in industry – 1950

March 12
Greedy industrialist turned benevolent philanthropist Andrew Carnegie pledges $5.2 million for the construction of 65 branch libraries in New York City—barely 1 percent of his net worth at the time. He established more than 2,500 libraries between 1900 and 1919 following years of treating workers in his steel plants brutally, demanding long hours in horrible conditions and fighting their efforts to unionize. Carnegie made $500 million when he sold out to J.P. Morgan, becoming the world’s richest man – 1901
The first tunnel under the Hudson River is completed after 30 years of drilling, connecting Jersey City and Manhattan. In just one of many tragedies during the project, 20 workers died on a single day in 1880 when the tunnel flooded – 1904

The Lawrence, Mass., “Bread and Roses” textile strike ends when the American Woolen Co. agrees to most of the strikers’ demands; other textile companies quickly followed suit – 1912

Lane Kirkland, president of the AFL-CIO from 1979 to 1995, born in Camden, S.C. – 1922

Steelworkers approve a settlement with Oregon Steel Mills, Inc. and its CF&I Steel subsidiary, ending the longest labor dispute in the USWA’s history and resulting in more than $100 million in back pay for workers – 2004

March 13

The term “rat,” referring to a worker who betrays fellow workers, first appears in print in the New York Daily Sentinel. The newspaper was quoting a typesetter while reporting on replacement workers who had agreed to work for two-thirds of the going rate – 1830

“The laborers on the Cape Cod ship canal refuse to work and say they will not return until better food is provided.” No further details were offered in this Trenton Times report – 1884

A four-month UAW strike at General Motors ends with a new contract. The strikers were trying to make up for the lack of wage hikes during World War II – 1946

March 14

Fabled railroad engineer John Luther “Casey” Jones born in southeast Missouri. A member of the Railroad Engineers, he was the sole fatality in a wreck near Vaughan, Miss., on April 29, 1900. His skill and heroics prevented many more deaths – 1863

Henry Ford announced the new continuous motion method to assemble cars. The process decreased the time to make a car from 12 and a half hours to 93 minutes. Goodbye, craftsmanship. Hello, drudgery – 1914

The movie Salt of the Earth opens. The classic film centers on a long and difficult strike led by Mexican-American and Anglo zinc miners in New Mexico. Real miners perform in the film, in which the miners’ wives—as they did in real life—take to the picket lines after the strikers are enjoined. After months of union-busting activity, the union was decertified in September 2014 – 1954

March 15

Official formation of the Painters Int’l Union – 1887

Supreme Court approves 8-Hour Act under threat of a national railway strike – 1917

Bituminous coal miners begin nationwide strike, demanding adoption of a pension plan – 1948

The Wall Street Journal begins a series alleging insider stock deals at the union-owned Union Labor Life Insurance Co. (ULLICO). After three years a settlement was reached with Robert Georgine, a building trades leader serving as ULLICO president and CEO, requiring him to repay about $2.6 million in profits from the sale of ULLICO stock, forfeit $10 million in compensation and make other payments worth about $4.4 million. All but two of the company’s directors were said to have profited from the deals – 2002

March 16

The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) is formed in New York to represent New York City public school teachers and, later, other education workers in the city – 1960

March 17

The leadership of the American Federation of Labor selects the Carpenters union to lead the 8-hour movement. Carpenters throughout the country strike in April; by May 1, some 46,000 carpenters in 137 cities and towns have achieved shorter hours – 1890

A U.S.-China treaty prevents Chinese laborers from entering the U.S. – 1894

Staffers at San Francisco progressive rock station KMPX-FM strike, citing corporate control over what music is played and harassment over hair and clothing styles, among other things. The Rolling Stones, Joan Baez, the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and other musicians request that the station not play their music as long as the station is run by strikebreakers – 1968

Boeing Co. and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) come to terms on a new contract, settling the largest white-collar walkout in U.S. history. SPEEA represented some 22,000 workers, of whom 19,000 honored picket lines for 40 days – 2000

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 3/4 – 3/10

March 04

In his inaugural address, President Thomas Jefferson declares: “Take not from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” – 1801

President William Howard Taft signs legislation creating the Department of Labor. Former United Mine Workers Secretary Treasurer William B. Wilson is named to lead the new department – 1913

President Franklin D. Roosevelt names a woman, Frances Perkins, to be secretary of labor. Perkins became the first female cabinet member in U.S. history – 1933

Machinists strike Eastern Airlines, are soon joined by flight attendants and pilots in the nationwide walkout. Owner Frank Lorenzo refuses to consider the unions’ demands; Eastern ultimately went out of business – 1989

March 05

British soldiers, quartered in the homes of colonists, took the jobs of working people when jobs were scarce. On this date, grievances of rope makers against the soldiers led to a fight. Soldiers shot down Crispus Attucks, a Black colonist, then others, in what became known as the Boston Massacre. Attucks is considered the first casualty in the American Revolution – 1770

United Shoe Workers of America merge with Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union – 1979

March 06

The Sailors’ Union of the Pacific, a union of mariners, fishermen and boatmen working aboard U.S. flag vessels, is founded in San Francisco – 1885

The Knights of Labor picket to protest the practices of the Southwestern Railroad system, and the company’s chief, high-flying Wall Street financier Jay Gould. Some 9,000 workers walked off the job, halting service on 5,000 miles of track. The workers held out for two months, many suffering from hunger, before they finally returned to work – 1886

Joe Hill’s song “There is Power in a Union” appears in Little Red Song Book, published by the Wobblies – 1913

With the Great Depression underway, hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers demonstrated in some 30 cities and towns; close to 100,000 filled Union Square in New York City and were attacked by mounted police – 1930

Int’l Brotherhood of Paper Makers merges with United Paperworkers of America to become United Papermakers & Paperworkers – 1957

The federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act is enacted – 1970

Predominantly young workers at a Lordstown, Ohio, GM assembly plant stage a wildcat strike, largely in objection to the grueling work pace: at 101.6 cars per hour, their assembly line was believed to be the fastest in the world – 1972

President Jimmy Carter invoked the Taft-Hartley law to halt the 1977-78 national contract strike by the United Mine Workers of America. The order was ignored and Carter did little to enforce it. A settlement was reached in late March – 1978

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the nation’s unemployment rate soared to 8.1 percent in February, the highest since late 1983, as cost-cutting employers slashed 651,000 jobs amid a deepening recession – 2009

March 07

Some 6,000 shoemakers, joined by about 20,000 other workers, strike in Lynn, Mass. They won raises, but not recognition of their union – 1860

Three thousand unemployed auto workers, led by the Communist Party of America, braved the cold in Dearborn, Mich., to demand jobs and relief from Henry Ford. The marchers got too close to the gate and were gassed. After re-grouping, they were sprayed with water and shot at. Four men died immediately; 60 were wounded – 1932

Steel Workers Organizing Committee—soon to become the United Steel Workers—signs its first-ever contract, with Carnegie-Illinois, for $5 a day in wages, benefits – 1937

IWW founder and labor organizer Lucy Parsons dies – 1942

Hollywood writers represented by the Writers Guild of America strike against 200 television and movie studios over residuals payments and creative rights. The successful strike lasted 150 days, one of the longest in industry history – 1988

Musicians strike Broadway musicals and shows go dark when actors and stagehands honor picket lines. The strike was resolved after four days – 2003

March 08

Three explosions at a Utah Fuel Co. mine in Castle Gate, Utah, kill 171. Fifty of the fatalities were native-born Greeks, 25 were Italians, 32 English or Scots, 12 Welsh, four Japanese, and three Austrians (or South Slavs). The youngest victim was 15; the oldest, 73 – 1924

New York members of the Fur and Leather Workers Union, many of them women, strike for better pay and conditions. They persevere despite beatings by police, winning a 10-percent wage increase and five-day work week – 1926

The Norris-LaGuardia Anti-Injunction Act took effect on this day. It limits the ability of federal judges to issue injunctions against workers and unions involved in labor disputes – 1932

With roots in the socialist movements of the early 20th century, the first International Women’s Day commemorated as established by the United Nations General Assembly – 1977

César Chávez leads 5,000 striking farmworkers on a march through the streets of Salinas, Calif. – 1979

March 09

The Westmoreland County (Pa.) Coal Strike—known as the “Slovak strike” because some 70 percent of the 15,000 strikers were Slovakian immigrants—begins on this date and continues for nearly 16 months before ending in defeat. Sixteen miners and family members were killed during the strike – 1912

Spurred by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the U.S. Congress begins its 100 days of enacting New Deal legislation. Just one of many programs established to help Americans survive the Great Depression: The Civilian Conservation Corps, which put 2.5 million young men on the government payroll to help in national conservation and infrastructure projects – 1933

Work begins on the $8 billion, 800-mile-long Alaska Oil pipeline connecting oil fields in northern Alaska to the sea port at Valdez. Tens of thousands of people worked on the pipeline, enduring long hours, cold temperatures and brutal conditions. At least 32 died on the job – 1974

March 10

U.S. Supreme Court upholds espionage conviction of labor leader and socialist Eugene V. Debs. Debs was jailed for speaking out against World War I. Campaigning for president from his Atlanta jail cell, he won 3.4 percent of the vote—nearly a million votes – 1919

New York City bus drivers, members of the Transport Workers Union, go on strike. After 12 days of no buses—and a large show of force by Irish-American strikers at the St. Patrick’s Day parade—Mayor Fiorello La Guardia orders arbitration – 1941

United Farm Workers leader César Chávez breaks a 24-day fast, by doctor’s order, at a mass in Delano, California’s public park. Several thousand supporters are at his side, including Sen. Robert Kennedy. Chavez called it “a fast for non-violence and a call to sacrifice” – 1968

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 2/25 – 3/3

February 25

Amalgamated Association of Street & Electric Railway Employees of America change name to Amalgamated Transit Union – 1965

The Order of Railroad Telegraphers change name to Transportation-Communication Employees Union – 1965

A crowd estimated to be 100,000 strong rallied at the Wisconsin state Capitol in protest of what was ultimately was to become a successful push by the state’s Republican majority to cripple public employee bargaining rights – 2011

February 26

Congress OKs the Contract Labor Law, designed to clamp down on “business agents” who contracted abroad for immigrant labor. One of the reasons unions supported the measure: employers were using foreign workers to fight against the growing U.S. labor movement, primarily by deploying immigrant labor to break strikes – 1885

Bethlehem Steel workers strike for union recognition, Bethlehem, Pa. – 1941

A coal slag heap doubling as a dam in West Virginia’s Buffalo Creek Valley collapsed, flooding the 17-mile long valley. 118 died, 5,000 were left homeless. The Pittston Coal Co. said it was “an act of God” – 1972

A 20-week strike by 70,000 Southern California supermarket workers ends, with both sides claiming victory – 2004

February 27

Legendary labor leader and socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs becomes charter member and secretary of the Vigo Lodge, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen. Five years later he is leading the national union and in 1893 helps found the nation’s first industrial union, the American Railway Union – 1875

Birth of John Steinbeck in Salinas, Calif. Steinbeck is best known for writing The Grapes of Wrath, which exposed the mistreatment of migrant farm workers during the Depression and led to some reforms – 1902

Thirty-eight miners die in a coal mine explosion in Boissevain, Va. – 1932

Four hundred fifty Woolworth’s workers and customers occupy store for eight days in support of Waiters and Waitresses Union, Detroit – 1937

The Supreme Court rules that sit-down strikes, a major organizing tool for industrial unions, are illegal – 1939

Mine disaster kills 75 at Red Lodge, Mont. – 1943

February 28

U.S. Supreme Court finds that a Utah state law limiting mine and smelter workers to an 8-hour workday is constitutional – 1898

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) is organized on this day as 36 delegates representing 24 local fire fighter unions convene in Washington, DC. They debate on a name for the new organization, deciding between the International Brotherhood of Fire Fighters and the International Association of Fire Fighters – 1918

A fifteen-week strike in San Francisco by 108 members of the ILGWU’s “Chinese Ladies Garment Workers Union” was started against a National Dollar Stores factory and three retail stores on February 26, 1938. Two weeks after white retail clerks struck in support, the strike was won. Workers received a pay increase, enforcement of health and safety regulations, and guarantees of work. Although the company closed a year later, the union later helped Chinese workers get positions in previously white-only shops, and some moved into leadership positions in the ILGWU – 1938

(Actually leap year Feb. 29) Screen Actors Guild member Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American to win an Academy Award, honored for her portrayal of “Mammy” in “Gone with the Wind” – 1940

In response to the layoff of 450 union members at a 3M factory in New Jersey, every worker at a 3M factory in Elandsfontein, South Africa, walks off the job in sympathy – 1986

March 01

The Granite Cutters National Union begins what is to be a successful nationwide strike for the 8-hour day. Also won: union recognition, wage increases, a grievance procedure and a minimum wage scale – 1900

Joseph Curran is born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. At age 16 he joined the Merchant Marines and in 1937 went on to lead the formation of the National Maritime Union. He was the union’s founding president and held the post until 1973, when he resigned amidst corruption charges. He died in 1981 – 1906

IWW strikes Portland, Ore., sawmills – 1907

An article in the March 1936 edition of the magazine Popular Science lists what it terms “the world’s craziest jobs,” all of them in Hollywood. Included: Horse-tail painter (to make the tails stand out better in the movies); bone-bleacher (for animal skeletons in Westerns); and chorus-girl weigher, whose function the article did not make terribly clear – 1936

Sailors aboard the S.S. California, docked in San Pedro, Calif., refuse to cast off the lines and allow the ship to sail until their wages are increased and overtime paid. The job action lasts three days before the secretary of labor intervenes and an agreement is reached. The leaders were fined two days’ pay, fired and blacklisted, although charges of mutiny were dropped. The action marked the beginnings of the National Maritime Union – 1936

After five years of labor by 21,000 workers, 112 of whom were killed on the job, the Hoover Dam (Boulder Dam) is completed and turned over to the government. Citizens were so mad at President Herbert Hoover, for whom the dam had been named, that it was later changed to Boulder Dam, being located near Boulder City, Nev. – 1936

CIO president John L. Lewis and U.S. Steel President Myron Taylor sign a landmark contract in which the bitterly anti-union company officially recognized the CIO as sole negotiator for the company’s unionized workers. Included: the adoption of overtime pay, the 40-hour work week, and a big pay hike – 1937

The federal minimum wage increases to $1 per hour – 1956

March 02

Postal workers granted 8-hour day – 1913

More than 6,000 drivers strike Greyhound Lines, most lose jobs to strikebreakers after company declares “impasse” in negotiations – 1990

March 03

Birth date in Coshocton, Ohio, of William Green, a coal miner who was to succeed Samuel Gompers as president of the American Federation of Labor, serving in the role from 1924 to 1952. He held the post until his death, to be succeeded by George Meany – 1873

The local lumber workers’ union in Humboldt County, Calif., founded the Union Labor Hospital Association to establish a hospital for union workers in the county. The hospital became an important community facility that was financed and run by the local labor movement – 1906

Congress approves the Seamen’s Act, providing the merchant marine with rights similar to those gained by factory workers. Action on the law was prompted by the sinking of the Titanic three years earlier. Among other gains: working hours were limited to 56 per week; guaranteed minimum standards of cleanliness and safety were put in place – 1915

The Davis-Bacon Act took effect today. It orders contractors on federally financed or assisted construction projects to pay wage rates equal to those prevailing in local construction trades – 1931

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 2/18 – 2/24

February 18

One of the first American labor newspapers, The Man, is published in New York City. It cost 1¢ and, according to The History of American Journalism, “died an early death.” Another labor paper, N.Y. Daily Sentinel, had been launched four years earlier – 1834

Faced with 84-hour workweeks, 24-hour shifts and pay of 29¢ an hour, fire fighters form The Int’l Association of Fire Fighters. Some individual locals had affiliated with the AFL beginning in 1903 – 1918
February 19

American Federation of Labor issues a charter to its new Railroad Employees Department – 1909

A few weeks after workers ask for a 25¢ hourly wage, the Philadelphia Rapid Transit (streetcar) Co. fires 173 union members “for the good of the service” and brings in replacements from New York City. Striker-scab battles and a general strike ensued – 1910

Journeymen Stonecutters Association of North America merges with Laborers’ Int’l Union – 1968

The U.S. Supreme Court decides in favor of sales clerk Leura Collins and her union, the Retail Clerks, in NLRB v. J. Weingarten Inc.—the case establishing that workers have a right to request the presence of their union steward if they believe they are to be disciplined for a workplace infraction – 1975

Int’l Union of Police Associations granted a charter by the AFL-CIO – 1979

Farm Labor Organizing Committee signs agreement with Campbell Soup Co., ending 7-year boycott – 1986

February 20

Responding to a 15 percent wage cut, women textile workers in Lowell, Mass., organize a “turn-out”—a strike—in protest. The action failed. Two years later they formed the Factory Girl’s Association in response to a rent hike in company boarding houses and the increase was rescinded. One worker’s diary recounts a “stirring speech” of resistance by a co-worker, 11-year-old Harriet Hanson Robinson – 1834

Rally for unemployed becomes major confrontation in Philadelphia, 18 arrested for demanding jobs – 1908

Thousands of women march to New York’s City Hall demanding relief from exorbitant wartime food prices. Inflation had wiped out any wage gains made by workers, leading to a high level of working class protest during World War I – 1917

United Mine Workers settle 10-month Pittston strike in Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia – 1990

February 21

A state law was enacted in California providing the 8-hour day for most workers, but it was not effectively enforced – 1868

Transportation-Communication Employees Union merges with Brotherhood of Railway, Airline & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees – 1969

United Farm Workers of America granted a charter by the AFL-CIO – 1972

February 22

Representatives of the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers meet in St. Louis with 20 other organizations to plan the founding convention of the People’s Party. Objectives: end political corruption, spread the wealth, and combat the oppression of the rights of workers and farmers – 1892

Albert Shanker dies at age 68. He served as president of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers from 1964 to 1984 and of the American Federation of Teachers from 1974 to 1997 – 1997

Some 34,000 public school teachers throughout West Virginia struck today in protest of poor pay (they were ranked as the 48th worst-paid throughout the 50 states) and concerns over health care costs. They returned to work March 7 after scoring a 5 percent raise. The strike inspired aggressive teacher action in several other low-wage states including Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona – 2018

February 23

W.E.B. DuBois, educator and civil rights activist, born – 1868

The National Marine Engineers Association (now the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association), representing deck and engine officers on U.S. flag vessels, is formed at a convention in Cleveland, Ohio – 1875

The Journeyman Bakers’ National Union receives its charter from the American Federation of Labor – 1887

William Randolph Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner began publishing articles on the menace of Japanese laborers, leading to a resolution in the California legislature that action be taken against their immigration – 1904

Woody Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land” following a frigid trip—partially by hitchhiking, partially by rail—from California to Manhattan. The Great Depression was still raging. Guthrie had heard Kate Smith’s recording of “God Bless America” and resolved to himself: “We can’t just bless America, we’ve got to change it” – 1940

Association of Flight Attendants granted a charter by the AFL-CIO – 1984

Following voter approval for the measure in 2003, San Francisco’s minimum wage rises to $8.50, up from $6.75 – 2004

February 24

U.S. Supreme Court upholds Oregon state restrictions on the working hours of women, justified as necessary to protect their health. A laundry owner was fined $10 for making a female employee work more than 10 hours in a single day – 1908

Women and children textile strikers beaten by Lawrence, Mass., police during a 63-day walkout protesting low wages and work speedups – 1912

Congress passes a federal child labor tax law that imposed a 10 percent tax on companies that employ children, defined as anyone under the age of 16 working in a mine/quarry or under the age 14 in a “mill, cannery, workshop, factory, or manufacturing establishment.” The Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional three years later – 1919

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 2/11 – 2/17

February 11

Five hundred Japanese and 200 Mexican laborers unite to fight the labor contractor responsible for hiring at the American Beet Sugar Co. in Oxnard, Calif. They ultimately win higher wages and the right to shop at stores not owned by the company – 1903

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones is arrested while leading a protest of conditions in West Virginia mines. She was 83 years old at the time – 1913

Fifteen thousand rubber workers strike in Akron, Ohio, protesting speed-up – 1913

The Seattle General Strike ends after six days. Some 65,000 workers struck for higher pay after two years of World War I wage controls – 1919

“White Shirt Day” at UAW-represented GM plants. Union members are encouraged to wear white shirts, marking the anniversary of the 1936-1937 Flint sit-down strike that gave the union bargaining rights at the automaker. The mission: send a message that “blue collar” workers deserve the same respect as their management counterparts. One of the day’s traditional rules: Don’t get your shirt any dirtier than the boss gets his. The 44-day strike was won in 1937 but the tradition didn’t begin until 1948, at the suggestion of Local 598 member Bert Christenson – 1948

Some 1,300 sanitation workers begin what is to become a 64-day strike in Memphis, ultimately winning union recognition and wage increases. The April 4 assassination in Memphis of Martin Luther King Jr., who had been taking an active role in mass meetings and street actions, brought pressure on the city to settle the strike – 1968

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announces he will call out the National Guard, if necessary, to deal with any “unrest” among state employees in the wake of his decision to unilaterally end nearly all collective bargaining rights for the workers – 2011

February 12

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass born into slavery near Easton, Md. – 1818

John L. Lewis, president of United Mine Workers of America and founding president of the CIO, born near Lucas, Iowa – 1880

February 13

A national eight-month strike by the Sons of Vulcan, a union of iron forgers, ends in victory when employers agreed to a wage scale based on the price of iron bars—the first time employers recognized the union, the first union contract in the iron and steel industry, and what may be the first union contract of any kind in the United States – 1865

Some 12,000 Hollywood writers returned to work today following a largely successful three-month strike against television and motion picture studios. They won compensation for their TV and movie work that gets streamed on the Internet – 2008

February 14

Western Federation of Miners strike for 8-hour day – 1903

President Theodore Roosevelt creates the Department of Commerce and Labor. It was divided into two separate government departments ten years later – 1903

Jimmy Hoffa born in Brazil, Ind., son of a coal miner. Disappeared July 30, 1975, declared dead seven years later – 1913

Striking workers at Detroit’s newspapers, out since previous July, offer to return to work. The offer is accepted five days later but the newspapers vow to retain some 1,200 scabs. A court ruling the following year ordered as many as 1,100 former strikers reinstated – 1997

February 15

Susan B. Anthony, suffragist, abolitionist, labor activist, born in Adams, Mass. “Join the union, girls, and together say: Equal Pay for Equal Work!” – 1820

U.S. legislators pass the Civil Works Emergency Relief Act, providing funds for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which funneled money to states plagued by Depression-era poverty and unemployment, and oversaw the subsequent distribution and relief efforts – 1934

The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) expels the Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers; the Food, Tobacco & Agricultural Workers; and the United Office & Professional Workers for “Communist tendencies.” Other unions expelled for the same reason (dates uncertain): Fur and Leather Workers, the Farm Equipment Union, the Int’l Longshoremen’s Union, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers – 1950

February 16

Leonora O’Reilly was born in New York. The daughter of Irish immigrants, she began working in a factory at 11, joined the Knights of Labor at 16, and was a volunteer investigator of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911. She was a founding member of the Women’s Trade Union League – 1870

Diamond Mine disaster in Braidwood, Ill. The coal mine was on a marshy tract of land with no natural drainage. Snow melted and forced a collapse on the east side of the mine, killing 74 – 1883

Beginning of a 17-week general strike of 12,000 New York furriers, in which Jewish workers formed a coalition with Greek and African American workers and became the first union to win a 5-day, 40-hour week – 1926

Rubber Workers begin sit-down strike at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. – 1936

American Wire Weavers Protective Association merges with United Papermakers & Paperworkers – 1959

All public schools in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisc., are closed as teachers call in sick to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s plans to gut their collective bargaining rights – 2011

February 17

Sixty-three sit-down strikers, demanding recognition of their union, are tear-gassed and driven from two Fansteel Metallurgical Corp. plants in Chicago. Two years later the U.S. Supreme Court declared sit-down strikes illegal. The tactic had been a major industrial union organizing tool – 1937

Two locals of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Int’l Union (now UNITE HERE) at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., strike in sympathy with 1,300 graduate student teaching assistants who are demanding the right to negotiate with the university – 1992

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 2/4 – 2/10

February 04

The Ohio legislature authorizes construction of the 249-mile Miami and Erie Canal, to connect Toledo to Cincinnati. Local historians say “Irish immigrants, convicts and local farmers used picks, shovels and wheelbarrows,” at 30 cents per day, to construct the 249-mile-long waterway – 1825

“Big Bill” Haywood born in Salt Lake City, Utah: Leader of Western Federation of Miners, Wobblies (IWW) founder – 1869

Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a White man launched the 1955 Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott and the birth of the civil rights movement, is born in Tuskeege, Ala. – 1913

Unemployment demonstrations take place in major U.S. cities – 1932

Thirty-seven thousand maritime workers on the West Coast strike for wage increases – 1937

President Barack Obama imposes $500,000 caps on senior executive pay for the most distressed financial institutions receiving federal bailout money, saying Americans are upset with “executives being rewarded for failure” – 2009

February 05

First daily labor newspaper, N.Y. Daily Sentinel, begins publication – 1830

The movie Modern Times premieres. The tale of the tramp (Charlie Chaplin) and his paramour (Paulette Goddard) mixed slapstick comedy and social satire, as the couple struggled to overcome the difficulties of the machine age including unemployment and nerve-wracking factory work, and get along in modern times – 1937

President Bill Clinton signs the Family and Medical Leave Act. The law requires most employers of 50 or more workers to grant up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a family or medical emergency – 1993

In what turns out to be a bad business decision, Circuit City fires 3,900 experienced sales people because they’re making too much in commissions. Sales plummet. Six years later it declares bankruptcy – 2003

February 06

Ironworkers from six cities meet in Pittsburgh to form the Int’l Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers of America. Their pay in Pittsburgh at the time: $2.75 for a 9-hour day – 1896

Philadelphia shirtwaist makers vote to accept arbitration offer and end walkout as Triangle Shirtwaist strike winds down. One year later 146 workers, mostly young girls aged 13 to 23, were to die in a devastating fire at Triangle’s New York City sweatshop – 1910

Seattle General Strike begins. The city was run by a General Strike Committee for six days as tens of thousands of union members stopped work in support of 32,000 striking longshoremen – 1919

February 07

Union miners in Cripple Creek, Colo., begin what is to become a five-month strike that started when mine owners cut wages to $2.50 a day, from $3. The state militia was called out in support of the strikers—the only time in U.S. history that a militia was directed to side with the workers. The strike ended in victory for the union – 1894

It took 1,231 firefighters 30 hours to put down The Great Baltimore Fire, which started on this day and destroyed 1,500 buildings over an area of some 140 acres – 1904

Hockey players formed the NHL Players Association in New York City after owners refuse to release pension plan financial information. The union was busted when owners transferred key activists, but it successfully re-formed ten years later – 1957

Thirteen workers are killed, 42 injured in a dust explosion at an Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia. Investigators found that the company had been aware of dangers for years but had not acted on them – 2008

February 08

Vigilantes beat IWW organizers for exercising free-speech rights, San Diego – 1912

February 09

Wobbly activist Tom Mooney convicted in bombing frame-up orchestrated by Pinkerton Detective Agency. He was pardoned and released 22 years later – 1917

Congress approves legislation allowing for a total of $940 million to be used for Depression-era relief projects. $790 million of this money was intended to be used to fund work relief and flood recovery programs – 1937

U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy falsely charged that the State Department was riddled with Communists. It seems that just about everyone else the Wisconsin senator didn’t like was a Communist as well, including scores of unionists. This was the beginning of “McCarthyism.” He ultimately was officially condemned by the Senate and died of alcoholism – 1950

President Kennedy asks Congress to approve creation of the Medicare program, financed by an increase in Social Security taxes, to aid 14.2 million Americans aged 65 or older – 1961

Some 19,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers in Washington state and Oregon begin what is to become a 40-day strike over economic issues – 2000

February 10

The American Federation of Labor (AFL) founds the Building and Construction Trades Department as a way to overcome the jurisdictional conflicts occurring in the building and construction unions – 1908

Eleven members of the Carpenters’ union in Reesor Siding, Northern Ontario are shot, three fatally, by independent local farmer-settlers who were supplying wood to a Spruce Falls Power and Paper Co. plant. Some 400 union members were attempting to block an outbound shipment from the plant. The action came as the company was insisting on a pay freeze and two months of seven-day-a-week work – 1963

Forty workers are killed on Staten Island, N.Y., when a huge storage tank filled with liquefied gas explodes – 1973

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 1/28 – 2/3

January 28

American Miners’ Association formed – 1861

First U.S. unemployment compensation law enacted, in Wisconsin – 1932

January 29

Responding to unrest among Irish laborers building the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, President Andrew Jackson orders first use of American troops to suppress a labor dispute – 1834

Six thousand railway workers strike for a union and the end of 18-hour day – 1889

Sit-down strike helps establish United Rubber Workers as a national union, Akron, Ohio – 1936

American Train Dispatchers Department granted a charter by the AFL-CIO – 1957

Dolly Parton hits number one on the record charts with “9 to 5,” her anthem to the daily grind – 1981

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is signed into law by President Obama. Ledbetter worked for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. at a wage rate much less than men doing the same job; the statute of limitations for filing a claim of discrimination expired by the time she learned of the unequal treatment. The Fair Pay Act stipulates that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination resets with each new paycheck affected by that discriminatory action—2009

January 30

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is born in Hyde Park, N.Y. He was elected president of the United States four times starting in 1932. His New Deal programs helped America survive the Great Depression. His legislative achievements included the creation of the National Labor Relations Act, which allows workers to organize unions, bargain collectively, and strike – 1882

January 31

Some 12,000 pecan shellers in San Antonio, Texas—mostly Latino women—walk off their jobs at 400 factories in what was to become a three-month strike against wage cuts. Strike leader Emma Tenayuca was eventually hounded out of the state – 1938

Ida M. Fuller is the first retiree to receive an old-age monthly benefit check under the new Social Security law. She paid in $24.75 between 1937 and 1939 on an income of $2,484; her first check was for $22.54 – 1940

After scoring successes with representation elections conducted under the protective oversight of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, the United Farm Workers of America officially ends its historic table grape, lettuce and wine boycotts – 1978

Union and student pressure forces Harvard University to adopt new labor policies raising wages for lowest-paid workers – 2002

Five months after Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans school board fires every teacher in the district in what the United Teachers of New Orleans sees as an effort to break the union and privatize the school system – 2005

February 01

Led by 23-year-old Kate Mullany, the Collar Laundry Union forms in Troy, N.Y., and raises earnings for female laundry workers from $2 to $14 a week – 1864

Bricklayers begin working 8-hour days – 1867

Some 25,000 Paterson, N.J., silk workers strike for 8-hour work day and improved working conditions. Eighteen hundred were arrested over the course of the six-month walkout, led by the Wobblies. They returned to work on their employers’ terms – 1913

The federal minimum wage increases to $1.60 per hour – 1968

Int’l Brotherhood of Firemen & Oilers merges with Service Employees Int’l Union – 1995

February 02

Three hundred newsboys organize to protest a cut in pay by the Minneapolis Tribune – 1917

Legal secretary Iris Rivera fired for refusing to make coffee; secretaries across Chicago protest – 1977

The 170-day lockout (although management called it a strike) of 22,000 steelworkers by USX Corp. ends with a pay cut but greater job security. It was the longest work stoppage in the history of the U.S. steel industry – 1987

February 03

The U.S. Supreme Court rules the United Hatters Union violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by organizing a nationwide boycott of Danbury Hatters of Connecticut – 1908

U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Wages and Hours (later Fair Labor Standards) Act banning child labor and establishing the 40-hour work week – 1941

An explosion at a Thiokol chemical plant near Woodbine, Georgia kills 29 workers, seriously injures 50. An investigation found that contributing factors to the explosion were mislabeled chemicals, poor storage procedures and insufficient fire protection – 1971

– Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 1/21 – 1/27

January 21

Some 750,000 steel workers walk out in 30 states, largest strike in U.S. history to that time – 1946

Postal workers begin four-day strike at the Jersey City, N.J., bulk and foreign mail center, protesting an involuntary shift change. The wildcat was led by a group of young workers who identified themselves as “The Outlaws”- 1974

Six hundred police attack picketing longshoremen in Charleston, S.C. – 2000

January 22

Indian field hands at San Juan Capistrano mission refused to work, engaging in what was probably the first farm worker strike in California – 1826

Birth of Terence V. Powderly, leader of the Knights of Labor – 1849

The United Mine Workers of America is founded in Columbus, Ohio, with the merger of the Knights of Labor Trade Assembly No. 135 and the National Progressive Miners Union – 1890

Five hundred New York City tenants battle police to prevent evictions – 1932

January 23

Some 10,000 clothing workers strike in Rochester, N.Y., for the 8-hour day, a 10-percent wage increase, union recognition, and extra pay for overtime and holidays. Daily parades were held throughout the clothing district and there was at least one instance of mounted police charging the crowd of strikers and arresting 25 picketers. Six people were wounded over the course of the strike and one worker, 18-year-old Ida Breiman, was shot to death by a sweatshop contractor. The strike was called off in April after manufacturers agreed not to discriminate against workers for joining a union – 1913

In Allegany County, MD, workers with the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal era public works program employing unmarried men aged 18-25, are snowbound at Fifteen Mile Creek Camp S-53 when they receive a distress call about a woman in labor who needs to get to a hospital. 20 courageous CCC volunteers dig through miles of snow drifts until the woman is successfully able to be transported – 1936

January 24

Krueger’s Cream Ale, the first canned beer, goes on sale in Richmond, Va. Pabst was the second brewer in the same year to sell beer in cans, which came with opening instructions and the suggestion: “cool before serving” – 1935

January 25

Sojourner Truth addresses first Black Women’s Rights convention – 1851

The Sheet Metal Workers Int’l Association (SMWIA) is founded in Toledo, Ohio, as the Tin, Sheet Iron and Cornice Workers’ Int’l Association – 1888

Two hundred miners are killed in a horrific explosion at the Harwick mine in Cheswick, Pa., Allegheny County. Many of the dead lie entombed in the sealed mine to this day – 1904

The Supreme Court upholds “Yellow Dog” employment contracts, which forbid membership in labor unions. Yellow Dog contracts remained legal until 1932 – 1915

Some 16,000 textile workers strike in Passaic, N.J. – 1926

The federal minimum wage rate rises to 75 cents an hour – 1950

January 26

In what could be considered the first workers’ compensation agreement in America, pirate Henry Morgan pledges his underlings 600 pieces of eight or six slaves to compensate for a lost arm or leg. Also part of the pirate’s code, reports Roger Newell: shares of the booty were equal regardless of race or sex, and shipboard decisions were made collectively – 1695

Samuel Gompers, first AFL president, born in London, England. He emigrated to the U.S. as a youth – 1850

The Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America is chartered by the American Federation of Labor to organize “every wage earner from the man who takes the bullock at the house until it goes into the hands of the consumer.” – 1897

Workers win a two-day sit-down strike at the Brooklyn electric plant that powers the city’s entire subway system – 1937

A handful of American companies announce nearly 60,000 layoffs today, as the recession that began during the George W. Bush presidency charges full-tilt toward what became known as the Great Recession – 2009

January 27

New York City maids organize to improve working conditions – 1734

Mine explosion in Mount Pleasant, Pa., leaves more than 100 dead – 1891

First meeting of the Int’l Labor Organization (ILO) – 1920

Kansas miners strike against compulsory arbitration – 1920

A 3¢ postage stamp is issued, honoring AFL founder Samuel Gompers – 1950

A group of Detroit African-American auto workers known as the Eldon Avenue Axle Plant Revolutionary Union Movement leads a wildcat strike against racism and bad working conditions. They are critical of both automakers and the UAW, condemning the seniority system and grievance procedures as racist – 1969

Pete Seeger dies in New York at age 94. A musician and activist, he was a revered figure on the American left, persecuted during the McCarthy era for his support of progressive, labor and civil rights causes. A prolific songwriter, he is generally credited with popularizing the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” He actively participated in demonstrations until shortly before his death – 2014

Members of the Northwestern University football team announce they are seeking union recognition. A majority signed cards, later delivered to the National Labor Relations Board office in Chicago, asking for representation by the College Athletes Players Association – 2014

– Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 1/14 – 1/20

January 14

Clinton-era OSHA issues confined spaces standard to prevent more than 50 deaths and 5,000 serious injuries annually for workers who enter confined spaces – 1993

Pennsylvania Superior Court rules bosses can fire workers for being gay – 1995

Some 14,000 General Electric employees strike for two days to protest the company’s mid-contract decision to shift an average of $400 in additional health care co-payments onto each worker – 2003

A 15-month lockout by the Minnesota Orchestra against members of the Twin Cities Musicians’ Union, Local 30-73 ends when the musicians agree to a 15 percent pay cut (management wanted up to 40 percent) and increased health care cost sharing. They did win a revenue-sharing deal based on performance of the Orchestra’s endowments. It was the nation’s longest-running contract dispute for a concert orchestra – 2014

January 15

Wobbly Ralph Chaplin, in Chicago for a demonstration against hunger, completes the writing of the labor anthem “Solidarity Forever” on this date in 1915. He’d begun writing it in 1914 during a miners’ strike in Huntington, W. Va. The first verse:
When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong! – 1915

Seventeen workers in the area die when a large molasses storage tank in Boston’s North End neighborhood bursts, sending a 40-foot wave of molasses surging through the streets at an estimated 35 miles per hour. In all, 21 people died and 150 were injured. The incident is variously known as the Boston Molasses Disaster, the Great Molasses Flood and the Great Boston Molasses Tragedy. Some residents claim that on hot summer days, the area still smells of molasses – 1919

Martin Luther King Jr. born – 1929

The CIO miners’ union in the Grass Valley area of California strikes for higher wages, union recognition, and the 8-hour day. The strike was defeated when vigilantes and law enforcement officials expelled 400 miners and their families from the area – 1938

The Pentagon, to this day the largest office building in the world, is dedicated just 16 months after groundbreaking. At times of peak employment 13,000 workers labored on the project – 1943

Some 174,000 members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers union (UE) struck General Electric and Westinghouse after the power companies, with record-setting profits, offered just a half-cent per hour increase. After nine weeks, the strike was settled with an 18.5 cents hourly wage improvement – 1946

January 16

The United States Civil Service Commission was established as the Pendleton Act went into effect – 1883

Thousands of Palmer Raids detainees win right to meet with lawyers and attorney representation at deportation hearings. “Palmer” was Alexander Mitchell Palmer, U.S. attorney general under Woodrow Wilson. Palmer believed Communism was “eating its way into the homes of the American workman,” and Socialists were causing most of the country’s social problems – 1920

Former UAW President Leonard Woodcock dies in Ann Arbor, Mich., at age 89. He had succeeded Walter Reuther and led the union from 1970 to 1977 – 2001

January 17

Radical labor organizer and anarchist Lucy Parsons leads hunger march in Chicago; IWW songwriter Ralph Chaplin wrote “Solidarity Forever” for the march – 1915

President John F. Kennedy signs Executive Order 10988, guaranteeing federal workers the right to join unions and bargain collectively – 1962

January 18

U.S. Supreme Court rules in Moyer v. Peabody that a governor and officers of a state National Guard may imprison anyone—in the case at hand, striking miners in Colorado—without probable cause “in a time of insurrection” and deny the person the right of appeal – 1909

“Take This Job and Shove It,” by Johnny Paycheck, is listed by Billboard magazine as the most popular song in the U.S. – 1978

January 19

Twenty strikers at the American Agricultural Chemical Co. in Roosevelt, N.J., were shot, two fatally, by factory guards. They and other strikers had stopped an incoming train in search of scabs when the guards opened fire – 1915

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) founded – 1920

Some 3,000 members of the Filipino Federation of Labor strike the plantations of Oahu, Hawaii. Their ranks swell to 8,300 as they are joined by members of the Japanese Federation of Labor – 1920

Yuba City, Calif., labor contractor Juan V. Corona found guilty of murdering 25 itinerant farm workers he employed during 1970 and 1971 – 1973

Bruce Springsteen makes an unannounced appearance at a benefit for laid-off 3M workers, Asbury Park, N.J. – 1986

January 20

Chicago Crib Disaster—A fire breaks out during construction of a water tunnel for the city of Chicago, burning the wooden dormitory housing the tunnel workers. While 46 survive the fire by jumping into the frigid lake and climbing onto ice floes, approximately 60 men die, 29 burned beyond recognition and the others drowned – 1909

Hardworking Mickey Mantle signs a new contract with the New York Yankees making him the highest paid player in baseball: $75,000 for the entire 1961 season. It should be noted that because there were no long-term contracts, salaries fluctuated every year. In 1947, for example, Hank Greenberg signed a contract for a record $85,000. The Major League Baseball Players Association was created in 1953 and in 1968 negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with team owners, raising the minimum salary from $6,000 to $10,000 per year – 1961

Bruce Springsteen’s “My Hometown,” a eulogy for dying industrial cities, is the country’s most listened-to song. The lyrics, in part: “Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores / Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more / They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks / Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back to your hometown / Your hometown / Your hometown / Your hometown…” – 1986

Naomi Parker Fraley, a California waitress who worked a Navy machine shop during World War II and who has been identified as the “real” Rosie the Riveter, dies at age 96 in Longview, Wash. Although the Rosie title had been ascribed to other women over the years, it was Fraley whose image, complete with worksheet and polka-dot bandanna, was shown on the iconic “We can do it!” posters displayed in Westinghouse Electric Corp. plants during the war – 2018

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 1/7 – 1/13

January 07

An explosion at Osage Coal and Mining Company’s Mine Number 11 near Krebs, Okla., kills 100, injures 150 when an untrained worker accidentally sets off a stash of explosives – 1892

Wobbly Tom Mooney, accused of a murder by bombing in San Francisco, pardoned and freed after 22 years in San Quentin – 1939

The presidents of 12 of the nation’s largest unions meet and call for reuniting the American labor movement, which split into two factions in 2005 when seven unions left the AFL-CIO and formed a rival federation. The meeting followed signals from President-elect Barack Obama that he would prefer dealing with a united movement, rather than a fractured one that often had two competing voices. Unions from both sides of the split participated in the meeting. The reunification effort failed, but by mid-2013 four of the unions had rejoined the AFL-CIO – 2009

January 08

The largest slave revolt in U.S. history begins on Louisiana sugar plantations. Slaves armed with hand tools marched toward New Orleans, setting plantations and crops on fire, building their numbers to an estimated 300-500 as they went. The uprising lasted for two days before being brutally suppressed by the military – 1811

Birthdate of Mary Kenney O’Sullivan, first AFL woman organizer. In 1880 she organized the Woman’s Bookbinder Union and in 1903 was a founder of the National Women’s Trade Union League – 1864

American Federation of Labor charters a Mining Department – 1912

The AFL Iron and Steel Organizing Committee ends the “Great Steel Strike.” Some 350,000 to 400,000 steelworkers had been striking for more than three months, demanding union recognition. The strike failed – 1920

January 09

A Mediation Commission appointed by President Woodrow Wilson finds that “industry’s failure to deal with unions” is the prime reason for labor strife in war industries – 1918

Eighty thousand Chicago construction workers strike – 1922

Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union leads Missouri Highway sit-down of 1,700 families. They had been evicted from their homes so landowners wouldn’t have to share government crop subsidy payments with them – 1939

Former Hawaii Territorial Gov. Ingram Steinbeck opposes statehood for Hawaii, saying left wing unions have an “economic stranglehold” on the islands. Hawaii was to be granted statehood five years later – 1954

The administration of George W. Bush declares federal airport security screeners will not be allowed to unionize so as not to “complicate” the war on terrorism. The decision was challenged and eventually overturned after Bush left office – 2003

January 10

In what is described as the worst industrial disaster in state history, the Pemberton Mill in Lawrence, Mass., collapses, trapping 900 workers, mostly Irish women. More than 100 die, scores more injured in the collapse and ensuing fire. Too much machinery had been crammed into the building – 1860

Wobbly organizer and singer Joe Hill allegedly kills two men during a grocery store hold-up in Utah. He ultimately is executed by firing squad (His last word was “Fire!”) for the crime despite much speculation that he was framed – 1914

Former AFL-CIO President George Meany dies at age 85. The one-time plumber led the labor federation from the time of the AFL and CIO merger in 1955 until shortly before his death – 1980

The Supreme Court lets stand implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) despite the lack of an Environmental Impact Statement – 2004

January 11

The IWW-organized “Bread & Roses” textile strike of 32,000 women and children begins in Lawrence, Mass. It lasted 10 weeks and ended in victory. The first millworkers to walk out were Polish women, who, upon collecting their pay, exclaimed that they had been cheated and promptly abandoned their looms – 1912

(Notice in the Minneapolis Labor Review) “Minneapolis Ice Wagon Drivers’ Union will hold an exceptionally interesting meeting Sunday, at 16 South 5th St. A Jazz Band, dancing, boxing and good speaking are among the attractions.” – 1918

Nearly two weeks into a sit-down strike at GM’s Fisher Body Plant No. 2 in Flint, Mich., workers battle police when they try to prevent the strikers from receiving food deliveries from thousands of supporters on the outside. Sixteen strikers and spectators and 11 police were injured. Most of the strikers were hit by buckshot fired by police riot guns; the police were injured principally by thrown nuts, bolts, door hinges and other auto parts. The incident became known as the “Battle of the Running Bulls” – 1937

National Hockey League owners end a player lockout that had gone for three months and ten days. A key issue was owner insistence on a salary cap, which they won – 1995

Ford Motor Co. announces it will eliminate 35,000 jobs while discontinuing four models and closing five plants – 2002

January 12

Novelist Jack London is born. His classic definition of a scab—someone who would cross a picket line and take a striker’s job: “After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, the vampire, He had some awful substance left with which He made a scab. A scab is a two-legged animal with a cork-screw soul, a water-logged brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles” – 1876

Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson orders police to raid an open-air mass meeting of shipyard workers in an attempt to prevent a general strike. Workers were brutally beaten. The strike began the following month, with 60,000 workers walking out in solidarity with some 25,000 metal tradesmen – 1919

President Roosevelt creates the National War Labor Board to mediate labor disputes during World War II. Despite the fact that 12 million of the nation’s workers were women—to rise to 18 million by war’s end—the panel consisted entirely of men – 1942

January 13

The original Tompkins Square Riot. As unemployed workers demonstrated in New York’s Tompkins Square Park, a detachment of mounted police charged into the crowd, beating men, women and children with billy clubs. Declared Abram Duryee, the Commissioner of Police: “It was the most glorious sight I ever saw…” – 1874

Latino citrus workers strike in Covina, Calif. – 1919

(Exact date uncertain) As the nation debates a constitutional amendment to rein in the widespread practice of brutally overworking children in factories and fields, U.S. District Judge G.W. McClintic expresses concern, instead, about child idleness – 1924

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 12/31 – 1/6

December 31

Sixty thousand unemployed workers rally at a Pittsburgh stadium – 1931

United Mine Workers reformer Joseph “Jock” Yablonski, his wife and daughter are murdered by hit men hired by union president Tony Boyle, who was to be convicted of the crime and eventually die in prison – 1969

OSHA adopts a grain handling facilities standard to protect 155,000 workers at nearly 24,000 grain elevators from the risk of fire and explosion from highly combustible grain dust – 1987

January 01

Emancipation Proclamation signed – 1863

Women weavers form union, Fall River, Mass. – 1875

John L. Lewis is elected president of the United Mine Workers. Fifteen years later he is to be a leader in the formation of what was to become the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) – 1920

With the Great Depression in full force, the year 1932 opens with 14 million unemployed, national income down by 50 percent, breadlines that include former shopkeepers, businessmen and middle-class housewives. Charity is overwhelmed: only one-quarter of America’s unemployed are receiving any help at all – 1932

Workers begin to acquire credits toward Social Security pension benefits. Employers and employees became subject to a tax of one percent of wages on up to $3,000 a year – 1937

Adolph Strasser, head of the Cigar Maker’s Union and one of the founders of the AFL in 1886, died on this day in Forest Park, Ill. – 1939

Members of the Transport Workers Union and Amalgamated Transit Union working for the New York transit system begin what is to be a successful 12-day strike. Fiery TWU leader Mike Quill, jailed for several days during the strike, then hospitalized, died three days after his release from the hospital – 1966

The federal minimum wage rises to $2.65 an hour – 1978

Int’l Typographical Union, the nation’s oldest union, merges with Communications Workers of America – 1987

United Furniture Workers of America merges with Int’l Union of Electronic, Electrical, Technical, Salaried & Machine Workers to become Int’l Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine & Furniture Workers, now a division of CWA – 1987

National Association of Broadcast Employees & Technicians merges with Communications Workers of America – 1994

Int’l Union of Allied & Industrial Workers of America merges with United Paperworkers Int’l. Later merged into the Steelworkers – 1994

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) takes effect, despite objections by labor – 1994

Bakery, Confectionery & Tobacco Workers Int’l Union merges with American Federation of Grain Millers to form Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers Int’l Union – 1999

January 02

Conference of 23 industrial unionists in Chicago leads to formation of IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, also known as Wobblies – 1905

In what became known as Palmer Raids, Attorney General Mitchell Palmer arrests 4,000 foreign-born labor activists. He believed Communism was “eating its way into the homes of the American workman,” and Socialists were causing most of the country’s social problems – 1920

An underground explosion at Sago Mine in Tallmansville, W. Va., traps 12 miners and cuts power to the mine. Eleven men die, mostly by asphyxiation. The mine had been cited 273 times for safety violations over the prior 23 months – 2006

January 03

The ship Thetis arrives in Hawaii with 175 Chinese field workers bound to serve for five years at $3 per month – 1852

Wobbly Tom Mooney tried in San Francisco for Preparedness Day bombing – 1917

In a familiar scene during the Great Depression, some 500 farmers, Black and White, their crops ruined by a long drought, march into downtown England, Ark., to demand food for their starving families, warning they would take it by force if necessary. Town fathers frantically contacted the Red Cross; each family went home with two weeks’ rations – 1931

The Supreme Court rules against the closed shop, a labor-management agreement that only union members can be hired and must remain members to continue on the job – 1949

AFL-CIO American Institute for Free Labor Development employees Mike Hammer and Mark Pearlman are assassinated in El Salvador along with a Peasant Workers’ Union leader with whom they were working on a land reform program – 1981

January 04

Angered by increasing farm foreclosures, members of Iowa’s Farmers Holiday Association threaten to lynch banking representatives and law officials who institute foreclosure proceedings for the duration of the Great Depression – 1933

What many believe to be the longest strike in modern history, by Danish barbers’ assistants, ends after 33 years – 1961

Eight thousand New York City social workers strike, demand better conditions for welfare recipients – 1965

United Paperworkers Int’l Union merges with Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Int’l Union to form Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy Workers Int’l Union, itself later to merge with the Steelworkers – 1999

January 05

The nation’s first labor convention of Black workers was held in Washington, D.C., with 214 delegates forming the Colored National Labor Union – 1869

Ford Motor Company raises wages from $2.40 for a 9-hour day to $5 for an 8-hour day in effort to keep the unions out – 1914

Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge begins. Ten of the 11 deaths on the job came when safety netting beneath the site—the first-ever use of such equipment—failed under the stress of a scaffold that had fallen. Nineteen other workers were saved by the net over the course of construction. They became members of the (informal) Halfway to Hell Club – 1933

January 06

The Toronto Trades and Labour Council endorses the principle of equal pay for equal work between men and women – 1882

Eight thousand workers strike at Youngstown Sheet & Tube. The following day the strikers’ wives and other family members join in the protest. Company guards use tear gas bombs and fired into the crowd; three strikers are killed, 25 wounded – 1916

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 12/24 – 12/30

December 24

Seventy-two copper miners’ children die in panic caused by a company stooge at Calumet, Mich., who shouted “fire” up the stairs into a crowded hall where the children had gathered. They were crushed against closed doors when they tried to flee – 1913

December 25

A dynamite bomb destroys a portion of the Llewellyn Ironworks in Los Angeles, where a bitter strike was in progress – 1910

Fourteen servicemen from military bases across the U.S., led by Pvt. Andrew Stapp, form The American Servicemen’s Union (ASU). The union, which never came close to being recognized by the government, in its heyday during the Viet Nam war claimed tens of thousands of members and had chapters at bases, on ships and in Viet Nam. ASU demands included the right to elect officers – 1967

December 26

Knights of Labor founded. Constitution bars from membership “parasites,” including stockbrokers and lawyers – 1869

Workingmen’s Party is reorganized as the Socialist Labor Party – 1877

December 27

President Roosevelt seizes the railroads to avert a nationwide strike. His decision to temporarily place the railroads under the “supervision” of the War Department prompts the five railroad brotherhoods to agree to his offer to arbitrate the wage dispute – 1943

December 28

The coffee percolator is patented by James H. Mason of Franklin, Mass., placing himself forever in the debt of millions of caffeine-dependent working people – 1865

Auto workers begin sit-down strike for union recognition at GM’s Fisher Body plant in Cleveland – 1936

Country music legend Hank Williams attends what is to be his last musicians’ union meeting, at the Elite (pronounced E-light) café in Montgomery, Ala. He died of apparent heart failure three days later in the back seat of a car driving north. He was 29 – 1952

December 29

After years of intensive lobbying by the labor movement, a comprehensive national safety law is enacted as President Nixon signs the Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970, creating the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) – 1970

More than 15,000 United Steel Workers members at 16 Goodyear Tire & Rubber plants end an 86-day strike, ratify 3-year contract – 2006

December 30

Gathering in the back room of Behrens’ cigar shop in Sedalia, Mo., 33 railroad clerks form Local Lodge Number 1 of a union they named the Order of the Railroad Clerks of America – 1899

Idaho Gov. Frank Steunenberg, who had brutally suppressed the state’s miners, is killed by an assassin’s bomb. Legendary Western Federation of Miners and IWW leader William “Big Bill” Haywood and two other men were put on trial for the death but were ultimately declared innocent – 1905

GM sit-down strike spreads to Flint, Mich., will last 44 days before ending in union victory – 1936

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten

This Week in Labor History: 12/17 – 12/23

December 17

Int’l Union of Aluminum, Brick & Glass Workers merges with United Steelworkers of America – 1996

December 18

General Motors announces it is closing 21 North American plants over the following four years and slashing tens of thousands of jobs – 1991

December 19

An explosion in the Darr Mine in Westmoreland Co., Pa., kills 239 coal miners. Seventy-one of the dead share a common grave in Olive Branch Cemetery. December 1907 was the worst month in U.S. coal mining history, with more than 3,000 dead – 1907

A 47-day strike at Greyhound Bus Lines ends with members of the Amalgamated Transit Union accepting a new contract containing deep cuts in wages and benefits. Striker Ray Phillips died during the strike, run over on a picket line by a scab Greyhound trainee – 1983

Twenty-six men and one woman are killed in the Wilberg Coal Mine Disaster near Orangeville, Utah. The disaster has been termed the worst coal mine fire in the state’s history. Federal mine safety officials issued 34 safety citations after the disaster but had inspected the mine only days before and declared it safe – 1984

December 20

Delegates to the AFL convention in Salt Lake City endorse a constitutional amendment to give women the right to vote – 1899

The first group of 15 Filipino plantation workers recruited by the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association arrive in Hawaii. By 1932 more than 100,000 Filipinos will be working in the fields – 1906

Thousands of workers began what was to be a 2-day strike of the New York City transit system over retirement, pension and wage issues. The strike violated the state’s Taylor Law; TWU Local 100 President Roger Toussaint was jailed for ten days and the union was fined $2.5 million – 2005

December 21

Powered by children seven to 12 years old working dawn to dusk, Samuel Slater’s thread-spinning factory goes into production in Pawtucket, R.I., launching the Industrial Revolution in America. By 1830, 55 percent of the mill workers in the state were youngsters, many working for less than $1 per week – 1790

Supreme Court rules that picketing is unconstitutional. Chief Justice (and former president) William Howard Taft declared that picketing was, in part, “an unlawful annoyance and hurtful nuisance…” – 1921

December 22

A group of building trades unions from the Midwest meet in St. Louis to form the National Building Trades Council. The Council disbanded after several years of political and jurisdictional differences – 1897

Twenty-one Chicago firefighters, including the chief, died when a building collapsed as they were fighting a huge blaze at the Union Stock Yards. By the time the fire was extinguished, 26 hours after the first alarm, 50 engine companies and seven hook-and-ladder companies had been called to the scene. Until September 11, 2001, it was the deadliest building collapse in American history in terms of firefighter fatalities – 1910

Amid a widespread strike for union recognition by 395,000 steelworkers, approximately 250 alleged “anarchists,” “communists,” and “labor agitators” were deported to Russia, marking the beginning of the so-called “Red Scare” – 1919

December 23

AFL officers are found in contempt of court for urging a labor boycott of Buck’s Stove and Range Co. in St Louis, where the Metal Polishers were striking for a 9-hour day – 1908

Construction workers top out the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 1,368 feet, making it the tallest building in the world – 1970

Walmart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest employer, with 1.4 million “associates,” agrees to settle 63 wage and hour suits across the U.S., for a grand total of between $352 million and $640 million. It was accused of failure to pay overtime, requiring off-the-clock work, and failure to provide required meal and rest breaks – 2008

-Compiled and edited by David Prosten

This Week in Labor History: 12/10 – 12/16

December 10

First sit-down strike in U.S. called by IWW at General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y. – 1906

Int’l Human Rights Day, commemorating the signing at the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, in part: “Everyone has the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” – 1948

American Federation of Teachers Local 89 in Atlanta, Georgia, disaffiliates from the national union because of an AFT directive that all its locals integrate. A year later, the AFT expelled all locals that refused to do so – 1956

Cesar Chavez jailed for 14 days for refusing to end United Farm Workers’ lettuce boycott – 1970

December 11

A small group of Black farmers organize the Colored Farmers’ National Alliance and Cooperative Union in Houston County, Texas. They had been barred from membership in the all-White Southern Farmers’ Alliance. Through intensive organizing, along with merging with another Black farmers group, the renamed Colored Alliance by 1891 claimed a membership of 1.2 million – 1886

Ten days after an Illinois State mine inspector approved coal dust removal techniques at New Orient mine in West Frankfort, the mine exploded, apparently due to accumulated methane gas, killing 119 workers – 1951

The U.S. Department of Labor announces that the nation’s unemployment rate had dropped to 3.3 percent, the lowest mark in 15 years – 1968

Forty thousand workers go on general strike in London, Ontario—a city with a population of 300,000—protesting cuts in social services – 1995

Michigan becomes the 24th state to adopt right-to-work legislation. The Republican-dominated state Senate introduced two measures—one covering private workers, the other covering public workers—by surprise five days earlier and immediately voted their passage; the Republican House approved them five days later (the fastest it legally could) and the Republican governor immediately signed both bills – 2012

December 12

A U.S. immigration sweep of six Swift meat plants results in arrests of nearly 1,300 undocumented workers – 2006

December 13

Death in San Antonio, Texas, of Samuel Gompers, president and founder of the American Federation of Labor – 1924

December 14

Some 33,000 striking members of the Machinists end a 69-day walkout at Boeing after winning pay and benefit increases and protections against subcontracting some of their work overseas – 1995

December 15

AFL convention passes a 1¢ per capita assessment to aid the organization of women workers (Exact date uncertain) – 1913

The Kansas National Guard is called out to subdue from 2,000 to 6,000 protesting women who were going from mine to mine attacking non-striking miners in the Pittsburg coal fields. The women made headlines across the state and the nation: they were christened the “Amazon Army” by the New York Times – 1921

Eight days after the attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor, the AFL pledges that there will be no strikes in defense-related plants for the duration of World War II – 1941

Meeting in its biennial convention, the AFL-CIO declares “unstinting support” for “measures the Administration might deem necessary to halt Communist aggression and secure a just and lasting peace” in Vietnam – 1967

The U.S. Age Discrimination in Employment Act becomes law. It bars employment discrimination against anyone aged 40 or older – 1967

California’s longest nurses’ strike ended after workers at Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo and Pinole approved a new contract with Tenet Healthcare Corp., ending a 13-month walkout – 2003

Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers union organizer Clinton Jencks, who led New Mexico zinc miners in the strike depicted in the classic 1954 movie Salt of the Earth, dies of natural causes in San Diego at age 87 – 2005
December 16
The National Civic Federation is formed by business and labor leaders, most prominently AFL president Sam Gompers, as a vehicle to resolve conflicts between management and labor. Not all unionists agreed with the alliance. The group turned increasingly conservative and labor withdrew after Gompers’ 1924 death – 1900

New York City’s Majestic Theater becomes first in the U.S. to employ women ushers – 1902

The Bagel Bakers of America union is continuing a work slowdown at 32 of New York’s 34 bagel bakeries in a dispute over health and welfare fund payments and workplace sanitation, the New York Times reports. Coincidentally—or not—lox sales were down 30 percent to 50 percent as well. The effect on the cream cheese market was not reported – 1951

Four railway unions merge to become the United Transportation Union: Trainmen, Firemen & Enginemen, Switchmen, and Conductors and Brakemen – 1968

Eight female bank tellers in Willmar, Minn., begin the first strike against a bank in U.S. history. At issue: they were paid little more than half what male tellers were paid. The strike ended in moral victory but economic defeat two years later – 1977

– Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

This Week in Labor History: 12/3 – 12/9

December 03

Textile strikers win 10-hour day, Fall River, Mass. – 1866

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passes an ordinance setting an 8-hour workday for all city employees – 1867

IWW union Brotherhood of Timber Workers organized – 1910

Canada’s Quebec Bridge, spanning the St. Lawrence River, opens to traffic on this day after the deaths of 89 construction workers in the course of the job. A flawed design was blamed for a 1907 collapse that killed 75; another 13 died in 1916 when a hoisting device failed as the central span was being lifted – 1919

General strike begins in Oakland, Calif., started by female department store clerks – 1946

The express passenger train “20th Century Limited” ends more than 60 years of service when it takes its last run from New York City to Chicago – 1967

Some 5,000 union construction workers in Oahu, Hawaii, march to City Hall in protest of a proposed construction moratorium by the city council – 1976

At least four thousand people die, and as many as 20,000, in one of the largest industrial disasters on record. It happened in Bhopal, India, when poisonous methyl isocyanate was released into the atmosphere at a Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant. The results of investigations by Union Carbide and the government were never released to the public; one authoritative independent study laid blame at the feet of Union Carbide for its failures on training, staffing, safety and other issues – 1984

Arrests began today in Middleton, N.J., of teachers striking in violation of a no-strike law. Ultimately 228 educators were jailed for up to seven days before they were released following the Middleton Township Education Association’s agreement to take the dispute to mediation – 2001

December 04

President Roosevelt announces the end of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), concluding the four-year run of one of the American government’s most ambitious public works programs. It helped create jobs for roughly 8.5 million people during the Great Depression and left a legacy of highways and public buildings, among other public gains – 1943

UAW President Walter Reuther elected president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations – 1952

December 05

Unionists John T. and James B. McNamara are sentenced to 15 years and life, respectively, after confessing to dynamiting the Los Angeles Times building during a drive to unionize the metal trades in the city. They placed the bomb in an alley next to the building, set to detonate when they thought the building would be empty; it went off early, and an unanticipated gas explosion and fire did the real damage, killing twenty people. The newspaper was strongly conservative and anti-union – 1911

Ending a 20-year split, the two largest labor federations in the U.S. merge to form the AFL-CIO, with a membership estimated at 15 million – 1955

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney welcomes the collapse of World Trade Organization talks in Seattle, declaring, “No deal is better than a bad deal.” – 1999

The U.S. Department of Labor reports employers slashed 533,000 jobs the month before—the most in 34 years—as the Great Recession surged. The unemployment rolls had risen for seven months before that and were to continue to soar for another 10 months before topping 10 percent and beginning to level off late the following year – 2008

December 06

African American delegates met in Washington, D.C., to form the Colored National Labor Union. African Americans were excluded from existing labor unions, such as when white workers formed the National Labor Union (NLU). In 1869 several black delegates were invited to the annual meeting of the NLU, where Isaac Myers, a prominent organizer of African-American laborers, spoke eloquently for solidarity, saying that white and black workers ought to organize together for higher wages and a comfortable standard of living. However, the white unions refused to allow African Americans to join their ranks. In response, Myers met with other African-American laborers to form what became the Colored National Labor Union. Unlike the NLU, the CNLU welcomed members of all races. Isaac Myers was the CNLU’s founding president; Frederick Douglas became president in 1872 – 1869

The Washington Monument is completed in Washington, D.C. On the interior of the monument are 193 commemorative stones, donated by numerous governments and organizations from all over the world; one of them is from the Int’l Typographical Union, founded in 1852. In 1986 the ITU merged into the Communications Workers of America – 1884

A total of 361 coal miners die at Monongah, W.Va., in nation’s worst mining disaster – 1907

Int’l Glove Workers Union of America merges into Amalgamated Clothing Workers – 1961

United Mine Workers begin what is to become a 110-day national coal strike – 1977

December 07

Heywood Broun born in New York City. Journalist, columnist and co-founder, in 1933, of The Newspaper Guild – 1888

Steam boiler operators from 11 cities across the country meet in Chicago to form the National Union of Steam Engineers of America, the forerunner to the Int’l Union of Operating Engineers. Each of the men represented a local union of 40 members or fewer – 1896

More than 1,600 protesters staged a national hunger march on Washington, D.C., to present demands for unemployment insurance – 1931

United Hatters, Cap & Millinery Workers Int’l Union merges into Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union – 1982

Delegates to the founding convention of the National Nurses United (NNU) in Phoenix, Ariz., unanimously endorse the creation of the largest union and professional organization of registered nurses in U.S. history. The 150,000-member union is the product of a merger of three groups – 2009

December 08

Twenty-five unions found the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in Columbus, Ohio; Cigarmaker’s union leader Samuel Gompers is elected president. The AFL’s founding document’s preamble reads: “A struggle is going on in all of the civilized world between oppressors and oppressed of all countries, between capitalist and laborer…” – 1886

114-day newspaper strike begins, New York City – 1962

President Bill Clinton signs The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – 1993

Nearly 230 jailed teachers—about one-fourth of the 1,000-member Middletown Township, N.J., staff—are ordered freed after they and their colleagues agree to end a 9-day strike and go into mediation with the local school board – 2001

Faced with a national unemployment rate of 10 percent, President Barack Obama outlines new multi-billion dollar stimulus and jobs proposals, saying the country must continue to “spend our way out of this recession” until more Americans are back at work. Joblessness had soared 6 percent in the final two years of George W. Bush’s presidency – 2009

December 09

Ratification of a new labor agreement at Titan Tire of Natchez, Miss., ends the longest strike in the history of the U.S. tire industry, which began May 1, 1998, at the company’s Des Moines, Iowa, plant – 2001

– Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

 

This Week in Labor History: 11/26 – 12/2

November 26

Six young women burn to death and 19 more die when they leap from the fourth-story windows of a blazing factory in Newark, N.J. The floors and stairs were wooden; the only door through which the women could flee was locked – 1910

November 27

Some 1,200 workers sit down at Midland Steel, forcing recognition of the United Auto Workers, Detroit – 1936

The pro-labor musical revue, “Pins & Needles,” opens on Broadway with a cast of Int’l Ladies Garment Workers Union members. The show ran on Friday and Saturday nights only, because of the cast’s regular jobs. It ran for 1,108 performances before closing – 1937

November 28

William Sylvis, founder of the National Labor Union, born – 1828

National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, precursor to IBEW, founded – 1891

A total of 154 men die in a coal mine explosion at Marianna, Pa. Engineer and General Superintendent A.C. Beeson tells the local newspaper he had been in the mine a few minutes before the blast and had found it to be in perfect condition – 1908

Some 400 New York City photoengravers working for the city’s newspapers, supported by 20,000 other newspaper unionists, begin what is to become an 11-day strike, shutting down the papers – 1953

November 29

Clerks, teamsters and building service workers at Boston Stores in Milwaukee strike at the beginning of the Christmas rush. The strike won widespread support—at one point 10,000 pickets jammed the sidewalks around the main store—but ultimately was lost. Workers returned to the job in mid-January with a small pay raise and no union recognition – 1934

The SS Daniel J. Morrell, a 603-foot freighter, breaks in two during a strong storm on Lake Huron. Twenty-eight of its 29 crewmen died; survivor Dennis Hale was found the next day, near frozen and floating in a life raft with the bodies of three of his crewmates. He had survived for nearly 40 hours in frigid temperatures wearing only a pair of boxer shorts, a lifejacket, and a pea coat – 1966

National Labor Relations Board rules that medical interns can unionize and negotiate wages and hours – 1999

November 30

“Fighting Mary” Eliza McDowell, also known as the “Angel of the Stockyards,” born in Chicago. As a social worker she helped organize the first women’s local of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union in 1902 – 1854

Mother Jones died at the Burgess Farm in Adelphi, Md.; “I’m not a lady, I’m a hell-raiser!” – 1930

More than 12,000 members of the Insurance Agents Union strike in 35 states and Washington, D.C., against the Prudential Insurance Co. – 1951

Unionists and activists shut down World Trade Organization meeting, Seattle, Wash. – 1999

December 01

The Ford Motor Co. introduces the continuous moving assembly line which can produce a complete car every two-and-a-half hours – 1913

Kellogg cereal adopts 6-hour day – 1930

African-American Rosa Parks refuses to go to the back of a Montgomery, Ala., bus, fueling the growing civil rights movement’s campaign to win desegregation and end the deep South’s “Jim Crow” laws – 1955

United Garment Workers of America merge with United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union – 1994

Metal Polishers, Buffers, Platers & Allied Workers Int’l Union & United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum & Plastics Workers of America merge with Int’l Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers & Helpers – 1996

December 02

A Chicago “slugger,” paid $50 by labor unions for every scab he “discouraged,” described his job in an interview: “Oh, there ain’t nothing to it. I gets my fifty, then I goes out and finds the guy they wanna have slugged, then I gives it to ‘im” – 1911

The U.S. Senate votes 65-22 to condemn Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisc.) for “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.” McCarthy was a rabid anti-Communist who falsely accused thousands of Americans, mostly people who supported labor, civil rights and other progressive causes, of being traitors – 1954

Court documents filed in Boston say Walmart Stores Inc. has agreed to pay $40 million to 87,500 Massachusetts employees who claimed the retailer denied them rest and meal breaks, manipulated time cards and refused to pay overtime – 2009

This Week in Labor History: 11/19 – 11/25

November 19

Joe Hill, labor leader and songwriter, executed in Utah on what many believe was a framed charge of murder. Before he died he declared: “Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize.” – 1915

The nation’s first automatic toll collection machine is used at the Union Toll Plaza on New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway – 1954

The National Writers Union is founded, representing freelance and contract writers and others in the trade. In 1992 it was to merge into and become a local of the United Auto Workers – 1981

November 20

First use of the term “scab,” by Albany Typographical Society – 1816

Norman Thomas born, American socialist leader – 1884

The time clock is invented by Willard Bundy, a jeweler in Auburn, N.Y. Bundy’s brother Harlow starts mass producing them a year later – 1888

Mine fire in Telluride, Colo., kills 28 miners, prompts union call for safer work conditions – 1901

A total of 78 miners are killed in an explosion at the Consolidated Coal Company’s No. 9 mine in Farmington, W. Va. – 1968

The Great Recession hits high gear when the stock market falls to its lowest level since 1997. Adding to the mess: a burst housing bubble and total incompetence and greed—some of it criminal—on the part of the nation’s largest banks and Wall Street investment firms. Officially, the recession lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, but unemployment still hovers around the 7 percent mark today – 2008

November 21

Six miners striking for better working conditions under the IWW banner are killed and many wounded in the Columbine Massacre at Lafayette, Colo. Out of this struggle Colorado coal miners gained lasting union contracts – 1927

The 1,700-mile Alaska Highway (Alcan Highway) is completed, built during World War II on the order of President Roosevelt. Some 11,000 troops, about one-third of them African-Americans, worked on the project, which claimed the lives of an estimated 30 men. Memorials for the veterans are scattered in spots throughout the highway, including the Black Veterans Memorial Bridge, dedicated in 1993. It wasn’t until 1948 that the military was desegregated – 1942

The United Auto Workers Union strikes 92 General Motors plants in 50 cities to back up worker demands for a 30-percent raise. An estimated 200,000 workers are out – 1945

Staten Island and Brooklyn are linked by the new Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time and still the longest in the U.S. Joseph Farrell, an apprentice Ironworker on the project, told radio station WNYC: “The way the wind blows over this water it would blow you right off the iron. That was to me and still is the most treacherous part of this business. When the wind grabs you on the open iron, it can be very dangerous.” Three workers died over the course of the 5-year project – 1964

The promise of telecommuting arrives when the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network—ARPANET, the beginnings of the global internet—is established when a permanent link is created between the University of California at Los Angeles and the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, Calif. – 1969

A fire at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas kills 85 hotel employees and guests and sends 650 injured persons, including 14 firefighters, to the hospital. Most of the deaths and injuries were caused by smoke inhalation – 1980

Flight attendants celebrate the signing into law a smoking ban on all U.S. domestic flights – 1989

Congress approves the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), to take effect Jan. 1 of the following year – 1993

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act takes effect in the nation’s workplaces. It prohibits employers from requesting genetic testing or considering someone’s genetic background in hiring, firing or promotions – 2009

November 22

“The Uprising of the 20,000.” Some 20,000 female garment workers are on strike in New York; Judge tells arrested pickets: “You are on strike against God.” The walkout, believed to be the first major successful strike by female workers in American history, ended the following February with union contracts bringing better pay and working conditions – 1909

The district president of the American Federation of Labor and two other White men are shot and killed in Bogalusa, La., as they attempt to assist an African-American organizer working to unionize African-American workers at the Great Southern Lumber Co. – 1919

President John F. Kennedy is assassinated. Generally considered a friend of labor, Kennedy a year earlier had issued Executive Order 10988, which authorized unionization and a limited form of collective bargaining rights for most federal workers (excluding the Department of Defense). Many states followed the example set by Kennedy – 1963

November 23

History’s first recorded (on papyrus) strike, by Egyptians working on public works projects for King Ramses III in the Valley of the Kings. They were protesting having gone 20 days without pay—portions of grain—and put down their tools. Exact date estimated, described as within “the sixth month of the 29th year” of Ramses’ reign—1170BC—in The Spirit of Ancient Egypt, by Ana Ruiz. Scholar John Romer adds in Ancient Lives: The Story of the Pharaoh’s Tombmakers that the strike so terrified the authorities they gave in and raised wages. Romer believes it happened a few years later, on Nov. 14, 1152 B.C.

Troops are dispatched to Cripple Creek, Colo., to control protests by striking coal miners – 1903

Mine Workers President John L. Lewis walks away from the American Federation of Labor to lead the newly-formed Committee for Industrial Organization. The CIO and the unions created under its banner organized six million industrial workers over the following decade – 1935

The first meeting between members of the newly-formed National Football League Players Association and team owners takes place in New York. Union founders included Frank Gifford, Norm Van Brocklin, Don Shula and Kyle Rote. They were asking for a minimum $5,000 salary, a requirement that their teams pay for their equipment, and a provision for the continued payment of salary to injured players. The players’ initial demands were ignored – 1956

November 24

Led by Samuel Gompers, who would later found the American Federation of Labor, Cigarmakers’ Int’l Union Local 144 is chartered in New York City – 1875

November 25

Some 10,000 New Orleans workers, Black and White, participate in a solidarity parade of unions comprising the Central Trades and Labor Assembly. The parade was so successful it was repeated the following two years – 1883

Teachers strike in St. Paul, Minn., the first organized walkout by teachers in the country. The month-long “strike for better schools” involving some 1,100 teachers—and principals—led to a number of reforms in the way schools were administered and operated – 1946

Nearly 1,550 typesetters begin what is to become a victorious 22-month strike against Chicago newspapers – 1947

George Meany becomes president of the American Federation of Labor following the death four days earlier of William Green – 1952

Canadian postal workers, protesting a Post Office decision to offer discounts to businesses but not individuals, announce that for one week they will unilaterally reduce postage costs by about two-thirds. Declared the Canadian Union of Postal Workers: “(M)embers of the general public, not businesses, can mail letters with 10 cents postage and postal workers will process them without taxing them for insufficient postage” – 1983

This Week in Labor History: 11/12 – 11/18

November 12

Ellis Island in New York closes after serving as the gateway for 12 million immigrants from 1892 to 1924. From 1924 to 1954 it was mostly used as a detention and deportation center for undocumented immigrants – 1954

“Chainsaw Al” Dunlap announces he is restructuring the Sunbeam Corp. and lays off 6,000 workers—half the workforce. Sunbeam later nearly collapsed after a series of scandals under Dunlap’s leadership that cost investors billions of dollars – 1996

November 13

A total of 259 miners died in the underground Cherry Mine fire. As a result of the disaster, Illinois established stricter safety regulations and in 1911, the basis for the state’s Workers Compensation Act was passed – 1909

A Western Federation of Miners strike is crushed by the militia in Butte, Mont. – 1914

The Holland Tunnel opens, running under the Hudson River for 1.6 miles and connecting the island of Manhattan in New York City with Jersey City, N.J. Thirteen workers died over its 7-year-long construction – 1927

GM workers’ post-war strike for higher wages closes 96 plants – 1945

Striking typesetters at the Green Bay, Wisc., Press Gazette start a competing newspaper, The Green Bay Daily News. With financial support from a local businessman who hated the Press Gazette, the union ran the paper for four years before their angel died and it was sold to another publisher. The Gannett chain ultimately bought the paper, only to fold it in 2005 – 1972

Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union activist Karen Silkwood is killed in a suspicious car crash on her way to deliver documents to a newspaper reporter during a safety investigation of her Kerr-McGee plutonium processing plant in Oklahoma – 1974

November 14

Women’s Trade Union League founded, Boston – 1903

The American Railway Supervisors Association is formed at Harmony Hall in Chicago by 29 supervisors working for the Chicago & North Western Railway. They organized after realizing that those railroaders working under their supervision already had the benefits of unionization and were paid more for working fewer hours – 1934

The Depression-era Public Works Administration agrees with New York City today to begin a huge slum clearance project covering 20 acres in Brooklyn, where low cost housing for 2,500 families will be completed. It was the first of many such jobs-and-housing projects across the country – 1934

The National Federation of Telephone Workers—later to become the Communications Workers of America—is founded in New Orleans – 1938

Jimmy Carter-era OSHA publishes standard reducing permissible exposure of lead, protecting 835,000 workers from damage to nervous, urinary and reproductive systems – 1978

Federation of Professional Athletes granted a charter by the AFL-CIO – 1979

November 15

Founding convention of the Federation of Trades and Labor Unions is held in Pittsburgh. It urges enactment of employer liability, compulsory education, uniform apprenticeship and child and convict labor laws. Five years later it changes its name to the American Federation of Labor – 1881

November 16

A county judge in Punxsutawney, Pa., grants an injunction requested by the Clearfield Bituminous Coal Co. forbidding strikers from speaking to strikebreakers, posting signs declaring a strike is in progress, or even singing hymns. Union leaders termed the injunction “drastic” – 1927

The National Football League Players Association ends a 57-day strike that shortened the season to nine games. The players wanted, but failed to win until many years later, a higher share of gross team revenues – 1982

November 17

The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York is founded “to provide cultural, educational and social services to families of skilled craftsmen.” The Society remains in existence to this day – 1785

Martin Irons dies near Waco, Texas. Born in Dundee, Scotland, he emigrated to the U.S. at age 14. He joined the Knights of Labor and in 1886 led a strike of 200,000 workers against the Jay Gould-owned Union Pacific and Missouri railroads. The strike was crushed, Irons was blacklisted and he died broken-down and penniless. Said Mother Jones: “The capitalist class hounded him as if he had been a wild beast.” – 1900

To the huge relief of Post Office Department employees, the service sets a limit of 200 pounds a day to be shipped by any one customer. Builders were finding it cheaper to send supplies via post than via wagon freight. In one instance, 80,000 bricks for a new bank were shipped parcel post from Salt Lake City to Vernal, Utah, 170 miles away. The new directive also barred the shipment of humans: a child involved in a couple’s custody fight was shipped—for 17¢—from Stillwell to South Bend, Ind., in a crate labeled “live baby” – 1916

With many U.S. political leaders gripped by the fear of communism and questioning citizen loyalties in the years following World War II, the Screen Actors Guild votes to force its officers to take a “non-communist” pledge. A few days earlier the Hollywood Ten had been called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities – 1947

November 18

Seattle printers refuse to print anti-labor ad in newspaper – 1919

Thirty-one men died on Lake Michigan with the sinking of the Carl D. Bradley during one of the worst storms in the lake’s history. The 623-foot ship, carrying limestone, broke in two. Four crewmen survived – 1958

This Week in Labor History: 11/5 – 11/11

November 05

Eugene V. Debs, labor leader, socialist, three-time candidate for president and first president of the American Railway Union, born – 1855

Everett, Wash., massacre, at least seven Wobblies killed, 50 wounded and an indeterminate number missing – 1916

Some 12,000 television and movie writers begin what was to become a 3-month strike against producers over demands for an increase in pay for movies and television shows released on DVD and for a bigger share of the revenue from work delivered over the Internet – 2007

November 06

French transport worker and socialist Eugene Pottier dies in Paris at age 71. In 1871 he authored “L’Internationale,” the anthem to international labor solidarity, the first verse of which begins: “Stand up, damned of the Earth; Stand up, prisoners of starvation” – 1887

A coal mine explosion in Spangler, Pa., kills 79. The mine had been rated gaseous in 1918, but at the insistence of new operators it was rated as non-gaseous even though miners had been burned by gas on at least four occasions – 1922

November 07

(Click on image to view book)

Some 1,300 building trades workers in eastern Massachusetts participated in a general strike on all military work in the area to protest the use of open-shop (a work site in which union membership is not required as a condition of employment) builders. The strike held on for a week in the face of threats from the U.S. War Department – 1917

President Eisenhower’s use of the Taft-Hartley Act is upheld by the Supreme Court, breaking a 116-day steel strike – 1959

Lemuel Ricketts Boulware dies in Delray Beach, Fla., at age 95. As a GE vice president in the 1950s he created the policy known as Boulwarism, in which management decides what is “fair” and refuses to budge on anything during contract negotiations. IUE President Paul Jennings described the policy as “telling the workers what they are entitled to and then trying to shove it down their throats.” – 1990

November 08

20,000 workers, Black and White, stage general strike in New Orleans, demanding union recognition and hour and wage gains – 1892

President Franklin D. Roosevelt announces plans for the Civil Works Administration to create four million additional jobs for the Depression-era unemployed. The workers ultimately laid 12 million feet of sewer pipe and built or made substantial improvements to 255,000 miles of roads, 40,000 schools, 3,700 playgrounds, and nearly 1,000 airports (not to mention 250,000 outhouses still badly needed in rural America) – 1933

In one of the U.S. auto industry’s more embarrassing missteps over the last half-century, the Ford Motor Co. decides to name its new model the Edsel, after Henry Ford’s only son. Ford executives rejected 18,000 other potential names – 1956

November 09

Twenty people, including at least nine firefighters, are killed in Boston’s worst fire. It consumed 65 downtown acres and 776 buildings over 12 hours – 1872

Creation of Committee for Industrial Organization announced by eight unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (in 1938 they formally break with the AFL and become the Congress of Industrial Organizations). The eight want more focus on organizing mass production industry workers – 1935

Philip Murray, first president of the United Steelworkers Organizing Committee, first president of the United Steelworkers of America, and president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations for 12 years following the retirement of John L. Lewis, dies at age 66 – 1952

November 10

Sit-down strike begins at Austin, Minn., Hormel plant with the help of a Wobbly organizer, leading to the creation of the Independent Union of All Workers. Labor historians believe this may have been the first sit-down strike of the 1930s. Workers held the plant for three days, demanding a wage increase. Some 400 men crashed through the plant entrance and chased out nonunion workers. One group rushed through the doors of a conference room where Jay Hormel and five company executives were meeting and declared: “We’re taking possession. So move out.” Within four days the company agreed to binding arbitration – 1933


The ship Edmund Fitzgerald—the biggest carrier on the Great Lakes—and crew of 29 are lost in a storm on Lake Superior while carrying ore from Superior, Wisc., to Detroit. The cause of the sinking was never established – 1975

Tile, Marble, Terrazzo Finishers, Shop Workers & Granite Cutters Int’l Union merges into United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners – 1988

November 11

Haymarket martyrs hanged, convicted in the bombing deaths of eight police during a Chicago labor rally – 1887

A confrontation between American Legionnaires and Wobblies during an Armistice Day Parade in Centralia, Wash., results in six deaths. One Wobbly reportedly was beaten, his teeth bashed in with a rifle butt, castrated and hanged: local officials listed his death as a suicide – 1919

A total of 57 crewmen on three freighters die over a 3-day period when their ships sink during a huge storm over Lake Michigan – 1940

This Week in Labor History: 10/29 – 11/4

October 29

Japanese immigrant and labor advocate Katsu Goto is strangled to death, his body then strung from an electric pole, on the Big Island of Hawaii by thugs hired by plantation owners. They were outraged over Goto’s work on behalf of agricultural workers and because he opened a general store that competed with the owners’ own company store – 1889

Wall Street crashes—”Black Tuesday”—throwing the world’s economy into a years-long crisis including an unemployment rate in the U.S. that by 1933 hit nearly 25 percent – 1929

October 30

Ed Meese, attorney general in the Ronald Reagan administration, urges employers to begin spying on workers “in locker rooms, parking lots, shipping and mail room areas and even the nearby taverns” to try to catch them using drugs – 1986

The fishing boat Andrea Gail, out of Gloucester, Mass., is caught in ferocious storm and lost at sea with her crew of six. The event inspired the book, “The Perfect Storm,” by Sebastian Junger, and a film by the same name. The city of Gloucester has lost more than 10,000 whalers and fishermen to the sea over its 350-year history – 1991

October 31

George Henry Evans publishes the first issue of the Working Man’s Advocate, “edited by a Mechanic” for the “useful and industrious classes” in New York City. He focused on the inequities between the “portion of society living in luxury and idleness” and those “groaning under the oppressions and miseries imposed on them.” – 1829

Tennessee sends in leased convict laborers to break a coal miners strike in Anderson County. The miners revolted, burned the stockades, and sent the captured convicts by train back to Knoxville – 1891

After 14 years of labor by 400 stone masons, the Mt. Rushmore sculpture is completed in Keystone, S.D. – 1941

Int’l Alliance of Bill Posters, Billers & Distributors of the United States & Canada surrenders its AFL-CIO charter and is disbanded – 1971

November 01

In the nation’s first general strike for a 10-hour day, 300 armed Irish longshoremen marched through the streets of Philadelphia calling on other workers to join them. Some 20,000 did, from clerks to bricklayers to city employees and other occupations. The city announced a 10-hour workday within the week; private employers followed suit three weeks later – 1835

Thirty-seven Black striking Louisiana sugar workers are murdered when Louisiana militia, aided by bands of “prominent citizens,” shoot unarmed workers trying to get a dollar-per-day wage. Two strike leaders are lynched – 1887

Malbone tunnel disaster in New York City; inexperienced scab motorman crashes five-car train during strike, 97 killed, 255 injured – 1918

Some 400,000 soft coal miners strike for higher wages and shorter hours – 1919

United Stone & Allied Products Workers of America merge with United Steelworkers of America – 1972

The UAW begins what was to become a successful 172-day strike against International Harvester. The union turned back company demands for weakened work rules, mandatory overtime – 1979

Honda assembles the first-ever Japanese car manufactured in a U.S. plant, in Marysville, Ohio – 1982

November 02

Police arrest 150 in IWW free speech fight, Spokane, Wash. – 1909Railroad union leader & socialist Eugene V. Debs receives nearly a million votes for president while imprisoned for opposing World War I – 1920

President Reagan signs a bill designating a federal holiday honoring the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. to be observed on the third Monday of January – 1983

Carmen Fasanella retired after 68 years and 243 days of taxicab service in Princeton, N.J., earning himself a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. He started driving at age 17 and, reportedly, chauffeured Princeton Professor Albert Einstein around town – 1989

November 03

Striking milk drivers dump thousands of gallons of milk on New York City streets – 1921

Some 5,000 Philadelphia-area public transit workers begin what was to be a 6-day strike centered on wages and pension benefits – 2009

November 04

Populist humorist Will Rogers was born on this day near Oologah, Indian Territory (later Oklahoma). One of his many memorable quotes: “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.” – 1879

Some 3,000 dairy farmers demonstrate in Neillsville, Wisc., ultimately leading to the freeing of jailed leaders of a milk strike over low prices set by large dairy plants. Tons of fresh milk were dumped on public roads, trains carrying milk were stopped, some cheese plants were bombed during the fight – 1933

After a struggle lasting more than two years, 6,000 Steelworkers members at Bridgestone/Firestone win a settlement in which strikers displaced by scabs got their original jobs back. The fight started when management demanded that the workers accept 12-hour shifts – 1996

This Week in Labor History: 10/22 – 10/28

October 22

Bank robber Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd is killed by FBI agents near East Liverpool, Ohio. He was a hero to the people of Oklahoma who saw him as a “Sagebrush Robin Hood,” stealing from banks and sharing some of the proceeds with the poor – 1934

October 23

President Theodore Roosevelt establishes a fact-finding commission that suspends a nine-months-long strike by Western Pennsylvania coal miners fighting for better pay, shorter workdays and union recognition. The strikers ended up winning more pay for fewer hours, but failed to get union recognition. It was the first time that the federal government had intervened as a neutral arbitrator in a labor dispute – 1902

Explosion and fire at Phillips Petroleum refinery in Pasadena, Texas, kills 23 and injures 314 – 1989

Postal workers Joseph Curseen and Thomas Morris die nearly a month after having inhaled anthrax at the Brentwood mail sorting center in Washington, D.C. Other postal workers had been made ill but survived. Letters containing the deadly spores had been addressed to U.S. Senate offices and media outlets – 2001

October 24
(click on image!)

The 40-hour work week goes into effect under the Fair Labor Standards Act, signed by President Roosevelt two years earlier – 1940
(Click here or on the image above to purchase ‘8 hours,’ or other Ricardo Levins Morales labor images, as note cards.)

U.S. minimum wage increases to 40¢ an hour – 1945

October 25

What many believe to be the first formal training on first aid in American history took place at the Windsor Hotel in Jermyn, Penn., when Dr. Matthew J. Shields instructed 25 coal miners on ways to help their fellow miners. Upon completion of the course each of the miners was prepared and able to render first aid. The training led to marked decreases in serious mining injuries and fatalities – 1899

Some 25,000 silk dye workers strike in Paterson, N.J. – 1934

In what becomes known as the Great Hawaiian Dock Strike, a 6-month struggle to win wage parity with mainland dock workers, ends in victory – 1949

The Tribune Co. begins a brutal 5-month-long lockout at the New York Daily News, part of an effort to bust the newspaper’s unions – 1990

John Sweeney, president of the Service Employees Int’l Union, elected president of AFL-CIO – 1995

After a two-year fight, workers at the Bonus Car Wash in Santa Monica, Calif., win a union contract calling for pay increases, better breaks and other gains. “They didn’t treat us like people,” nine-year employee Oliverio Gomez told the Los Angeles Times – 2011

October 26

After eight years and at least 1,000 worker deaths—mostly Irish immigrants—the 350-mile Erie Canal opens, linking the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. Father John Raho wrote to his bishop that “so many die that there is hardly any time to give Extreme Unction (last rites) to everybody. We run night and day to assist the sick.” – 1825

October 27

The New York City subway, the first rapid-transit system in America, opens. More than 100 workers died during the construction of the first 13 miles of tunnels and track – 1904

Three strikes on works-relief projects in Maryland were underway today, with charges that Depression-era Works Projects Administration jobs were paying only about 28 cents an hour—far less than was possible on direct relief. Civic officials in Cumberland, where authorities had established a 50-cent-per-hour minimum wage, supported the strikers – 1935

The National Labor Council is formed in Cincinnati to unite Black workers in the struggle for full economic, political and social equality. The group was to function for five years before disbanding, having forced many AFL and CIO unions to adopt non-discrimination policies – 1951

October 28

Union organizer and anarchist Luisa Capetillo is born in Ariecibo, Puerto Rico. She organized tobacco and other agricultural workers in Puerto Rico and later in New York and Florida. In 1916 she led a successful sugar cane strike of more than 40,000 workers on the island. She demanded that her union endorse voting rights for women. In 1919, three years before her death, she was arrested for wearing pants in public, the first woman in Puerto Rico to do so. The charges were dropped – 1879

The St. Louis Gateway Arch is completed after two and one-half years. Originally sold as a jobs program for thousands of African Americans in St. Louis suffering from the Depression, the 630-foot high arch of stainless steel marks the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the waterfront of St. Louis, Mo. Although it was predicted 13 lives would be lost in construction, not a single worker died – 1965

This Week in Labor History: 10/15 – 10/21

October 15

President Woodrow Wilson signs the Clayton Antitrust Act—often referred to as “Labor’s Magna Carta”—establishing that unions are not “conspiracies” under the law. It for the first time freed unions to strike, picket and boycott employers. In the years that followed, however, numerous state measures and negative court interpretations weakened the law – 1914

October 16

Queen Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI, is beheaded during the French Revolution. When alerted that the peasants were suffering due to widespread bread shortages, lore has it that she replied, “Let them eat cake.” In fact she never said that, but workers were, justifiably, ready to believe anything bad about their cold-hearted royalty – 1793

Abolitionist John Brown leads 18 men, including five free Blacks, in an attack on the Harper’s Ferry ammunition depot, the beginning of guerrilla warfare against slavery – 1859

October 17

A huge vat ruptures at a London brewery, setting off a domino effect of similar ruptures, and what was to become known as The London Beer Flood. Nearly 1.5 million liters of beer gushed into the streets drowning or otherwise causing the deaths of eight people, mostly poor people living in nearby basements – 1814

Founding of the American Federation of Government Employees, following a decision by the National Federation of Federal Employees (later to become part of the Int’l Association of Machinists) to leave the AFL – 1932

Labor activist Warren Billings is released from California’s Folsom Prison. Along with Thomas J. Mooney, Billings had been pardoned for a 1916 conviction stemming from a bomb explosion during a San Francisco Preparedness Day parade. He had always maintained his innocence – 1939

“Salt of the Earth” strike begins by the mostly Mexican-American members of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union Local 890 in Bayard, N.M. Strikers’ wives walked picket lines for seven months when their husbands were enjoined during the 14-month strike against the New Jersey Zinc Co. A great movie, see it! – 1950

Twelve New York City firefighters die fighting a blaze in midtown Manhattan – 1966

Int’l Printing Pressmen’s & Assistants’ Union of North America merges with Int’l Stereotypers’, Electrotypers’ & Platemakers’ Union to become Printing & Graphic Communications Union – 1973

Industrial Union of Marine & Shipbuilding Workers of America merges with Int’l Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers – 1988

October 18

The “Shoemakers of Boston”—the first labor organization in what would later become the United States—was authorized by the Massachusetts Bay Colony – 1648

New York City agrees to pay women school teachers a rate equal to that of men – 1911

IWW Colorado Mine strike; first time all coal fields are out – 1927

Some 58,000 Chrysler Corp. workers strike for wage increases – 1939

The United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) was formed as a self-governing union, an outgrowth of the CIO’s Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee. UPWA merged with the Meatcutters union in 1968, which merged with the Retail Clerks in 1979 to form the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) – 1943

GM agrees to hire more women and minorities for five years as part of a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – 1983

October 19

The National Association of Letter Carriers achieves equalization of wages for all letter carriers, meaning city delivery carriers began receiving the same wages regardless of the size of the community in which they worked – 1949

The J.P. Stevens textile company is forced to sign its first union contract after a 17-year struggle in North Carolina and other southern states – 1980

October 20

Eugene V. Debs, U.S. labor leader and socialist, dies in Elmhurst, Ill. Among his radical ideas: an 8-hour workday, pensions, workman’s compensation, sick leave and social security. He ran for president from a jail cell in 1920 and got a million votes – 1926

Hollywood came under scrutiny as the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) opened hearings into alleged Communist influence within the motion picture industry. Dozens of union members were among those blacklisted as a result of HUAC’s activities – 1947

Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan writes to PATCO President Robert Poli with this promise: if the union endorses Reagan, “I will take whatever steps are necessary to provide our air traffic controllers with the most modern equipment available and to adjust staff levels and work days so that they are commensurate with achieving a maximum degree of public safety.” He got the endorsement. Nine months after the election, he fires the air traffic controllers for engaging in an illegal walkout over staffing levels and working conditions – 1980

Death of Merle Travis, songwriter and performer who wrote “Sixteen Tons” and “Dark as a Dungeon” – 1983

Two track workers are killed in a (San Francisco) Bay Area Rapid Transit train accident. Federal investigators said the train was run by a BART employee who was being trained as an operator as members of the Amalgamated Transit Union were participating in what was to be a four-day strike – 2013

October 21

Wisconsin dairy farmers begin their third strike of the year in an attempt to raise the price of milk paid to producers during the Great Depression. Several creameries were bombed before the strike ended a month later. The economy eventually improved, allowing the farmers to make more money – 1933

The Upholsterers Int’l Union merges into the United Steelworkers – 1985

This Week in Labor History: 10/8 – 10/14

October 08

Thirty of the city’s 185 firefighters are injured battling the Great Chicago Fire, which burned for three days – 1871
In Poland, the union Solidarity and all other labor organizations are banned by the government – 1982
Upholsterers’ Int’l Union of North America merges with United Steelworkers of America – 1985

October 09

United Hebrew Trades is organized in New York by shirt maker Morris Hillquit and others. Hillquit would later become leader of the Socialist Party – 1888
Retail stock brokerage Smith Barney reaches a tentative sexual harassment settlement with a group of female employees. The suit charged, among other things, that branch managers asked female workers to remove their tops in exchange for money and one office featured a “boom boom room” where women workers were encouraged to “entertain clients.” The settlement was never finalized: a U.S. District Court judge refused to approve the deal because it failed to adequately redress the plaintiff’s grievances – 1997
An estimated 3,300 sanitation workers working for private haulers in Chicago win a 9-day strike featuring a 28-percent wage increase over five years – 2003

October 10

Six days into a cotton field strike by 18,000 Mexican and Mexican-American workers in Pixley, Calif., four strikers are killed and six wounded; eight growers were indicted and charged with murder – 1933

October 11

The Miners’ National Association is formed in Youngstown, Ohio, with the goal of uniting all miners, regardless of skill or ethnic background – 1873
Nearly 1,500 plantation workers strike Olaa Sugar, on Hawaii’s Big Island – 1948

October 12

Company guards kill at least eight miners who are attempting to stop scabs, Virden, Ill. Six guards are also killed, and 30 persons wounded – 1898
Fourteen miners killed, 22 wounded at Pana, Ill. – 1902
Some 2,000 workers demanding union recognition close down dress manufacturing, Los Angeles – 1933
More than one million Canadian workers demonstrate against wage controls – 1976

October 13

American Federation of Labor votes to boycott all German-made products as a protest against Nazi antagonism to organized labor within Germany – 1934
More than 1,100 office workers strike Columbia University in New York City. The mostly female and minority workers win union recognition and pay increases – 1985
National Basketball Association cancels regular season games for the first time in its 51-year history, during a player lockout.  Player salaries and pay caps are the primary issue.  The lockout lasts 204 days – 1998
Hundreds of San Jose Mercury News newspaper carriers end 4-day walkout with victory – 2000

October 14

Int’l Working People’s Association founded in Pittsburgh, Pa. – 1883
The Seafarers Int’l Union (SIU) is founded as an AFL alternative to what was then the CIO’s National Maritime Union.  SIU is an umbrella organization of 12 autonomous unions of mariners, fishermen and boatmen working on U.S.-flagged vessels – 1938

Formal construction began today on what is expected to be a five-year, $3.9 billion replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River.  It’s estimated the project would be employing 8,000 building trades workers over the span of the job – 2013

This Week in Labor History: 10/1 – 10/7

October 1

An ink storage room in the L.A. Times building is dynamited during a citywide fight over labor rights and organizing.  The explosion was relatively minor, but it set off a fire in the unsafe, difficult-to-evacuate building, ultimately killing 21.  A union member eventually confessed to the bombing, which he said was supposed to have occurred early in the morning when the building would have been largely unoccupied – 1910
The George Washington Bridge officially opens, spanning the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York. Thirteen workers died during the four-year construction project for what at the time was the longest main span in the world – 1931
Thousands of dairy farmers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa strike in demand of higher prices for their milk – 1935
The Pennsylvania Turnpike opened as the first toll superhighway in the United States.  It was built in most part by workers hired through the state’s Re-Employment offices – 1940
United Transport Service Employees of America merges with Brotherhood of Railway, Airline & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees – 1972

Some 200 Pressmen begin what is to become a two-year strike at the Washington Post.  Nine of the paper’s ten other unions engaged in sympathy strikes for more than four months but ultimately returned to their jobs as the paper continued publishing.  The press operators picketed for 19 months but eventually decertified the union – 1975

Insurance Workers Int’l Union merges with United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union – 1983
Railroad Yardmasters of America merge with United Transportation Union – 1985
Pattern Makers League of North America merges with Int’l Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers – 1991
The National Hockey League team owners began a lockout of the players that lasted 103 days – 1994
Stove, Furnace & Allied Appliance Workers Int’l Union of North America merges with Int’l Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers, & Helpers – 1994
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union merges with United Food and Commercial Workers Int’l Union – 1998
Int’l Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine & Furniture Workers merges with Communications Workers of America – 2000

October 02

American Federation of Labor officially endorses campaign for a 6-hour day, 5-day workweek – 1934
Joining with 400,000 coal miners already on strike, 500,000 CIO steel workers close down the nation’s foundries, steel and iron mills, demanding pensions and better wages and working conditions – 1949
Starbucks Workers Union baristas at an outlet in East Grand Rapids, Mich., organized by the Wobblies, win their grievances after the National Labor Relations Board cites the company for labor law violations, including threats against union activists – 2007
Union members, progressives and others rally in Washington D.C., under the Banner of One Nation Working Together, demand “good jobs, equal justice, and quality education for all.” Crowd estimates range from tens of thousands to 200,000 – 2010

October 03

The state militia is called in after 164 high school students in Kincaid, Ill., go on strike when the school board buys coal from the scab Peabody Coal Co. – 1932
The Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America is founded in Camden, N.J. It eventually merged with the Int’l Association of Machinists, in 1988 – 1933
Pacific Greyhound Lines bus drivers in seven western states begin what is to become a 3-week strike, eventually settling for a 10.5-percent raise – 1945
The United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) is formed as a self-governing union, an outgrowth of the CIO’s Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee. UPWA merged with the Meatcutters union in 1968, which in turn merged with the Retail Clerks in 1979, forming the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) – 1943
The United Auto Workers calls for a company-wide strike against Ford Motor Co., the first since Ford’s initial contract with the union 20 years earlier – 1961
Folk singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie (“This Land is Your Land”, “Union Maid” and hundreds of others) dies of Huntington’s disease in New York at the age of 55 – 1967
Baseball umpires strike for recognition of their newly-formed Major League Umpires Association, win after one day – 1970

October 04


Work begins on the carving of Mt. Rushmore, a task 400 craftsmen would eventually complete in 1941.  Despite the dangerous nature of the project, not one worker died – 1927
President Truman orders the U.S. Navy to seize oil refineries, breaking a 20-state post-war strike – 1945
The United Mine Workers of America votes to re-affiliate with the AFL-CIO after years of on-and-off conflict with the federation. In 2009 the union’s leader, Richard Trumka, becomes AFL-CIO President – 1961
Distillery, Wine & Allied Workers Int’l Union merges with United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union – 1995

October 05

A strike by set decorators turns into a bloody riot at the gates of Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, Calif., when scabs try to cross the picket line. The incident is still identified as “Hollywood Black Friday” and “The Battle of Burbank” – 1945
The UAW ends a 3-week strike against Ford Motor Co. when the company agrees to a contract that includes more vacation days and better retirement and unemployment benefits – 1976
Polish Solidarity union founder Lech Walesa wins the Nobel Peace Prize – 1983
Some 2,100 supermarket janitors in California, mostly from Mexico, win a $22.4 million settlement over unpaid overtime. Many said they worked 70 or more hours a week, often seven nights a week from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. Cleaner Jesus Lopez told the New York Times he only had three days off in five years – 2004

October 06

First National Conference of Trade Union Women – 1918
The first “talkie” movie, The Jazz Singer, premiers in New York City.  Within three years, according to the American Federation of Musicians, theater jobs for some 22,000 musicians who accompanied silent movies were lost, while only a few hundred jobs for musicians performing on soundtracks were created by the new technology – 1927
Some 1,700 female flight attendants win 18-year, $37 million suit against United Airlines. They had been fired for getting married – 1986
Thirty-two thousand machinists begin what is to be a successful 69-day strike against the Boeing Co. The eventual settlement brought improvements that averaged an estimated $19,200 in wages and benefits over four years and safeguards against job cutbacks – 1995

October 07

Joe Hill, labor leader and songwriter, born in Gavle, Sweden – 1879
The Structural Building Trades Alliance (SBTA) is founded, becomes the AFL’s Building Trades Dept. five years later.  SBTA’s mission: to provide a forum to work out jurisdictional conflicts – 1903
Hollywood’s “Battle of the Mirrors.” Picketing members of the Conference of Studio Unions disrupted an outdoor shoot by holding up large reflectors that filled camera lenses with blinding sunlight. Members of the competing IATSE union retaliated by using the reflectors to shoot sunlight back across the street. The battle went on all day, writes Tom Sito in Drawing the Line – 1946

This Week in Labor History: 9/24 – 9/30

September 24

Canada declares the Wobblies illegal – 1918

September 25

Kids at Work Lewis Hine
American photographer Lewis Hine born in Oshkosh, Wisc. – 1874
Two African-American sharecroppers are killed during an ultimately unsuccessful cotton-pickers’ strike in Lee County, Ark.  By the time the strike had been suppressed, 15 African-Americans had died and another six had been imprisoned.  A White plantation manager was killed as well – 1891

September 26


The Old 97, a Southern Railway train officially known as the Fast Mail, derails near Danville, Va., killing engineer Joseph “Steve” Broady and ten other railroad and postal workers.  Many believe Broady had been ordered to speed to make up for lost time.  The Wreck of the Old 97 inspired balladeers; a 1924 recording is sometimes cited as the first million-selling country music record – 1903
The first production Ford Model T leaves the Piquette Plant in Detroit, Mich.  It was the first car ever manufactured on an assembly line, with interchangeable parts.  The auto industry was to become a major U.S. employer, accounting for as many as one of every eight to 10 jobs in the country – 1908

September 27

Striking textile workers in Fall River, Mass., demand bread for their starving children – 1875
The Int’l Typographical Union renews a strike against the Los Angeles Times; a boycott runs intermittently from 1896 to 1908. A local anti-Times committee in 1903 persuades William Randolph Hearst to start a rival paper, the Los Angeles Examiner. Although the ITU kept up the fight into the 1920s, the Times remained totally nonunion until 2009, when the GCIU—now the Graphic Communications Conference of the Teamsters—organized the pressroom – 1893

Int’l Ladies’ Garment Workers Union begins strike against Triangle Shirtwaist Co.  This would become the “Uprising of the 20,000,” resulting in 339 of 352 struck firms—but not Triangle—signing agreements with the union.  The Triangle fire that killed 146 would occur less than two years later – 1909
Twenty-nine west coast ports lock out 10,500 workers in response to what management says is a worker slowdown in the midst of negotiations on a new contract.  The ports are closed for 10 days, reopen when President George W. Bush invokes the Taft-Hartley Act – 2002

September 28

The International Workingmen’s Association is founded in London.  It was an international organization trying to unite a variety of different left-wing, socialist, communist and anarchist political groups and unions.  It functioned for about 12 years, growing to a membership declared to be eight million, before being disbanded at its Philadelphia conference in 1876, victim of infighting brought on by the wide variety of members’ philosophies – 1864

September 29

A report by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that the average weekly take-home pay of a factory worker with three dependents is now $94.87 – 1962
Tens of thousands of protesters take to the streets of Europe, striking against government austerity measures. Workers in more than a dozen countries participate, including Spain, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Slovenia, and Lithuania, protesting job losses, retirement deferments, pension reductions, and cuts to schools, hospitals, and welfare services – 2010

September 30

A total of 29 strike leaders are charged with treason—plotting “to incite insurrection, rebellion & war against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania”—for daring to strike the Carnegie Steel Co. in Homestead, Pa. Jurors refuse to convict them – 1892

Seventy-year-old Mother Jones organizes the wives of striking miners in Arnot, Pa., to descend on the mine with brooms, mops and clanging pots and pans.  They frighten away the mules and their scab drivers.  The miners eventually won their strike – 1899
Railroad shopmen in 28 cities strike the Illinois Central Railroad and the Harriman lines for an 8-hour day, improved conditions and union recognition, but railroad officials obtain sweeping injunctions against them and rely on police and armed guards to protect strikebreakers – 1915
Black farmers meet in Elaine, Ark., to establish the Progressive Farmers and Householders Union to fight for better pay and higher cotton prices.  They are shot at by a group of Whites, and return the fire.  News of the confrontation spread and a riot ensued, leaving at least 100, perhaps several hundred, Blacks dead and 67 indicted for inciting violence – 1919
Cesar Chavez, with Dolores Huerta, co-founds the National Farm Workers Association, which later was to become the United Farm Workers of America – 1962

This Week in Labor History: 9/17 – 9/23

September 17

Seventy-five workers die in explosion at Allegheny Arsenal, Pittsburgh, Pa. – 1862

At a New York convention of the National Labor Congress, Susan B. Anthony calls for the formation of a Working Women’s Association. As a delegate to the Congress, she persuaded the committee on female labor to call for votes for women and equal pay for equal work. But male delegates deleted the reference to the vote – 1868
One hundred thousand Pennsylvania anthracite coal miners go on strike. Their average annual wage is $250. They are paid by the ton, defined by Pennsylvania as 2,400 pounds, but which mine operators have increased to as much as 4,000 pounds – 1900
National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) formed at a convention in Washington, D.C. In 1999 it became part of the Int’l Association of Machinists (IAM) – 1917
Some Depression-era weekly paychecks around the New York area: physician, $55.32; engineer, $40.68; clerk, $22.15; salesman, $25.02; laborer, $20; typist, $15.09 – 1933
Southern employers meeting in Greenville, N.C., ready their big counter-offensive to break the textile labor strikes that have hit the Eastern seaboard. Ultimately they deploy 10,000 national guardsmen and 15,000 deputies, but fail to drive hundreds of thousands of strikers back to work – 1934
A Southern Pacific train loaded with sugar beets strikes a makeshift bus filled with 60 migrant workers near Salinas, Calif., killing 32. The driver said the bus was so crowded he couldn’t see the train coming – 1963
A total of 98 United Mine Workers of America members and a minister occupy the Pittston Coal Company’s Moss 3 preparation plant in Carbon, Va., beginning a year-long strike. Among other issues: management demands for drastic limitations in health and pension benefits for retired and disabled miners and their dependents and beneficiaries – 1989

The Occupy Wall Street movement is launched with an anti-Wall Street march and demonstration that ended up as a 2-month encampment in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. The event led to protests and movements around the world, with their focus on economic inequality, corruption, greed and the influence on government of monied interests. Their slogan: “We are the 99%.” – 2011

September 18

The Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) is formally founded at an Ohio convention, during a period of serious corruption in the union. Two years earlier at an IBT convention in Las Vegas, a union reform leader who (unsuccessfully) called for direct election of officers and a limit on officers’ salaries had been beaten by thugs – 1978
Nine strikebreakers are killed in an explosion at Giant (gold) Mine near Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Miner Roger Warren confessed that he planted the explosives that caused the deaths. He recanted the confession but later confessed once again – 1992
A 20-month illegal lockout of 2,900 Steelworkers members at Kaiser Aluminum plants in three states ends when an arbitrator orders a new contract. Kaiser was forced to fire scabs and fork over tens of millions of dollars in back pay to union members – 1999
One week after the September 11, 2001, attacks, anthrax spores are mailed by an unknown party to several news media offices and two U.S. senators. Five people exposed to the spores died, including two workers at Washington, D.C.’s USPS Brentwood facility: Thomas Morris Jr. and Joseph Curseen, who were to die of their exposure within the month – 2001
             

September 19

Chinese coal miners forced out of Black Diamond, Wash. – 1885
Between 400,000 and 500,000 unionists converge on Washington D.C., for a Solidarity Day march and rally protesting Republican policies – 1981

Musician and labor educator Joe Glazer, often referred to as “Labor’s Troubadour,” died today at age 88.  Some of his more acclaimed songs include “The Mill Was Made of Marble,” “Too Old To Work” and “Automaton.” In 1979 he and labor folklorist Archie Green convened a meeting of 14 other labor musicians to begin what was to become the annual Great Labor Arts Exchange and, soon thereafter, the Labor Heritage Foundation – 2006

September 20

Upton Sinclair, socialist and author of The Jungle—published on this day in 1906—born in Baltimore, Md. – 1878
According to folklorist John Garst, steel-drivin’ man John Henry, born a slave, outperformed a steam hammer on this date at the Coosa Mountain Tunnel or the Oak Mountain Tunnel of the Columbus and Western Railway (now part of the Norfolk Southern) near Leeds, Ala. Other researchers place the contest near Talcott, W. Va. – 1887
Int’l Hod Carriers, Building & Common Laborers Union of America changes name to Laborers’ Int’l Union – 1965

September 21

Militia sent to Leadville, Colo., to break miners’ strike – 1896
Mother Jones leads a march of miners’ children through the streets of Charleston, W. Va. – 1912
National Football League Players Association members begin what is to become a 57-day strike, their first regular-season walkout ever – 1982
Members of five unions at the Frontier Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas begin what was to become the longest successful hotel strike in U.S. history. All 550 workers honored the picket line for the entirety of the 6-year, 4-month, 10-day fight against management’s insistence on cutting wages and eliminating pensions – 1991

September 22

President Abraham Lincoln issues a preliminary proclamation warning that he will order the emancipation of all slaves in any state that does not end its rebellion against the Union by January 1, 1863 – 1862
Eighteen-year-old Hannah (Annie) Shapiro leads a spontaneous walkout of 17 women at a Hart Schaffner & Marx garment factory in Chicago. It grows into a months-long mass strike involving 40,000 garment workers across the city, protesting 10-hour days, bullying bosses and cuts in already-low wages – 1910
Great Steel Strike begins; 350,000 workers demand union recognition. The AFL Iron and Steel Organizing Committee calls off the strike, their goal unmet, 108 days later – 1919
Martial law rescinded in Mingo County, W. Va., after police, U.S. troops and hired goons finally quell coal miners’ strike – 1922
U.S. Steel announces it will cut the wages of 220,000 workers by 10 percent – 1931
United Textile Workers strike committee orders strikers back to work after 22 days out, ending what was at that point the greatest single industrial conflict in the history of American organized labor. The strike involved some 400,000 workers in New England, the mid-Atlantic states and the South – 1934
Some 400,000 coal miners strike for higher wages in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Illinois and Ohio – 1935
The AFL expels the Int’l Longshoremen’s Association for racketeering; six years later the AFL-CIO accepted them back into the house of labor – 1953

OSHA reaches its largest ever settlement agreement, $21 million, with BP Products North America following an explosion at BP’s Texas City, Texas, plant earlier in the year that killed 15 and injured 170 – 2005
Eleven Domino’s employees in Pensacola, Fla., form the nation’s first union of pizza delivery drivers – 2006
San Francisco hotel workers end a 2-year contract fight, ratify a new 5-year pact with their employers – 2006

September 23

The Workingman’s Advocate of Chicago publishes the first installment of The Other Side, by Martin A. Foran, president of the Coopers’ Int’l Union. Believed to be the first novel by a trade union leader and some say the first working-class novel ever published in the U.S. – 1868
A coalition of Knights of Labor and trade unionists in Chicago launch the United Labor party, calling for an 8-hour day, government ownership of telegraph and telephone companies, and monetary and land reform. The party elects seven state assembly men and one senator – 1886
A 42-month strike by Steelworkers at Bayou Steel in Louisiana ends in a new contract and the ousting of scabs – 1996

California Gov. Gray Davis (D) signs legislation making the state the first to offer workers paid family leave – 2002

This Week in Labor History: 9/10 – 9/16

September 10

In Pennsylvania, Polish, Lithuanian and Slovak miners are gunned down by the Lattimer Mine’s sheriff deputies—19 dead, more than 50 wounded—during a peaceful march from Hazelton to Lattimer. Some 3,000 were marching for collective bargaining and civil liberty. The shooters were tried for murder but the jury failed to convict – 1897

September 11

Some 75,000 coal miners in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia end a 10-week strike after winning an 8-hour day, semi-monthly pay, and the abolition of overpriced company-owned stores, where they had been forced to shop. (Remember the song, “Sixteen Tons,” by coal miner’s son Merle Travis, in which there’s this line: “I owe my soul to the company store.”) – 1897

More than 3,000 people died when suicide highjackers crashed planes into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. Among the dead in New York were 634 union members, the majority of them New York City firefighters and police on the scene when the towers fell – 2001

Crystal Lee Sutton, the real-life Norma Rae of the movies, dies at age 68. She worked at a J.P. Stevens textile plant in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., when low pay and poor working conditions led her to become a union activist – 2009

September 12

Eugene V. Debs, labor leader and socialist, sentenced to 10 years for opposing World War I. While in jail Debs received one million votes for president – 1918

Jobless workers march on grocery stores and seize food in Toledo, Ohio – 1932

National Guardsmen fire on “sullen and rebellious” strikers at the Woonsocket (Rhode Island) Rayon plant, killing one and injuring three others. A correspondent said the crowd of about 2,000 “went completely wild with rage.” Word spread, 6,000 more workers arrived at the scene and the city was put under military rule. The governor declared that “there is a Communist uprising and not a textile strike” in the state – 1934

United Rubber Workers formed in Akron, Ohio – 1935

A total of 49 people are killed, 200 injured, in explosion at the Hercules Powder Company plant in Kenvil, N.J. – 1940


New York City’s Union Square, the site of the first Labor Day in 1882, is officially named a national historic landmark. The square has long been a focal point for working class protest and political expression – 1998

September 13

The Post Office Department orders 25,000 railway mail clerks to shoot to kill any bandits attempting to rob the mail – 1926

Eleven AFSCME-represented prison employees, 33 inmates die in four days of rioting at New York State’s Attica Prison and the retaking of the prison. The riot caused the nation to take a closer look at prison conditions, for inmates and their guards alike – 1971

September 14

The Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers union calls off an unsuccessful 3-month strike against U. S. Steel Corporation subsidiaries – 1901


Gastonia, N.C., textile mill striker and songwriter Ella Mae Wiggins, 29, a mother of five, is killed when local vigilantes and thugs force the pickup truck in which she is riding off the road and begin shooting – 1929

A striker is shot by a bog owner (and town-elected official) during a walkout by some 1,500 cranberry pickers, members of the newly-formed Cape Cod Cranberry Pickers Union Local 1. State police were called, more strikers were shot and 64 were arrested. The strike was lost – 1933

Congress passes the Landrum-Griffin Act. The law expands many of the anti-labor provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, increasing union reporting requirements and restricting secondary boycotting and picketing – 1959

September 15

Some 5,000 female cotton workers in and around Pittsburgh, Pa., strike for a 10-hour day. The next day, male trade unionists become the first male auxiliary when they gather to protect the women from police attacks. The strike ultimately failed – 1845

President Kennedy signs off on a $900 million public-works bill for projects in economically depressed areas – 1962

More than 350,000 members of the United Auto Workers begin what is to become a 69-day strike against General Motors – 1970

Int’l Association of Siderographers merges with Int’l Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers – 1992

September 16

More than 43,000 oil workers strike in 20 states, part of the post-war strike wave – 1945


A player lockout by the National Hockey League begins, leading to cancellation of what would have been the league’s 88th season. The lockout, over owner demands that salaries be capped, lasted 310 days – 2004

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee wins a signed contract with the Mount Olive Pickle Co. and growers, ending a 5-year boycott. The agreement marked the first time an American labor union represented guest workers – 2004

Richard Trumka is elected president of the AFL-CIO at the federation’s convention in Pittsburgh. He had served as the secretary-treasurer under predecessor John Sweeney from 1995 to 2009, and prior to that was president of the United Mine Workers for 13 years – 2009

This Week in Labor History: 9/3 – 9/9

African-American cotton pickers organize and strike in Lee County, Texas, against miserably low wages and other injustices.  600 Teamster-represented workers walk out at the Diamond Walnut processing plant.  Between 20-30K marchers participate in New York’s first Labor Day parade.  Tony Boyle, former president of the United Mine Workers, is charged with murder in the 1969 deaths of former UMW rival Joseph A. Yablonski and his wife and daughter.

September 03


African-American cotton pickers organize and strike in Lee County, Texas, against miserably low wages and other injustices, including a growers’ arrangement with local law enforcement to round up Blacks on vagrancy charges, then force them to work off their fines on select plantations. Over the course of September a White mob put down the strike, killing 15 strikers in the process – 1891

Some 300 musicians working in Chicago movie houses strike to protest their impending replacement by talking movies – 1928

Twenty-five workers die, unable to escape a fire at the Imperial Poultry processing plant in Hamlet, N.C. Managers had locked fire doors to prevent the theft of chicken nuggets. The plant had operated for 11 years without a single safety inspection – 1991

September 4

Twelve thousand New York tailors strike over sweatshop conditions – 1894

More than 140 attendees at a benefit for a civil rights group are injured in the “Peekskill Riots” in Peekskill, N.Y. The victims were among the 20,000 people leaving a concert featuring African-American Paul Robeson, well-known for his strong pro-unionism, civil rights activism and left-wing affiliations. The departing concert-goers had to drive through a miles-long gauntlet of rock-throwing racists and others chanting “go on back to Russia, you niggers” and “white niggers” – 1949

Int’l Brotherhood of Bookbinders merged with Graphic Arts Int’l Union – 1972


In what many believe was to become the longest strike in U.S. history, 600 Teamster-represented workers walk out at the Diamond Walnut processing plant in Stockton, Calif., after the company refused to restore a 30-percent pay cut they had earlier taken to help out the company. The two sides ultimately agreed to a new contract after 14 years – 1991

September 5

Between 20,000 and 30,000 marchers participate in New York’s first Labor Day parade, demanding the 8-hour day – 1882


“Palmer raids” on all Wobbly halls and offices in 48 cities in U.S. Alexander Palmer, U.S. Attorney General, was rounding up radicals and leftists – 1917

Ten thousand angry textile strikers, fighting for better wages and working conditions, besiege a factory in Fall River, Mass., where 300 strikebreakers are working. The scabs are rescued by police using tear gas and pistols on the strikers – 1934

General strike begins across U.S. maritime industry, stopping all shipping. The strikers were objecting to the government’s post-war National Wage Stabilization Board order that reduced pay increases negotiated by maritime unions – 1946

September 6

One of the worst disasters in the history of U.S. anthracite mining occurred at the Avondale Mine, near Scranton, Pa., when a fire originating from a furnace at the bottom of a 237-foot shaft roared up the shaft, killing 110 miners – 1869


Tony Boyle, former president of the United Mine Workers, is charged with murder in the 1969 deaths of former UMW rival Joseph A. Yablonski and his wife and daughter – 1973

September 7

Federal employees win the right to receive Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage – 1916

September 8

Employers give in to the demands of thousands of Wobblies-led striking railroad car production workers in McKees Rocks, Pa., agree to improved working conditions, 15-percent hike in wages and elimination of a “pool system” that gave foremen control over each worker’s pay – 1909

Workers give up their Labor Day weekend holidays to keep the munitions factories working to aid in the war effort. Most Labor Day parades are canceled in respect for members of the Armed Services – 1942

Five Liberty ships named after labor leaders were launched this Labor Day. They were built by union labor in Kaiser and Bethlehem shipyards on both coasts. The ships were named after the late leaders Andrew Fruseth of the Sailors Union of the Pacific and the International Seamen’s Union; Peter J. McGuire of the Carpenters; James Duncan of the Granite Cutters; John W. Brown of the Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America; and John Mitchell of the Mine Workers – 1942


United Farm Workers union begins historic national grape boycott and strike, Delano, Calif. – 1965

Some 2,600 Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) workers begin what is to be a successful 6-day strike for higher pay and against a two-tier wage system – 1997

September 9

In convention at Topeka, Kan., delegates create the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen of America. The men who repaired the nation’s rail cars were paid 10 or 15¢ an hour, working 12 hours a day, often seven days a week – 1890

More than a thousand Boston police officers strike after 19 union leaders are fired for organizing activities. Massachusetts Gov. Calvin Coolidge announced that none of the strikers would be rehired, mobilized the state police, and recruited an entirely new police force from among unemployed veterans of the Great War (World War I) – 1919

Sixteen striking Filipino sugar workers on the Hawaiian island of Kauai are killed by police; four police died as well. Many of the surviving strikers were jailed, then deported – 1924

United Auto Workers President Leonard Woodcock is named in Pres. Richard Nixon’s “Enemy’s List,” a White House compilation of Americans Nixon regarded as major political opponents. Another dozen union presidents were added later. The existence of the list was revealed during Senate Watergate Committee hearings – 1973

This Week in Labor History: 8/27 – 9/2

August 27

Some 14,000 Chicago teachers who have gone without pay for several months finally collect about $1,400 each – 1934

President Truman orders the U.S. Army to seize all the nation’s railroads to prevent a general strike.  The railroads were not returned to their owners until two years later – 1950

August 28
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—the Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have A Dream” speech march—is held in Washington, D.C., with 250,000 participating.  The AFL-CIO did not endorse the march, but several affiliated unions did – 1963
(Martin Luther King, Jr., and the March on Washington: Written for 5 to 8 year-olds, this is a very nice introduction to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, that watershed event in the fight for civil rights. It uses the March as a point of reference as it talks about segregation in America and the battle for equal rights.)

August 29
Sixty letter carriers from 18 states meet in a room above Schaefer’s Saloon on Plankinton Avenue in Milwaukee. They unanimously adopt a resolution to form a National Association of Letter Carriers – 1889

Seventy-five workers die when the lower St. Lawrence River’s Quebec Bridge collapses while under construction.  A flawed design was found to be the cause.  Thirteen more workers were killed nine years later when the reconstructed bridge’s central span was being raised and fell into the river because of a problem with hoisting devices – 1907

Dancers at San Francisco’s Lusty Lady Club vote 57-15 to be represented by SEIU Local 790. Their first union contract, ratified eight months later, guaranteed work shifts, protection against arbitrary discipline and termination, automatic hourly wage increases, sick days, a grievance procedure, and removal of one-way mirrors from peep show booths – 1996

Northwest Airlines pilots, after years of concessions to help the airline, begin what is to become a 2-week strike for higher pay – 1998

Delegates to the  Minnesota AFL-CIO convention approve the launching of workdayminnesota.org, now in its fourteenth year.  It was the first web-based daily labor news service by a state labor federation – 2000

August 30
Delegates from several East Coast cities meet in convention to form the National Trades’ Union, uniting craft unions to oppose “the most unequal and unjustifiable distribution of the wealth of society in the hands of a few individuals.”  The union faded after a few years – 1834

President Franklin Roosevelt’s Wealth Tax Act increases taxes on rich citizens and big business, lowers taxes for small businesses – 1935

OSHA publishes scaffold safety standard, designed to protect 2.3 million construction workers and prevent 50 deaths and 4,500 injuries annually – 1996

August 31
John Reed forms the Communist Labor Party in Chicago. The Party’s motto: “Workers of the world, unite!” – 1919

Some 10,000 striking miners began a fight at Blair Mountain, W.Va., for recognition of their union, the United Mine Workers of America. Federal troops were sent in and miners were forced to withdraw five days later, after 16 deaths – 1921

The Trade Union Unity League is founded as an alternative to the American Federation of Labor, with the goal of organizing along industrial rather than craft lines. An arm of the American Communist Party, the League claimed 125,000 members before it dissolved in the late 1930s – 1929

“Solidarity” workers movement founded as a strike coordination committee at Lenin Shipyards, Gdansk, Poland. The strike launched a wave of unrest in the Soviet Union that ultimately led to its dissolution in 1991 – 1980

An estimated 325,000 unionists gathered in Washington, D.C., for a Solidarity Day march and rally for workplace fairness and healthcare reform – 1991

Detroit teachers begin what is to become a 9-day strike, winning smaller class sizes and raises of up to 4 percent – 1999

September 01
The Int’l Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers is founded at a meeting in Chicago, the product of two separate brotherhoods created over the previous 13 years – 1893

Congress declares Labor Day a national holiday – 1894
(From the Folks Who Brought You The Weekend is a sweeping, highly readable history of U.S. labor that will be welcomed by anyone interested in learning more about the struggle of American working people to better their lives through collective action.)

Some 30,000 women from 26 trades marched in Chicago’s Labor Day parade – 1903

Walter Reuther is born. He went on to become a founder of the United Auto Workers and was president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations when it merged with the AFL in 1955 – 1907

A 3-week strike in Woonsocket, R.I., part of a national movement to obtain a minimum wage for textile workers, resulted in the deaths of three workers. Ultimately more than 420,000 workers struck nationally – 1934

In Hawaii, some 26,000 sugar workers represented by the Longshoremen’s union begin what is to become a successful 79-day strike that shuts down 33 of the 34 sugar plantations on the islands. The strike brought an end to Hawaii’s paternalistic labor relations and impacted political and social institutions throughout the then-territory – 1946

Int’l Metal Engravers & Marking Device Workers Union changed its name to Int’l Association of Machinists – 1956

Some 20,000 Pennsylvania Railroad shop workers effectively halt operations in 13 states for 12 days. It was the first shutdown in the company’s 114-year history – 1960

Boot and Shoe Workers’ Union merged with Retail Clerks Int’l Union – 1977

The Journeymen Barbers, Hairdressers and Cosmetologists’ Int’l Union of America merged with United Food & Commercial Workers – 1980

Glass Bottle Blowers’ Association of the United States & Canada merged with Int’l Brotherhood of Pottery & Allied Workers to become Glass, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers – 1982

Aluminum, Brick & Clay Workers Int’l Union merged with United Glass & Ceramic Workers of North America to form Int’l Union of Aluminum, Brick & Glass Workers – 1982

Brotherhood of Railway, Airline & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees changed name to Transportation-Communications Union – 1987

Coopers Int’l Union of North America merged with Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers Int’l Union – 1992

The federal minimum wage is increased to $5.15 per hour – 1997

The AFL-CIO creates Working America, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization designed to build alliances among non-union working people – 2003

September 02
White and Chinese immigrants battle in Rock Springs, Wyo., fueled by racial tensions and the practice of Union Pacific Railroad of hiring lower-paid Chinese over Whites. At least 25 Chinese died and 15 more were injured. Rioters burned 75 Chinese homes – 1885

Operating railway employees win 8-hour day – 1916

Mineowners bomb West Virginia strikers by plane, using homemade bombs filled with nails and metal fragments. The bombs missed their targets or failed to explode – 1921

President Eisenhower signs legislation expanding Social Security by providing much wider coverage and including 10 million additional Americans, most of them self-employed farmers, with additional benefits – 1954

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was signed by President Ford, regulating and insuring pensions and other benefits, and increasing protections for workers – 1974
(Retire Happy: What To Do NOW to Guarantee A Great Retirement: Everyone who works for a living thinks at some point about retirement, but few actually consider what that really means, other than escaping the daily grind. For sure, most of us worry about having enough money, and this highly readable book provides a lot of information and advice on the subject: how much we’ll need, how to make the most of what we’ve accumulated, how to accumulate more (even as we get close to retirement) and how to make it last. For that advice alone, Retire Happy is worth the price.

This Week in Labor History: 8/20 – 8/26

August 20

The Great Fire of 1910, a wildfire that consumed about 3 million acres in Washington, Idaho and Montana—an area about the size of Connecticut—claimed the lives of 78 firefighters over two days.  It is believed to be the largest, although not deadliest, fire in U.S. history – 1910
Deranged relief postal service carrier Patrick “Crazy Pat” Henry Sherrill shoots and kills 14 coworkers, and wounds another six, before killing himself at an Edmond, Okla., postal facility.  Supervisors had ignored warning signs of Sherrill’s instability, investigators later found; the shootings came a day after he had been reprimanded for poor work.  The incident inspired the objectionable term “going postal” – 1986

August 21
Slave revolt led by Nat Turner begins in Southampton County, Va. – 1831

August 22
Five flight attendants form the Air Line Stewardesses Association, the first labor union representing flight attendants. They were reacting to an industry in which women were forced to retire at the age of 32, remain single, and adhere to strict weight, height and appearance requirements. The association later became the Association of Flight Attendants, now a division of the Communications Workers of America – 1945

Int’l Broom & Whisk Makers Union disbands – 1963

Joyce Miller, a vice president of the Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers, becomes first female member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council – 1980

The Kerr-McGee Corp. agrees to pay the estate of the late Karen Silkwood $1.38 million, settling a 10-year-old nuclear contamination lawsuit.  She was a union activist who died in 1974 under suspicious circumstances on her way to talk to a reporter about safety concerns at her plutonium fuel plant in Oklahoma – 1986

Int’l Longshore & Warehouse Union granted a charter by the AFL-CIO – 1988

August 23
The U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations is formed by Congress, during a period of great labor and social unrest. After three years, and hearing witnesses ranging from Wobblies to capitalists, it issued an 11-volume report frequently critical of capitalism. The New York Herald characterized the Commission’s president, Frank P. Walsh, as “a Mother Jones in trousers” – 1912

Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, accused of murder and tried unfairly, were executed on this day. The case became an international cause and sparked demonstrations and strikes throughout the world – 1927

Seven merchant seamen crewing the SS Baton Rouge Victory lost their lives when the ship was sunk by Viet Cong action en route to Saigon – 1966

Farm Workers Organizing Committee (to later become United Farm Workers of America) granted a charter by the AFL-CIO – 1966
(The Fight in the Fields: No man in this century has had more of an impact on the lives of Hispanic Americans, and especially farmworkers, than the legendary Cesar Chavez. Through hard work, charisma and uncommon bravery he moved on to become founder and leader of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) and to win a degree of justice for tens of thousands of workers…and to set a moral example for the nation.)

August 24
The Gatling Gun Co.—manufacturers of an early machine gun—writes to B&O Railroad Co. President John W. Garrett during a strike, urging their product be purchased to deal with the “recent riotous disturbances around the country.” Says the company: “Four or five men only are required to operate (a gun), and one Gatling … can clear a street or block and keep it clear” – 1877

United Farm Workers Union begins lettuce strike – 1970

August 25
Birth of Allan Pinkerton, whose strike-breaking detectives (“Pinks”) gave us the word “fink” – 1819

Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters founded at a meeting in New York City.  A. Philip Randolph became the union’s first organizer – 1925

August 26
Fannie Sellins and Joseph Starzeleski are murdered by coal company guards on a picket line in Brackenridge, Pa. Sellins was a United Mine Workers of America organizer and Starzeleski was a miner – 1919
(Sixteen Tons carries the reader down into the dark and dangerous coal mines of the early 1900s, as Italian immigrant Antonio Vacca and his sons encounter cave-ins and fires deep below the earth’s surface.)

After three-quarters of the states had ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, women win their long struggle for the vote – 1920

With America in the depths of the Great Depression, the Comptroller of the Currency announces a temporary halt on foreclosures of first mortgages – 1932

In what some may consider one of the many management decisions that was to help cripple the American auto industry over the following decades, Ford Motor Co. produces its first Edsel. Ford dropped the project two years later after losing approximately $350 million – 1957

The Women’s Strike for Equality is staged in cities across the U.S., marking the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, under which women won the right to vote.  A key focus of the strike—in fact, more accurately a series of marches and demonstrations—was equality in the workplace.  An estimated 20,000 women participated, some carrying signs with the iconic slogan, “Don’t Iron While the Strike is Hot.”  Another sign: “Hardhats for Soft Broads” – 1970

More than 1,300 bus drivers on Oahu, Hawaii, begin what is to become a 5-week strike – 2003

This Week in Labor History: 8/13 – 8/19

August 13

Striking miners at Tracy City, Tenn., capture their mines and free 300 state convict strikebreakers. The convicts had been “leased” to mineowners by officials in an effort to make prisons self-supporting and make a few bucks for the state. The practice started in 1866 and lasted for 30 years – 1892

Newspaper Guild members begin 3-month strike of Hearst-owned Seattle Post-Intelligencer, shutting the publication down in their successful fight for union recognition – 1936

Civil rights leader and union president A. Philip Randolph strongly protests the AFL-CIO Executive Council’s failure to endorse the August 28 “March on Washington” – 1963

Five construction workers are killed, 16 injured when the uncompleted roof of the Rosemont (Ill.) Horizon arena collapses – 1979

August 14
President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, providing, for the first time ever, guaranteed income for retirees and creating a system of unemployment benefits – 1935

Members of the upstart Polish union Solidarity seize the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk. Sixteen days later the government officially recognizes the union. Many consider the event the beginning of the end for the Iron Curtain – 1980

Former AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland dies at age 77 – 1999

August 15
To begin what proved to become one of the world’s longest construction projects, workers lay the foundation stone of Germany’s Cologne Cathedral, built to house the relics of the Three Wise Men.  The job was declared completed in 1880—632 years later – 1248

The Panama Canal opens after 33 years of construction and an estimated 22,000 worker deaths, mostly caused by malaria and yellow fever.  The 51-mile canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans – 1914

Populist social commentator Will Rogers killed in a plane crash, Point Barrow, Alaska. One of his many classic lines: “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts” – 1935
(Workplace Jokes: Only SOME of Them Will Get You Fired!: Did you hear the one about the supervisor and the new employee who bump into each other in a bar?  Maybe, but maybe not.  In either case, you can find it and a couple hundred other great workplace jokes in this new collection, the only one of its kind.  You won’t find working people as the butt of jokes here… it’s more likely to be the boss, the banker, the yes man and the union-busting lawyer.)

President Richard M. Nixon announces a 90-day freeze on wages, prices and rents in an attempt to combat inflation – 1971

Gerry Horgan, chief steward of CWA Local 1103 and NYNEX striker in Valhalla, N.Y., is struck on the picket line by a car driven by the daughter of a plant manager and dies the following day. What was to become a 4-month strike over healthcare benefits was in its second week – 1989

Eight automotive department employees at a Walmart near Ottawa won an arbitrator-imposed contract after voting for UFCW representation, becoming the giant retailer’s only location in North America with a collective bargaining agreement. Two months later the company closed the department. Three years earlier Walmart had closed an entire store on the same day the government announced an arbitrator would impose a contract agreement there – 2008

August 16
George Meany, plumber, founding AFL-CIO president, born in City Island, Bronx. In his official biography, George Meany and His Times, he said he had “never walked a picket line in his life.” He also said he took part in only one strike (against the United States Government to get higher pay for plumbers on welfare jobs). Yet he also firmly said that “You only make progress by fighting for progress.” Meany served as secretary-treasurer of the AFL from 1940 to 1952, succeeded as president of the AFL, and then continued as president of the AFL-CIO following the historic merger in 1955 until retiring in 1979 – 1894

Homer Martin, early United Auto Workers leader, born in Marion, Ill. – 1902

Congress passes the National Apprenticeship Act, establishing a national advisory committee to research and draft regulations establishing minimum standards for apprenticeship programs. It was later amended to permit the Labor Department to issue regulations protecting the health, safety and general welfare of apprentices, and to encourage the use of contracts in their hiring and employment – 1937

National Agricultural Workers Union merges into Amalgamated Meat Cutters & Butcher Workmen – 1960

Int’l Union of Wood, Wire & Metal Lathers merges with United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners – 1979

August 17
IWW War Trials in Chicago, 95 go to prison for up to 20 years – 1918

Bakery & Confectionery Workers Int’l Union of America merges with Tobacco Workers Int’l Union to become Bakery, Confectionery & Tobacco Workers – 1978

Year-long Hormel meatpackers’ strike begins in Austin, Minn. – 1985

August 18
Radio station WEVD, named for Eugene V. Debs, goes on the air in New York City, operated by The Forward Association as a memorial to the labor and socialist leader – 1927

Founding of the American Federation of Government Employees, following a decision by the National Federation of Federal Employees (later to become part of the Int’l Association of Machinists) to leave the AFL – 1932

August 19
First edition of IWW Little Red Song Book published – 1909

Some 2,000 United Railroads streetcar service workers and supporters parade down San Francisco’s Market Street in support of pay demands and against the company’s anti-union policies. The strike failed in late November in the face of more than 1,000 strikebreakers, some of them imported from Chicago – 1917

Founding of the Maritime Trades Dept., AFL, to give “workers employed in the maritime industry and its allied trades a voice in shaping national policy” – 1946

Phelps-Dodge copper miners in Morenci and Clifton, Ariz., are confronted by tanks, helicopters, 426 state troopers and 325 National Guardsmen brought in to walk strikebreakers through picket lines in what was to become a failed 3-year fight by the Steelworkers and other unions – 1983

Some 4,400 mechanics, cleaners and custodians, members of AMFA at Northwest Airlines, strike the carrier over job security, pay cuts and work rule changes. The 14-month strike was to fail, with most union jobs lost to replacements and outside contractors – 2005

This Week in Labor History: 8/6 – 8/12

Cigarmakers’ Int’l Union of America merges with Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union – 1974

American Railway Supervisors Association merges with Brotherhood of Railway, Airline & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees – 1980

Brotherhood of Railway Carmen of the U.S. & Canada merges with Brotherhood of Railway, Airline & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees – 1986

Some 45,000 CWA and IBEW-represented workers at Verizon begin what is to be a two-week strike, refusing to accept more than 100 concession demands by the telecommunications giant – 2011

August 07
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Wobbly organizer, born – 1890

Eugene Debs and three other trade unionists arrested after Pullman Strike – 1894

Actors Equity is recognized by producers after stagehands honor their picket lines, shutting down almost every professional stage production in the country. Before unionizing, it was common practice for actors to pay for their own costumes, rehearse long hours without pay, and be fired without notice – 1919

United Slate, Tile & Composition Roofers, Damp & Waterproof Workers Association change name to Roofers, Waterproofers & Allied Workers – 1978

Some 675,000 employees struck ATT Corp. over wages, job security, pension plan changes and better health insurance. It was the last time CWA negotiated at one table for all its Bell System members: divestiture came a few months later. The strike was won after 22 days – 1983

Television writers, members of The Writers Guild of America, end a 22-week strike with a compromise settlement – 1988

August 08
Delegates to the St. Paul Trades and Labor Assembly elect 35-year-old Charles James, leader of the Boot and Shoe Workers local union, as their president. He was the first African-American elected to that leadership post in St. Paul, and, many believe, the first anywhere in the nation – 1902

Cripple Creek, Colo., miners strike begins – 1903

Amalgamated Meat Cutters & Butcher Workmen of North America merge with Retail Clerks Int’l Union to become United Food & Commercial Workers – 1979

Cesar Chavez is posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton, becoming the first Mexican-American ever to receive the honor – 1994
(The Fight in the Fields: No man in this century has had more of an impact on the lives of Hispanic Americans, and especially farmworkers, than the legendary Cesar Chavez.  Born to migrant workers in 1927, he attended 65 elementary schools before finishing 7th grade, the end of his formal education.  Through hard work, charisma and uncommon bravery he moved on to become founder and leader of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) and to win a degree of justice for tens of thousands of workers… and to set a moral example for the nation.)

August 09
Knights of Labor strike New York Central railroad, ultimately to be defeated by scabbing – 1890

Nine men and one woman meet in Oakland, Calif., to form what was to become the 230,000-member California School Employees Association, representing school support staff throughout the state – 1927

A fire and resultant loss of oxygen when a high pressure hydraulic line was cut with a torch in a Titan missile silo near Searcy, Ark., kills 53 people, mostly civilian repairmen – 1965

United Papermakers & Paperworkers merge with Int’l Brotherhood of Pulp, Sulphite & Paper Mill Workers of the U.S. & Canada to become United Paperworkers Int’l Union, now a division of the Steelworkers Union – 1972

Some 73,000 Bell Atlantic workers end a successful two-day strike over wages and limits on contracting out of work – 1998

The United Steelworkers and Amicus, the largest manufacturing union in the United Kingdom, announce formation of a strategic alliance to work on a range of mutual concerns – 2005

August 10
The Air Line Pilots Association is founded at a meeting in Chicago attended by 24 activists from across the country – 1931

Hundreds of Transport Workers Union members descend on a New York City courthouse, offering their own money to bail out their president, Mike Quill, and four other union leaders arrested while making their way through Grand Central Station to union headquarters after picketing the Interborough Rapid Transit offices in lower Manhattan – 1935

President Roosevelt signs amendments to the 1935 Social Security Act, broadening the program to include dependents and survivors’ benefits – 1939

Construction on the St. Lawrence Seaway begins. Ultimately 22,000 workers spent five years building the 2,342-mile route from the Atlantic to the northernmost part of the Great Lakes – 1954

I.W. Abel, president of the United Steel Workers of America from 1965 to 1977, dies at age 79 – 1987

President Barack Obama signs a $26 billion bill designed to protect 300,000 teachers, police and others from layoffs spurred by budgetary crises in states hard-hit by the Great Recession – 2010

August 11
Federal troops drive some 1,200 jobless workers from Washington D.C. Led by unemployed activist Charles “Hobo” Kelley, the group’s “soldiers” include young journalist Jack London and William Haywood, a young miner-cowboy called “Big Bill” – 1884

One hundred “platform men” employed by the privately owned United Railroads streetcar service in San Francisco abandon their streetcars, tying up many of the main lines in and out of the city center – 1917

Int’l Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union receives CIO charter – 1937

Maine lobster fishers form a local of the Machinists union as they face a 40-year low price for their catches, and other issues.  By October, the New York Times reported, it had 600 members, 240 of them dues-payers – 2013

August 12
The national Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners is founded in Chicago in a gathering of 36 carpenters from 11 cities – 1881

Coal company guards kill seven, wound 40 striking miners who are trying to stop scabs, Virden, Ill. – 1898

With the news that their boss, Florenz Ziegfeld, was joining the Producing Managers’ Association, the chorus girls in his Ziegfield Follies create their own union, the Chorus Equity Association. They were helped by a big donation from superstar and former chorus girl Lillian Russell. In 1955 the union merged with the Actor’s Equity Association – 1919

Teamsters official William Grami is kidnapped, bound and beaten near Sebastopol, Calif. He was leading a drive to organize apple plant workers in the area – 1955

The North American Free Trade Agreement—NAFTA—is concluded between the United States, Canada and Mexico, to take effect in January, 1994, despite protests from labor, environmental and human rights groups – 1992

What was to become a 232-day strike by major league baseball players over owners’ demands for team salary caps began on this day; 938 games were cancelled – 1994

This Week in Labor History: 7/30 – 8/5

July 30
President Lyndon Johnson signs the Social Security Act of 1965, establishing Medicare and Medicaid – 1965

Former Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa disappears. Declared legally dead in 1982, his body has never been found – 1975

United Airlines agrees to offer domestic-partner benefits to employees and retirees worldwide – 1999

July 31
Members of the National Football League Players Association begin what is to be a 2-day strike, their first. The issues: pay, pensions, the right to arbitration and the right to have agents – 1970

Fifty-day baseball strike ends – 1981

The Great Shipyard Strike of 1999 ends after Steelworkers at Newport News Shipbuilding ratify a breakthrough agreement which nearly doubles pensions, increases security, ends inequality, and provides the highest wage increases in company and industry history to nearly 10,000 workers at the yard. The strike lasted 15 weeks – 1999

August 01
After organizing a strike of metal miners against the Anaconda Company, Wobbly organizer Frank Little is dragged by six masked men from his Butte, Mont., hotel room and hung from the Milwaukee Railroad trestle. Years later writer Dashiell Hammett would recall his early days as a Pinkerton detective agency operative and recount how a mine company representative offered him $5,000 to kill Little. Hammett says he quit the business that night – 1917

Sid Hatfield, police chief of Matewan, W. Va., a longtime supporter of the United Mine Workers union, is murdered by company goons. This soon led to the Battle of Blair Mountain, a labor uprising also referred to as the Red Neck War – 1921

Police in Hilo, Hawaii, open fire on 200 demonstrators supporting striking waterfront workers. The attack became known as “the Hilo Massacre” – 1938

A 17-day, company-instigated wildcat strike in Philadelphia tries to bar eight African-American trolley operators from working. Transport Workers Union members stay on the job in support of the men – 1944

Government & Civic Employees Organizing Committee merges into State, County & Municipal Employees – 1956

Window Glass Cutters League of America merges with Glass Bottle Blowers – 1975

Ten-month strike against Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel wins agreement guaranteeing defined-benefit pensions for 4,500 Steelworkers – 1997
(In this expanded edition of Strike! you can read about labor-management conflicts that have occurred over the past 140 years. Here you’ll learn much about workers’ struggle to win a degree of justice, from the workers’ point of view. The author also examines the ever-shifting roles and configurations of unions, from the Knights of Labor of the 1800s to the AFL-CIO of the 1990s. A new chapter, “Beyond One-Sided Class War,” looks at how modern protest movements, such as the Battle of Seattle and Occupy Wall Street, were ignited and considers the similarities between these challenges to authority and those of labor’s past.)

California School Employees Association affiliates with AFL-CIO – 2001

August 02
The first General Strike in Canadian history is held in Vancouver, organized as a 1-day political protest against the killing of draft evader and labor activist Albert “Ginger” Goodwin, who had called for a general strike in the event that any worker was drafted against his will – 1918

Hatch Act is passed, limiting political activity of executive branch employees of the federal government – 1939

August 03
Uriah Smith Stephens born in Cape May, N.J.  A tailor by trade, in 1869 he led nine Philadelphia garment workers to found the Knights of Labor – 1821

Fighting breaks out when sheriff’s deputies attempt to arrest Wobbly leader Richie “Blackie” Ford as he addressed striking field workers at the Durst Ranch in Wheatland, Calif.  Four persons died, including the local district attorney, a deputy and two workers.  Despite the lack of evidence against them, Ford and another strike leader were found guilty of murder by a 12-member jury that included eight farmers – 1913

Florence Reece dies in Knoxville, Tenn., at 86. She was a Mine Workers union activist and author of Which Side Are You On?, written after her home was ransacked by Harlan County sheriff J.H. Blair and his thugs during a 1931 strike – 1986

Some 15,000 air traffic controllers strike. President Reagan threatens to fire any who do not return to work within 48 hours, saying they “have forfeited their jobs” if they do not. Most stay out, and are fired August 5 – 1981

August 04
The Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers is formed. It partnered with the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, CIO in 1935; both organizations disbanded in 1942 to form the new United Steelworkers – 1876

An estimated 15,000 silk workers strike in Paterson, N.J., for 44-hour week – 1919

Nearly 185,000 Teamsters begin what is to become a successful 15-day strike at United Parcel Service over excessive use of part-timers – 1997

August 05
Using clubs, police rout 1,500 jobless men who had stormed the plant of the Fruit Growers Express Co. in Indiana Harbor, Ind., demanding jobs – 1931

Thirteen firefighters, including 12 smokejumpers who parachuted in to help their coworkers, die while battling a forest fire at Gates of the Mountain, Montana – 1949

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) took effect today. The first law signed by President Clinton, it allows many workers time off each year due to serious health conditions or to care for a family member – 1993
(The FMLA Handbook, 5th edition, is a thorough, highly readable handbook that will help every worker get the most out of the surprisingly comprehensive Family and Medical Leave Act. It explains how unions can protect workers who are absent from work for justifiable medical or family-care reasons; block compulsory “light-duty” work programs; force employers to allow part-time schedules; obtain attendance bonuses for workers absent for medical reasons; and much more. An important tool for every union rep.)

This Week in Labor History: 7/23 – 7/29


July 23
Anarchist Alexander Berkman shoots and stabs but fails to kill steel magnate Henry Clay Frick in an effort to avenge the Homestead massacre 18 days earlier, in which nine strikers were killed. Berkman also tried to use what was, in effect, a suicide bomb, but it didn’t detonate – 1892

Northern Michigan copper miners strike for union recognition, higher wages and 8-hour day. By the time they threw in the towel the following April, 1,100 had been arrested on various charges and Western Federation of Miners President Charles Moyer had been shot, beaten and forced out of town – 1913

Aluminum Workers Int’l Union merges with The United Brick & Clay Workers of America to form Aluminum, Brick & Clay Workers – 1981

July 24
The United Auto Workers and the Teamsters form the Alliance for Labor Action (ALA), later to be joined by several smaller unions. The ALA’s agenda included support of the civil rights movement and opposition to the war in Vietnam. It disbanded after four years following the death of UAW President Walter Reuther – 1968
(All Labor Has Dignity: People forget that Dr. King was every bit as committed to economic justice as he was to ending racial segregation. He fought throughout his life to connect the labor and civil rights movements, envisioning them as twin pillars for social reform.)

The U.S. minimum wage increased to $6.55 per hour today. The original minimum, set in 1938 by the Fair Labor Standards Act, was 25¢ per hour – 2008

U.S. minimum wage rose to $7.25 per hour, up from $6.55 – 2009

July 25
Workers stage a general strike—believed to be the nation’s first—in St. Louis, in support of striking railroad workers. The successful strike was ended when some 3,000 federal troops and 5,000 deputized special police killed at least eighteen people in skirmishes around the city – 1877

New York garment workers win closed shop and firing of scabs after 7-month strike – 1890
(No Contract, No Peace: A Legal Guide to Contract Campaigns, Strikes, and Lockouts: This book is a must-have for any union or activist considering aggressive action to combat management’s growing economic war against workers. No Contract, No Peace! references recent union activities and NLRB decisions that have affected the labor relations environment. Schwartz’s familiarity with labor and employment law combines with his activist spirit to provide innovative yet practical tips for mounting and maintaining meaningful campaigns designed to build union and workers’ power.)

Fifteen “living dead women” testify before the Illinois Industrial Commission.  They were “Radium Girls,” women who died prematurely after working at clock and watch factories, where they were told to wet small paintbrushes in their mouths so they could dip them in radium to paint dials.  A Geiger counter passed over graves in a cemetery near Ottawa, Illinois still registers the presence of radium – 1937

The Teamsters and Service Employees unions break from the AFL-CIO during the federation’s 50th convention to begin the Change to Win coalition, ultimately comprised of seven unions (4 by 2011: SEIU, Teamsters, UFCW and the UFW). They say they want more emphasis on organizing and less on electoral politics – 2005

July 26
In Chicago, 30 workers are killed by federal troops, more than 100 wounded at the “Battle of the Viaduct” during the Great Railroad Strike – 1877

President Grover Cleveland appoints a United States Strike Committee to investigate the causes of the Pullman strike and the subsequent strike by the American Railway Union. Later that year the commission issues its report, absolving the strikers and blaming Pullman and the railroads for the conflict – 1894

Battle of Mucklow, W.Va., in coal strike. An estimated 100,000 shots were fired; 12 miners and four guards were killed – 1912

President Truman issues Executive Order 9981, directing equality of opportunity in armed forces – 1948

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) took effect today. It requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities and bans discrimination against such workers – 1992

July 27
William Sylvis, founder of the National Labor Union, died – 1869

July 28
Women shoemakers in Lynn, Mass., create Daughters of St. Crispin, demand pay equal to that of men – 1869

Harry Bridges is born in Australia. He came to America as a sailor at age 19 and went on to help form and lead the militant Int’l Longshore and Warehouse Union for more than 40 years – 1901

A strike by Paterson, N.J., silk workers for an 8-hour day, improved working conditions ends after six months, with the workers’ demands unmet. During the course of the strike, approximately 1,800 strikers were arrested, including Wobbly leaders Big Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn – 1913

Federal troops burn the shantytown built near the U.S. Capitol by thousands of unemployed WWI veterans, camping there to demand a bonus they had been promised but never received – 1932

Nine miners are rescued in Sommerset, Pa., after being trapped for 77 hours 240 feet underground in the flooded Quecreek Mine – 2002

July 29
The Coast Seamen’s Union merges with the Steamship Sailors’ Union to form the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific – 1891

A preliminary delegation from Mother Jones’ March of the Mill Children from Philadelphia to President Theodore Roosevelt’s summer home in Oyster Bay, Long Island, publicizing the harsh conditions of child labor, arrives today. They are not allowed through the gates – 1903

Nineteen firefighters die while responding to a blaze at the Shamrock Oil and Gas Corp. refinery in Sun Ray, Texas – 1956

Following a 5-year table grape boycott, Delano-area growers file into the United Farm Workers union hall in Delano, Calif., to sign their first union contracts – 1970

This Week in Labor History: 7/16 – 7/22

July 16
Ten thousand workers strike Chicago’s Int’l Harvester operations – 1919

Martial law declared in strike by longshoremen in Galveston, Texas – 1920

San Francisco Longshoremen’s strike spreads, becomes 4-day general strike – 1934

July 17
Two ammunition ships explode at Port Chicago, Calif., killing 322, including 202 African-Americans assigned by the Navy to handle explosives. It was the worst home-front disaster of World War II. The resulting refusal of 258 African-Americans to return to the dangerous work underpinned the trial and conviction of 50 of the men in what is called the Port Chicago Mutiny – 1944

July 18
The Brotherhood of Telegraphers begins an unsuccessful 3-week strike against the Western Union Telegraph Co. – 1883

Some 35,000 Chicago stockyard workers strike – 1919

Hospital workers win 113-day union recognition strike in Charleston, S.C. – 1969

July 19
Women’s Rights Convention opens in Seneca Falls, N.Y.  Delegates adopt a Declaration of Women’s Rights and call for women’s suffrage – 1848

An amendment to the 1939 Hatch Act, a federal law whose main provision prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity, is amended to also cover state and local employees whose salaries include any federal funds – 1940

July 20
New York City newsboys, many so poor that they were sleeping in the streets, begin a 2-week strike. Several rallies drew more than 5,000 newsboys, complete with charismatic speeches by strike leader Kid Blink, who was blind in one eye. The boys had to pay publishers up front for the newspapers; they were successful in forcing the publishers to buy back unsold papers – 1899
(Kids at Work: Your heart will be broken by this exceptional book’s photographs of children at backbreaking, often life-threatening work, and the accompanying commentary by author Russell Freedman. Photographer Lewis Hine—who himself died in poverty in 1940—did as much, and perhaps more, than any social critic in the early part of the 20th century to expose the abuse of children, as young as three and four, by American capitalism.)

Two killed, 67 wounded in Minneapolis truckers’ strike—”Bloody Friday” – 1934

Postal unions, Postal Service sign first labor contract in the history of the federal government—the year following an unauthorized strike by 200,000 postal workers – 1971

July 21
Local militiamen are called out against striking railroad workers in Pittsburgh. The head of the Pennsylvania Railroad advises giving the strikers “a rifle diet for a few days and see how they like that kind of bread.” – 1877

Compressed air explosion kills 20 workers constructing railroad tunnel under the Hudson River – 1880

IWW leads a strike at Hodgeman’s Blueberry Farm in Grand Junction, Mich. – 1964

Radio station WCFL, owned and operated by the Chicago Federation of Labor, takes to the airwaves with two hours of music. The first and only labor-owned radio station in the country, WCFL was sold in 1979 – 1926

A die-cast operator in Jackson, Mich., is pinned by a hydraulic Unimate robot, dies five days later. Incident is the first documented case in the U.S. of a robot killing a human – 1984

July 22
Newly unionized brewery workers in San Francisco, mostly German socialists, declare victory after the city’s breweries give in to their demands for free beer, the closed shop, freedom to live anywhere (they had typically been required to live in the breweries), a 10-hour day, 6-day week, and a board of arbitration – 1886
(From First Contact to First Contract: A Union Organizer’s Handbook is a no-nonsense tool from veteran labor organizer and educator Bill Barry. He looks to his own vast experience to document and help organizers through all the stages of a unionization campaign, from how to get it off the ground to how to bring it home with a signed contract and a strong bargaining unit.)

A bomb was set off during a “Preparedness Day” parade in San Francisco, killing 10 and injuring 40 more. Tom Mooney, a labor organizer, and Warren Billings, a shoe worker, were convicted of the crime, but both were pardoned 23 years later – 1916

This Week in Labor History: 7/9 – 7/15

July 09
The worst rail accident in U.S. history occurs when two trains pulled by 80-ton locomotives collided head-on at Dutchman’s curve in west Nashville, Tenn. 101 people died, another 171 were injured – 1918

New England Telephone “girls” strike for 7-hour workday, $27 weekly pay after four years’ service – 1923

New York City subway system managers in the Bronx attempt to make cleaning crews on the IRT line work faster by forcing the use of a 14-inch squeegee instead of the customary 10-inch tool. Six workers are fired for insubordination; a 2-day walkout by the Transport Workers Union wins reversal of the directive and the workers’ reinstatement – 1935

Fourteen volunteer firefighters and one Forest Service employee die fighting the Rattlesnake wildfire in California’s Mendocino National Forest.  The blaze was set by an arsonist – 1953

United Packinghouse, Food & Allied Workers merge with Amalgamated Meat Cutters & Butcher Workmen – 1968

Five thousand demonstrators rally at the state capitol in Columbia, S.C., in support of the “Charleston Five,” labor activists charged with felony rioting during a police attack on a 2000 longshoremen’s picket of a non-union crew unloading a ship – 2001

July 10
Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and civil rights activist, born – 1875

Some 14,000 federal and state troops finally succeed in putting down the strike against the Pullman Palace Car Co., which had been peaceful until July 5, when federal troops intervened in Chicago, against the repeated protests of the governor and Chicago’s mayor. A total of 34 American Railway Union members were killed by troops over the course of the strike – 1894

A powerful explosion rips through the Rolling Mill coal mine in Johnstown, Pa., killing 112 miners, 83 of whom were immigrants from Poland and Slovakia – 1902

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce holds a mass meeting of more than 2,000 merchants to organize what was to become a frontal assault on union strength and the closed shop. The failure of wages to keep up with inflation after the 1906 earthquake had spurred multiple strikes in the city – 1916

Sidney Hillman dies at age 59. He led the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, was a key figure in the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations and was a close advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt – 1946

July 11
Striking coal miners in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, dynamite barracks housing Pinkerton management thugs – 1892

After seven years of labor by as many as 2,800 construction workers, the Triborough Bridge opens in New York.  Actually a complex of three bridges, it connects the boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens.  Construction began on Black Friday, 1929, and New Deal money turned it into one of the largest public works projects of the Great Depression – 1936

A nine-year strike begins at the Ohio Crankshaft Division of Park-Ohio Industries in Cleveland. Overcoming scabs, arrests and firings, UAW Local 91 members hung on and approved a contract in 1992 with the company—now under new management—that included company-funded health and retirement benefits, as well as pay increases – 1983
 
July 12
Bisbee, Ariz., deports Wobblies; 1,186 miners sent into desert in manure-laden boxcars. They had been fighting for improved safety and working conditions – 1917

The Screen Actors Guild holds its first meeting. Among those attending: future horror movie star (Frankenstein’s Monster) and union activist Boris Karloff – 1933

July 13
Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union organized in Tyronza, Ark. – 1934

Detroit newspaper workers begin 19-month strike against Gannett, Knight-Ridder. The strike was to become a lockout, which lasted four years more – 1995

July 14
The Great Uprising nationwide railway strike begins in Martinsburg, W.Va., after railroad workers are hit with their second pay cut in a year. In the following days, strike riots spread through 17 states. The next week, federal troops were called out to force an end to the strike – 1877

Woody Guthrie, writer of “This Land is Your Land” and “Union Maid,” born in Okemah, Okla. – 1912
(Woody Guthrie: A Life: Folksinger and political activist Woody Guthrie contributed much to the American labor movement, not the least of which are his classic anthems “Union Maid” and “This Land Is Your Land.” This is perhaps his best-ever biography, written by bestselling author Joe Klein (Primary Colors, The Running Mate). It is an easy-to-read, honest description of Guthrie’s life, from a childhood of poverty to a youth spent “bummin’ around” to an adulthood of music and organizing—and a life cut short by incurable disease.)

Italian immigrants and anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are convicted in Massachusetts of murder and payroll robbery—unfairly, most historians agree—after a 2-month trial, and are eventually executed. Fifty years after their deaths the state’s governor issued a proclamation saying they had been treated unfairly and that “any disgrace should be forever removed from their names.” – 1921

July 15
Some 50,000 lumberjacks strike for 8-hour day – 1917

Ralph Gray, an African-American sharecropper and leader of the Share Croppers Union, is murdered in Camp Hill, Ala. – 1931

A half-million steelworkers begin what is to become a 116-day strike that shutters nearly every steel mill in the country. Management wanted to dump contract language limiting its ability to change the number of workers assigned to a task or to introduce new work rules or machinery that would result in reduced hours or fewer employees – 1959
(There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America: This sympathetic, thoughtful and highly readable history of the American labor movement traces unionism from the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts in the 1820s to organized labor’s decline in the 1980s and struggle for survival and growth today.)

This Week in Labor History: 7/2 – 7/8

July 02
The first Walmart store opens in Rogers, Ark.  By 2014 the company had 10,000 stores in 27 countries, under 71 different names, employing more than 2 million people.  It is known in the U.S. and most of the other countries in which it operates for low wages and extreme anti-unionism – 1962
(Why Unions Matter: In Why Unions Matter, the author explains why unions still matter in language you can use if you happen to talk with someone who shops or works at Walmart. Unions mean better pay, benefits, and working conditions for their members; they force employers to treat employees with dignity and respect; and at their best, they provide a way for workers to make society both more democratic and more egalitarian. Yates uses simple language, clear data, and engaging examples to show why workers need unions, how unions are formed, how they operate, how collective bargaining works, the role of unions in politics, and what unions have done to bring workers together across the divides of race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation.)

President Johnson signs Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forbidding employers and unions from discriminating on the basis of race, color, gender, nationality, or religion – 1964

The Labor Dept. reports that U.S. employers cut 467,000 jobs over the prior month, driving the nation’s unemployment rate up to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent – 2009

July 03
Children, employed in the silk mills in Paterson, N.J., go on strike for 11-hour day and 6-day week. A compromise settlement resulted in a 69-hour work week – 1835

Feminist and labor activist Charlotte Perkins Gilman born in Hartford, Conn. Her landmark study, “Women and Economics,” was radical: it called for the financial independence of women and urged a network of child care centers – 1860

July 04
Albert Parsons joins the Knights of Labor. He later became an anarchist and was one of the Haymarket martyrs – 1876

AFL dedicates its new Washington, D.C., headquarters building at 9th St. and Massachusetts Ave. NW. The building, still standing, later became headquarters for the Plumbers and Pipefitters – 1916

Five newspaper boys from the Baltimore Evening Sun died when the steamer they were on, the Three Rivers, caught fire near Baltimore, Md. They are remembered every year at a West Baltimore cemetery, toasted by former staffers of the now-closed newspaper – 1924

With the Great Depression underway, some 1,320 delegates attended the founding convention of the Unemployed Councils of the U.S.A., organized by the U.S. Communist Party. They demanded passage of unemployment insurance and maternity benefit laws and opposed discrimination by race or sex – 1930

Two primary conventions of the United Nations’ Int’l Labor Organization come into force: Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize – 1950

Building trades workers lay the cornerstone of the Freedom Tower on the site of the World Trade Center in New York City.  The WTC had been leveled by a terrorist attack three years earlier.  Nearly 3,000 died at the WTC and in other attacks in the eastern U.S. on the same day – 2004

July 05
During a strike against the Pullman Palace Car Company, which had drastically reduced wages, buildings constructed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago’s Jackson Park were set ablaze, reducing seven to ashes – 1894
(In this expanded edition of Strike! you can read about labor-management conflicts that have occurred over the past 140 years. Here you’ll learn much about workers’ struggle to win a degree of justice, from the workers’ point of view. Brecher also examines the ever-shifting roles and configurations of unions, from the Knights of Labor of the 1800s to the AFL-CIO of the 1990s. A new chapter, “Beyond One-Sided Class War,” looks at how modern protest movements, such as the Battle of Seattle and Occupy Wall Street, were ignited and considers the similarities between these challenges to authority and those of labor’s past.)

West Coast Longshoremen’s Strike, Battle of Rincon Hill, San Francisco. Some 5,000 strikers fought 1,000 police, scabs and national guardsmen.  Two strikers were killed, 109 people injured. The incident, forever known as “Bloody Thursday,” led to a general strike – 1934

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the National Labor Relations Act – 1935

Three firefighters, a state policeman and an employee of Doxol Gas in Kingman, Arizona are killed in a propane gas explosion. Eight more firefighters were to die of burns suffered in the event – 1973

Fourteen firefighters are killed battling the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain in Glenwood Springs, Colo. – 1994

July 06
Two strikers and a bystander are killed, 30 seriously wounded by police in Duluth, Minn. The workers, mostly immigrants building the city’s streets and sewers, struck after contractors reneged on a promise to pay $1.75 a day – 1889

Two barges, loaded with Pinkerton thugs hired by the Carnegie Steel Co., land on the south bank of the Monongahela River in Homestead, Pa., seeking to occupy Carnegie Steel Works and put down a strike by members of the Amalgamated Association of Iron & Steel Workers – 1892

Rail union leader Eugene V. Debs is arrested during the Pullman strike, described by the New York Times as “a struggle between the greatest and most important labor organization and the entire railroad capital” that involved some 250,000 workers in 27 states at its peak – 1894

Transit workers in New York begin what is to be an unsuccessful 3-week strike against the then-privately owned IRT subway. Most transit workers labored seven days a week, up to 11.5 hours a day – 1926

Explosions and fires destroy the Piper Alpha drilling platform in the North Sea, killing 167 oil workers—the worst loss of life ever in an offshore oil disaster.  The operator, Occidental, was found guilty of having inadequate maintenance and safety procedures, but no criminal charges were ever brought – 1988

July 07
Striking New York longshoremen meet to discuss ways to keep new immigrants from scabbing. They were successful, at least for a time. On July 14, 500 newly arrived Jews marched straight from their ship to the union hall. On July 15, 250 Italian immigrants stopped scabbing on the railroad and joined the union – 1882

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones begins “The March of the Mill Children,” when, accompanied part of the way by children, she walked from Philadelphia to President Theodore Roosevelt’s home on Long Island to protest the plight of child laborers. One of her demands: reduce the children’s work week to 55 hours – 1903

Cloak makers begin what is to be a 2-month strike against New York City sweatshops – 1910

Workers begin construction on the Boulder Dam (now known as Hoover Dam) on the Colorado River, during the Great Depression.  Wages and conditions were horrible—16 workers and work camp residents died of the heat over just a single 30-day period—and two strikes over the four years of construction led to only nominal improvements in pay and conditions – 1931

Some 500,000 people participate when a two-day general strike is called in Puerto Rico by more than 60 trade unions and many other organizations. They are protesting privatization of the island’s telephone company – 1998

July 08
First anthracite coal strike in U.S. – 1842

Labor organizer Ella Reeve “Mother” Bloor born on Staten Island, N.Y. Among her activities: investigating child labor in glass factories and mines, and working undercover in meat packing plants to verify for federal investigators the nightmarish working conditions that author Upton Sinclair had revealed in The Jungle – 1862

The Pacific Mail Steamship Co. fires all employees who had been working an 8-hour day, then joins with other owners to form the “Ten-Hour League Society” for the purpose of uniting all mechanics “willing to work at the old rates, neither unjust to the laborers nor ruinous to the capital and enterprise of the city and state.” The effort failed – 1867

Founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W., or Wobblies) concludes in Chicago. Charles O. Sherman, a former American Federation of Labor organizer, is elected president – 1905

Some 35,000 members of the Machinists union begin what is to become a 43-day strike that shuts down five major U.S. airlines, about three-fifths of domestic air traffic.  The airlines were thriving, and wages were a key issue in the fight – 1966

This Week in Labor History: 6/25 – 7/1

June 25
More than 8,000 people attend the dedication ceremony for The Haymarket Martyrs Monument in Chicago, honoring those framed and executed for the bombing at Haymarket Square on May 4, 1886 – 1893
(A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present: If your last serious read of American history was in high school—or even in a standard college course—you’ll want to read this amazing account of America as seen through the eyes of its working people, women and minorities. Zinn, a widely respected Boston University professor, turns history on its head with his carefully researched and dramatic recounting of America and its people—not just its bankers, industrialists, generals and politicians.)
Fair Labor Standards Act passes Congress, banning child labor and setting the 40-hour work week – 1938
At the urging of Black labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph, Franklin Roosevelt issues an executive order barring discrimination in defense industries – 1941

Congress passes the Smith-Connally War Labor Disputes Act over President Franklin Roosevelt’s veto. It allows the federal government to seize and operate industries threatened by strikes that would interfere with war production. It was hurriedly created after the third coal strike in seven weeks – 1943

A total of 21 workers are killed when a fireworks factory near Hallett, Okla., explodes – 1985
Decatur, Ill., police pepper-gas workers at A.E. Staley plant gate one year into the company’s two-and-a-half-year lockout of Paperworkers Local 7837 – 1994

June 26
Members of the American Railway Union, led by Eugene V. Debs, refuse to handle Pullman cars, in solidarity with Pullman strikers. Two dozen strikers were killed over the course of the strike – 1894
The 189-mile-long St. Lawrence Seaway opens, making the Great Lakes accessible to Atlantic shipping.  Thousands of laborers toiled for decades to make it happen; indirectly and directly, the Seaway today supports 75,000 jobs in Canada and 150,000 in the U.S. – 1959

June 27
Emma Goldman, women’s rights activist and radical, born in Lithuania. She came to the U.S. at age 17 – 1869

The Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the “Wobblies,” is founded at a 12-day-long convention in Chicago. The Wobbly motto: “An injury to one is an injury to all.” – 1905

Congress passes the National Labor Relations Act, creating the structure for collective bargaining in the United States – 1935
(The Labor Law Source Book: Texts of 20 Federal Labor Laws: A very handy collection that puts the full texts of all the major U.S. labor laws into one book. Includes the National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Family and Medical Leave Act and 15 more. The full, actual language of each law is presented—without elaboration by the editor—and a helpful topic finder at the back of the book tells you which laws apply to basic concerns and classes of workers.)

A 26-day strike of New York City hotels by 26,000 workers—the first such walkout in 50 years—ends with a 5-year contract calling for big wage and benefit gains – 1985

A.E. Staley locks out 763 workers in Decatur, Ill. The lockout was to last two and one-half years – 1993

June 28
Birthday of machinist Matthew Maguire, who many believe first suggested Labor Day. Others believe it was Peter McGuire, a carpenter – 1850

President Grover Cleveland signs legislation declaring Labor Day an official U.S. holiday – 1894

The federal government sues the Teamsters to force reforms on the union, the nation’s largest. The following March, the government and the union sign a consent decree requiring direct election of the union’s president and creation of an Independent Review Board – 1988

June 29
What is to be a 7-day streetcar strike begins in Chicago after several workers are unfairly fired. Wrote the police chief at the time, describing the strikers’ response to scabs: “One of my men said he was at the corner of Halsted and Madison Streets, and although he could see fifty stones in the air, he couldn’t tell where they were coming from.” The strike was settled to the workers’ satisfaction – 1885

An executive order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishes the National Labor Relations Board.  A predecessor organization, the National Labor Board, established by the Depression-era National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933, had been struck down by the Supreme Court – 1934

IWW strikes Weyerhauser and other Idaho lumber camps – 1936

Jesus Pallares, founder of the 8,000-member coal miners union, Liga Obrera de Habla Espanola, is deported as an “undesirable alien.” The union operated in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado – 1936

The Boilermaker and Blacksmith unions merge to become Int’l Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers – 1954

The newly-formed Jobs With Justice stages its first big support action, backing 3,000 picketing Eastern Airlines mechanics at Miami Airport – 1987

The U.S. Supreme Court rules in CWA v. Beck that, in a union security agreement, a union can collect as dues from non-members only that money necessary to perform its duties as a collective bargaining representative – 1988

June 30
Alabama outlaws the leasing of convicts to mine coal, a practice that had been in place since 1848. In 1898, 73 percent of the state’s total revenue came from this source. 25 percent of all Black leased convicts died – 1928

The Walsh-Healey Act took effect today. It requires companies that supply goods to the government to pay wages according to a schedule set by the Secretary of Labor – 1936

The storied Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, a union whose roots traced back to the militant Western Federation of Miners, and which helped found the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), merges into the United Steelworkers of America – 1967

Up to 40,000 New York construction workers demonstrated in midtown Manhattan, protesting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s awarding of a $33 million contract to a nonunion company. Eighteen police and three demonstrators were injured. “There were some scattered incidents and some minor violence,” Police Commissioner Howard Safir told the New York Post. “Generally, it was a pretty well-behaved crowd.” – 1998

Nineteen firefighters die when they are overtaken by a wildfire they are battling in a forest northwest of Phoenix, Ariz.  It was the deadliest wildfire involving firefighters in the U.S. in at least 30 years – 2013

July 01
The American Flint Glass workers union is formed, headquartered in Pittsburgh.  It was to merge into the Steelworkers 140 years later, in 2003 – 1873

Steel workers in Cleveland begin what was to be an 88-week strike against wage cuts – 1885

Homestead, Pa., steel strike. Seven strikers and three Pinkertons killed as Andrew Carnegie hires armed thugs to protect strikebreakers – 1892

The Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers stages what is to become an unsuccessful 3-month strike against U.S. Steel Corp. Subsidiaries – 1901

One million railway shopmen strike – 1922

Some 1,100 streetcar workers strike in New Orleans, spurring the creation of the po’ boy sandwich by a local sandwich shop owner and one-time streetcar man. “Whenever we saw one of the striking men coming,” Bennie Martin later recalled, “one of us would say, ‘Here comes another poor boy.’” Martin and his wife fed any striker who showed up – 1929

In what was to be a month-long strike, 650,000 steelworkers shut down the industry while demanding a number of wage and working condition improvements.  They won all their demands, including a union shop – 1956

National Association of Post Office & General Service Maintenance Employees, United Federation of Postal Clerks, National Federation of Post Office Motor Vehicle Employees & National Association of Special Delivery Messengers merge to become American Postal Workers Union – 1971

Int’l Jewelry Workers Union merges with Service Employees Int’l Union – 1980

Graphic Arts Int’l Union merges with Int’l Printing & Graphic Communications Union to become Graphic Communications Int’l Union, now a conference of the Teamsters – 1983

Copper miners begin a years-long, bitter strike against Phelps-Dodge in Clifton, Ariz. Democratic Gov. Bruce Babbitt repeatedly deployed state police and National Guardsmen to assist the company over the course of the strike, which broke the union – 1983

Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union merges with Int’l Ladies’ Garment Workers Union to form Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees – 1995

Int’l Chemical Workers Union merges with United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union – 1996

The Newspaper Guild merges with Communications Workers of America – 1997

United American Nurses affiliate with the AFL-CIO – 2001

This Week in Labor History: 6/18 – 6/24

June 18
Union and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph and others meet with President Roosevelt about a proposed July 1 March on Washington to protest discrimination in war industries. A week later, Roosevelt orders that the industries desegregate – 1941

June 19
Eight-hour work day adopted for federal employees – 1912

AFL President Sam Gompers and Secretary of War Newton Baker sign an agreement establishing a three-member board of adjustment to control wages, hours and working conditions for construction workers employed on government projects.  The agreement protected union wage and hour standards for the duration of World War I – 1917

A pioneering sit-down strike is conducted by workers at a General Tire Co. factory in Akron, Ohio. The United Rubber Workers union was founded a year later.  The tactic launched a wave of similar efforts in the auto and other industries over the next several years – 1934
(In this expanded edition of Strike! you can read about the General Tire Co. strike as well as other labor-management conflicts that have occurred over the past 140 years.  Here you’ll learn much about workers’ struggle to win a degree of justice, from the workers’ point of view.)

The Women’s Day Massacre in Youngstown, Ohio, when police use tear gas on women and children, including at least one infant in his mother’s arms, during a strike at Republic Steel. One union organizer later recalled, “When I got there I thought the Great War had started over again. Gas was flying all over the place and shots flying and flares going up and it was the first time I had ever seen anything like it in my life…” – 1937

ILWU begins a 4-day general strike in sugar, pineapple, and longshore to protest convictions under the anti-communist Smith Act of seven activists, “the Hawaii Seven.” The convictions were later overturned by a federal appeals court – 1953

June 20
Birth of Albert Parsons, Haymarket martyr – 1848

The American Railway Union, headed by Eugene Debs, is founded in Chicago. In the Pullman strike a year later, the union was defeated by federal injunctions and troops, and Debs was imprisoned for violating the injunctions – 1893

Henry Ford recognizes the United Auto Workers, signs contract for workers at River Rouge plant – 1941

Striking African-American auto workers are attacked by KKK, National Workers League, and armed White workers at Belle Isle amusement park in Detroit. Two days of riots follow, 34 people are killed, more than 1,300 arrested – 1943
(All Labor Has Dignity: Dr. Martin Luther  King was every bit as committed to economic justice as he was to ending racial segregation. He fought throughout his life to connect the labor and civil rights movements, envisioning them as twin pillars for social reform. As we struggle with the growing inequality between the nation’s wealthy and working classes, this collection of King’s speeches on labor rights and economic justice underscore his relevance for today. They help us imagine King anew: as a human rights leader whose commitment to unions and an end to poverty was a crucial part of his civil rights agenda.)

The Taft-Hartley Labor Management Relations Act, curbing strikes, is vetoed by President Harry S. Truman. The veto was overridden three days later by a Republican-controlled Congress – 1947

Oil began traveling through the Alaska pipeline. Seventy thousand people worked on building the pipeline, history’s largest privately-financed construction project – 1977

Evelyn Dubrow, described by the New York Times as organized labor’s most prominent lobbyist at the time of its greatest power, dies at age 95. The Int’l Ladies’ Garment Workers Union lobbyist once told the Times that “she trudged so many miles around Capitol Hill that she wore out 24 pairs of her size 4 shoes each year.” She retired at age 86 – 2006

June 21
In England, a compassionate parliament declares that children can’t be required to work more than 12 hours a day. And they must have an hour’s instruction in the Christian Religion every Sunday and not be required to sleep more than two in a bed – 1802
(Kids at Work: Your heart will be broken by this exceptional book’s photographs of children at backbreaking, often life-threatening work, and the accompanying commentary by author Russell Freedman. Photographer Lewis Hine—who himself died in poverty in 1940—did as much, and perhaps more, than any social critic in the early part of the 20th century to expose the abuse of children, as young as three and four, by American capitalism.)

Ten miners accused of being militant “Molly Maguires” are hanged in Pennsylvania. A private corporation initiated the investigation of the 10 through a private detective agency. A private police force arrested them, and private attorneys for the coal companies prosecuted them. “The state provided only the courtroom and the gallows,” a judge said many years later – 1877

The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the right of unions to publish statements urging members to vote for a specific congressional candidate, ruling that such advocacy is not a violation of the Federal Corrupt Practices Act – 1948

An estimated 100,000 unionists and other supporters march in solidarity with striking Detroit News and Detroit Free Press newspaper workers – 1997

June 22
A total of 86 passengers on a train carrying members of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus are killed, another 127 injured in a wreck near Hammond, Indiana.  Five days later the dead are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Forest Park, Ill., in an area set aside as Showmen’s Rest, purchased only a few months earlier by the Showmen’s League of America – 1918

Violence erupted during a coal mine strike at Herrin, Ill. A total of 36 were killed, 21 of them non-union miners – 1922

June 23
Charles Moyer, president of the Western Federation of Miners, goes to Butte, Mont. in an attempt to mediate a conflict between factions of the miner’s local there. It didn’t go well. Gunfight in the union hall killed one man; Moyer and other union officers left the building, which was then leveled in a dynamite blast – 1914

Congress overrides President Harry Truman’s veto of the anti-worker Taft-Hartley Act. The law weakened unions and let states exempt themselves from union requirements. Twenty states immediately enacted open shop laws and more followed – 1947

OSHA issues standard on cotton dust to protect 600,000 workers from byssinosis, also known as “brown lung” – 1978

A majority of the 5,000 textile workers at six Fieldcrest Cannon textile plants in Kannapolis, N.C., vote for union representation after an historic 25-year fight – 1999

June 24
Birth of Agnes Nestor, president of the Int’l Glove Workers Union and longtime leader of the Chicago Women’s Trade Union League. She began work in a glove factory at age 14 – 1880

Seventeen workers are killed as methane explodes in a water tunnel under construction in Sylmar, Calif. – 1971

This Week in Labor History: 6/11 – 6/17

June 11
Representatives from the AFL, Knights of Labor, populists, railroad brotherhoods and other trade unions hold a unity conference in St. Louis but fail to overcome their differences – 1894
(Welcome to the Union: Don’t let management’s voice be the only one heard by new employees who hire on in your unionized workplace. Welcome them to the job with this easy-to-read, solidarity-building introduction to unionism. It comes in two versions—public sector and private sector.)

Police shoot at maritime workers striking United Fruit Co. in New Orleans; one killed, two wounded – 1913

John L. Lewis dies. A legendary figure, he was president of the United Mine Workers from 1920 to 1960 and a driving force behind the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations – 1969

June 12
Fifty thousand members of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen employed in meatpacking plants walk off their jobs; demands include equalization of wages and conditions throughout U.S. plants – 1904

The U.S. Supreme Court invalidates two sections of a Florida law: one required state licensing of paid union business agents, the other required registration with the state of all unions and their officers – 1945

Major League Baseball strike begins, forces cancellation of 713 games. Most observers blamed team owners for the strike: they were trying to recover from a court decision favoring the players on free agency – 1981

June 13
Congress creates a Bureau of Labor, under the Interior Department.  It later became independent as a Department of Labor without executive status in the Department of Commerce and Labor; in 1913 it became the Department of Labor we know today – 1884

Tony Mazzocchi born in Brooklyn, N.Y. An activist and officer in the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union, he was a mentor to Karen Silkwood, a founder of the Labor Party, and a prime mover behind the 1970 passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act – 1926

June 14
Unions legalized in Canada – 1872

The first commercial computer, UNIVAC I, is installed at the U.S. Census Bureau – 1951

June 15
The Metal Trades Department of what is now the AFL-CIO is founded – 1908

The Congress of Industrial Organizations expels the Fur and Leather Workers union and the American Communications Association for what it describes as communist activities – 1947

Battle of Century City, as police in Los Angeles attack some 500 janitors and their supporters during a peaceful Service Employees Int’l Union demonstration against cleaning contractor ISS. The event generated public outrage that resulted in recognition of the workers’ union and spurred the creation of an annual June 15 Justice for Janitors Day – 1990

June 16
Eight local unions organize the Int’l Fur Workers Union of U.S. and Canada. The union later merged with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen – 1913

Railroad union leader and socialist Eugene V. Debs speaks in Canton, Ohio, on the relation between capitalism and war. Ten days later he is arrested under the Espionage Act, eventually sentenced to 10 years in jail – 1918

The National Industrial Recovery Act became law, but was later to be declared unconstitutional. It established the right to unionize, set maximum hours and minimum wages for every major industry, abolished sweatshops and child labor. The Wagner Act, in effect today, was approved two years later to legalize unionization – 1933

Inacom Corp., once the world’s largest computer dealer, sends most of its 5,100 employees an email instructing them to call a toll-free phone number; when they call, a recorded message announces they have been fired – 2000

June 17
Twenty-one young women and girls making cartridges for the Union Army at the Washington, D.C. arsenal during the Civil War are killed in an accidental explosion. Most of the victims were Irish immigrants. A monument was erected in the Congressional Cemetery, where 17 of the workers were buried – 1864

Susan B. Anthony goes on trial in Canandaigua, N.Y., for casting her ballot in a federal election the previous November, in violation of existing statutes barring women from the vote – 1873

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones leads a rally in Philadelphia to focus public attention on children mutilated in the state’s textile mills. Three weeks later the 73-year-old will lead a march to New York City to plead with President Theodore Roosevelt to help improve conditions for the children – 1903

Twelve trade unionists meet in Pittsburgh to launch a drive to organize all steelworkers. It was the birth of the United Steelworkers of America (then called the Steel Workers Organizing Committee). By the end of the year 125,000 workers joined the union in support of its $5-a-day wage demand – 1936

Nine firefighters are killed, eight more injured when a large section of Boston’s Hotel Vendom collapses on them.  The firefighters were performing cleanup when the collapse occurred, having successfully fought a fire at the luxury hotel earlier in the day – 1972

June 18
Union and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph and others meet with President Roosevelt about a proposed July 1 March on Washington to protest discrimination in war industries. A week later, Roosevelt orders that the industries desegregate – 1941

This Week in Labor History: 6/4 – 6/10

June 04

Massachusetts becomes the first state to establish a minimum wage – 1912

The House of Representatives approves the Taft-Hartley Act. The legislation allows the president of the United States to intervene in labor disputes. President Truman vetoed the law but was overridden by Congress – 1947

The AFL-CIO opens its new headquarters building, in view of the White House – 1956

Gov. Jerry Brown signs the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, the first law in the U.S. giving farmworkers collective bargaining rights. The legislation came after years of effort by the United Farm Workers union – 1975

June 05
Thirty-five members of the Teamsters, concerned about the infiltration of organized crime in the union and other issues, meet in Cleveland to form Teamsters for a Democratic Union – 1976

A strike begins at a General Motors Corp. parts factory in Flint, Mich., that spreads and ultimately forces the closure of GM plants across the country for seven weeks.  The Flint workers were protesting the removal of key dies from their plant and feared their jobs would be lost. The company ended the dispute by assuring the plant would remain open until at least the year 2000 – 1998

June 06
The U.S. Employment Service was created – 1933

A general strike by some 12,000 autoworkers and others in Lansing, Mich., shuts down the city for a month in what was to become known as the city’s “Labor Holiday.” The strike was precipitated by the arrest of nine workers, including the wife of the auto workers local union president: The arrest left three children in the couple’s home unattended – 1937

U.S. President Harry S. Truman and American Federation of Musicians President James Petrillo perform a piano duet at the union’s convention in Asbury Park, N.J. – 1948

Labor Party founding convention opens in Cleveland, Ohio – 1996

June 07
Militia sent to Cripple Creek, Colo., to suppress Western Federation of Miners strike – 1904

Sole performance of Pageant of the Paterson (N.J.) Strike, created and performed by 1,000 mill workers from the silk industry strike, New York City – 1913

Striking textile workers battle police in Gastonia, N.C.  Police Chief O.F. Aderholt is accidentally killed by one of his own officers. Six strike leaders are convicted of “conspiracy to murder” and are sentenced to jail for from five to 20 years – 1929

Founding convention of the United Food and Commercial Workers. The merger brought together the Retail Clerks Int’l Union and the Amalgamated Meatcutters and Butcher Workmen of North America – 1979
(Parliamentary Procedure and Effective Union Meetings: You couldn’t have an effective convention if no one knew how to conduct a meeting. This is a very helpful guide for how to run or participate in a union meeting—not just the formal procedures, but the realities, like how to set an agenda, how to deal with people who just love to hear themselves speak and how to boost attendance, for example.)

The United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club announce the formation of a strategic alliance to pursue a joint public policy agenda under the banner of Good Jobs, A Clean Environment, and A Safer World – 2006

June 08
The earliest recorded strike by Chinese immigrants to the U.S. occurred when stonemasons, who were brought to San Francisco to build the three-story Parrott granite building—made from Chinese prefabricated blocks—struck for higher pay – 1852

A battle between the Militia and striking miners at Dunnville, Colo., ended with six union members dead and 15 taken prisoner.  Seventy-nine of the strikers were deported to Kansas two days later – 1904

Spectator mine disaster kills 168, Butte, Mont. – 1917

Some 35,000 members of the Machinists union begin what is to become a 43-day strike—the largest in airline history—against five carriers. The mechanics and other ground service workers wanted to share in the airlines’ substantial profits – 1966

New York City drawbridge tenders, in a dispute with the state over pension issues, leave a dozen bridges open, snarling traffic in what the Daily News described as “the biggest traffic snafu in the city’s history” – 1971

June 09
Helen Marot is born in Philadelphia to a wealthy family.  She went on to organize the Bookkeepers, Stenographers and Accountants Union in New York, and to organize and lead the city’s 1909-1910 Shirtwaist Strike.  In 1912, she was a member of a commission investigating the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire – 1865

June 10
Unions legalized in Canada – 1872

The mayor of Monroe, Mich. organizes a vigilante mob of 1,400 armed with baseball bats and teargas to break the  organizing picket line of 200 striking workers at Newton Steel.  The line is broken; eight are injured and hospitalized. Sixteen workers’ cars were vandalized, five cars overturned, and eight more were dumped into the River Raisin – 1937

U.S. Supreme Court rules in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. that preliminary work activities, where controlled by the employer and performed entirely for the employer’s benefit, are properly included as working time. The decision is known as the “portal to portal case” – 1946

President Kennedy signs a law mandating equal pay to women who are performing the same jobs as men (Equal Pay Act) – 1963

This Week in Labor History: 5/28 – 6/3

May 28
The Ladies Shoe Binders Society formed in New York – 1835
Fifteen women were dismissed from their jobs at the Curtis Publishing Company in Philadelphia for dancing the Turkey Trot.  They were on their lunch break, but management thought the dance too racy – 1912

At least 30,000 workers in Rochester, N.Y., participate in a general strike in support of municipal workers who had been fired for forming a union – 1946
May 29
Animators working for Walt Disney begin what was to become a successful 5-week strike for recognition of their union, the Screen Cartoonists’ Guild. The animated feature Dumbo was being created at the time and, according to Wikipedia, a number of strikers are caricatured in the feature as clowns who go to “hit the big boss for a raise” – 1941
A contract between the United Mine Workers and the U.S. government establishes one of the nation’s first union medical and pension plans, the multi-employer UMWA Welfare and Retirement Fund – 1946

The United Farm Workers of America reaches agreement with Bruce Church Inc. on a contract for 450 lettuce harvesters, ending a 17-year-long boycott. The pact raised wages, provided company-paid health benefits to workers and their families, created a seniority system to deal with seasonal layoffs and recalls, and established a pesticide monitoring system – 1996
UAW members at General Motors accept major contract concessions in return for 17.5 percent stake in the financially struggling company – 2009
May 30
The Ford Motor Company signs a “Technical Assistance” contract to produce cars in the Soviet Union, and Ford workers were sent to the Soviet Union to train the labor force in the use of its parts. Many American workers who made the trip, including Walter Reuther, a tool and die maker who later was to become the UAW’s president,  returned home with a different view of the duties and privileges of the industrial laborer – 1929
In what became known as the Memorial Day Massacre, police open fire on striking steelworkers at Republic Steel in South Chicago, killing ten and wounding more than 160 – 1937
The Ground Zero cleanup at the site of the World Trade Center is completed three months ahead of schedule due to the heroic efforts of more than 3,000 building tradesmen and women who had worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week for the previous eight months – 2002
May 31
The Johnstown Flood.  More than 2,200 die when a dam holding back a private resort lake burst upstream of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  The resort was owned by wealthy industrialists including Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick.  Neither they nor any other members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club were found guilty of fault, despite the fact the group had created the lake out of an abandoned reservoir – 1889

Some 25,000 White autoworkers walk off the job at a Detroit Packard Motor Car Co. plant, heavily involved in wartime production, when three Black workers are promoted to work on a previously all-White assembly line.  The Black workers were relocated and the Whites returned – 1943

Rose Will Monroe, popularly known as Rosie the Riveter, dies in Clarksville, Ind.  During WWII she helped bring women into the labor force – 1997

June 01
The Ladies Federal Labor Union Number 2703, based in Illinois, was granted a charter from the American Federation of Labor. Women from a wide range of occupations were among the members, who ultimately were successful in coalescing women’s groups interested in suffrage, temperance, health, housing and child labor reform to win state legislation in these areas – 1888
Union Carpenters win a 25¢-per-day raise, bringing wages for a 9-hour day to $2.50 – 1898
Congress passes the Erdman Act, providing for voluntary mediation or arbitration of railroad disputes and prohibiting contracts that discriminate against union labor or release employers from legal liability for on-the-job injuries – 1898
Nearly 3,500 immigrant miners begin Clifton-Morenci, Ariz., copper strike – 1903
Some 12,500 longshoremen strike the Pacific coast, from San Diego to Bellingham, Wash. Demands included a closed shop and a wage increase to 55¢ an hour for handling general cargo – 1916 As many as 60,000 railroad shopmen strike to protest cuts in wages – 1922

Extinguishing the light of hope in the hearts and aspirations of workers around the world, the Mexican government abolishes siestas—a mid-afternoon nap and work break which lengthened the work day but got people through brutally hot summer days – 1944

Farm workers under the banner of the new United Farm Workers Organizing Committee strike at Texas’s La Casita Farms, demand $1.25 as a minimum hourly wage – 1966

Dakota Beef meatpackers win 7-hour sit-down strike over speed-ups, St. Paul, Minn. – 2000

General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The filing made the automaker the largest U.S. industrial company to enter bankruptcy protection. It went on to recover thanks to massive help from the UAW and the federal government – 2009

June 02
Twenty-six journeymen printers in Philadelphia stage the trade’s first strike in America over wages: a cut in their $6 weekly pay – 1786.

A constitutional amendment declaring that “Congress shall have power to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under eighteen years of age” was approved by the Senate today, following the lead of the House five weeks earlier. But only 28 state legislatures ever ratified the amendment—the last three in 1937—so it has never taken effect – 1924

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that President Harry Truman acted illegally when he ordered the Army to seize the nation’s steel mills to avert a strike – 1952

Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and Textile Workers Union of America merge to form Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union – 1976

June 03
Int’l Ladies Garment Workers Union founded – 1900

A federal child labor law, enacted two years earlier, was declared unconstitutional – 1918

More than 1,000 Canadian men, working at “Royal Twenty Centers” established by the Canadian government to provide work for single, unemployed homeless males during the Great Depression, begin an “On to Ottawa Trek” to protest conditions at the camps. They were being paid 20 cents a day plus food and shelter to build roads, plant trees and construct public buildings – 1935

The National Labor Relations Board rules that tribal governments and their enterprises are subject to federal labor law – 2004

This Week in Labor History: 5/21 – 5/27

May 21

Italian activists and anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, widely believed to have been framed for murder, go on trial today. They eventually are executed as part of a government campaign against dissidents – 1921

The “Little Wagner Act” is signed in Hawaii, guaranteeing pineapple and sugar workers the right to bargain collectively.  After negotiations failed, a successful 79-day strike shut down 33 of the territory’s 34 plantations and brought higher wages and a 40-hour week – 1945

Nearly 100,000 unionized SBC Communications Inc. workers begin a 4-day strike to protest the local phone giant’s latest contract offer – 2004

May 22
Eugene V. Debs imprisoned in Woodstock, Ill., for role in Pullman strike – 1895

While white locomotive firemen on the Georgia Railroad strike, Blacks who are hired as replacements are whipped and stoned—not by the union men, but by white citizens outraged that Blacks are being hired over Whites.  The Engineers union threatens to stop work because their members are being affected by the violence – 1909

Civil Service Retirement Act of 1920 gives federal workers a pension – 1920

President Lyndon B. Johnson announces the goals of his Great Society social reforms: to bring “an end to poverty and racial injustice” in America – 1964

May 23
An estimated 100,000 textile workers, including more than 10,000 children, strike in the Philadelphia area. Among the issues: 60-hour workweeks, including night hours, for the children – 1903

The Battle of Toledo begins today: a five-day running battle between roughly 6,000 strikers at the Electric Auto-Lite company of Toledo, Ohio, and 1,300 members of the Ohio National Guard. Two strikers died and more than 200 were injured. The battle began in the sixth week of what ultimately became a successful two-month fight for union recognition and higher pay. One guardsman told a Toledo Blade reporter: “Our high school graduation is… tonight and we were supposed to be getting our diplomas” – 1934

U.S. railroad strike starts, later crushed when President Truman threatens to draft strikers – 1946

The Granite Cutters Int’l Association of America merges with Tile, Marble, Terrazzo, Finishers & Shopmen, which five years later merged into the Carpenters – 1983

May 24
After 14 years of construction and the deaths of 27 workers, the Brooklyn Bridge over New York’s East River opens. Newspapers call it “the eighth wonder of the world” – 1883

Some 2,300 members of the United Rubber Workers, on strike for 10 months against five Bridgestone-Firestone plants, agree to return to work without a contract. They had been fighting demands for 12-hour shifts and wage increases tied to productivity gains – 1995

May 25
Striking shoemakers in Philadelphia are arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy for violating an English common law that bars schemes aimed at forcing wage increases. The strike was broken – 1805

Philip Murray is born in Scotland. He went on to emigrate to the U.S., become founder and first president of the United Steelworkers of America, and head of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) from 1940 until his death in 1952 – 1886

Two company houses occupied by non-union coal miners are blown up and destroyed during a strike against the Glendale Gas & Coal Co. in Wheeling, W. Va. – 1925

Thousands of unemployed WWI veterans arrive in Washington, D.C., to demand early payment of a bonus they had been told they would get, but not until 1945. They built a shantytown near the U.S. Capitol but were burned out by U.S. troops after two months – 1932

The notorious 11-month Remington Rand strike begins. The strike spawned the “Mohawk Valley (N.Y.) formula,” described by investigators as a corporate plan to discredit union leaders, frighten the public with the threat of violence, employ thugs to beat up strikers, and other tactics. The National Labor Relations Board termed the formula “a battle plan for industrial war” – 1936

The AFL-CIO begins what is to become an unsuccessful campaign for a 35-hour workweek, with the goal of reducing unemployment. Earlier tries by organized labor for 32- or 35-hour weeks also failed – 1962

May 26
Men and women weavers in Pawtucket, R.I., stage nation’s first “co-ed” strike – 1824

Western Federation of Miners members strike for 8-hour day, Cripple Creek, Colo. – 1894

Actors’ Equity Assn. is founded by 112 actors at a meeting in New York City’s Pabst Grand Circle Hotel.  Producer George M. Cohan responds: “I will drive an elevator for a living before I will do business with any actors’ union.”  Later a sign will appear in Times Square reading: “Elevator operator wanted.  George M. Cohan need not apply” – 1913
(Coping with Difficult People: Bosses, supervisors, co-workers, friends, family members… difficult people can make your life hell, but you can do something about it. Based on fourteen years of research and observation, Coping with Difficult People offers proven, effective techniques guaranteed to help you right the balance in bad relationships and take charge of your life.)

IWW Marine Transport Workers strike, Philadelphia – 1920

Some 100,000 steel workers and miners in mines owned by steel companies strike in seven states.  The Memorial Day Massacre, in which ten strikers were killed by police at Republic Steel in Chicago, took place four days later, on May 30 – 1937

Ford Motor Co. security guards attack union organizers and supporters attempting to distribute literature outside the plant in Dearborn, Mich., in an event that was to become known as the “Battle of the Overpass.” The guards tried to destroy any photos showing the attack, but some survived—and inspired the Pulitzer committee to establish a prize for photography – 1937

May 27
The U.S. Supreme Court declares the Depression-era National Industrial Recovery Act to be unconstitutional, about a month before it was set to expire – 1935

The CIO-affiliated Insurance Workers of America merges with its AFL counterpart, the Insurance Agents International Union to form the Insurance Workers International Union.  The union later became part of the United Food and Commercial Workers – 1959

This Week in Labor History: May 14-20
May 14
Milwaukee brewery workers begin 10-week strike, demanding contracts comparable to East and West Coast workers. The strike was won because Blatz Brewery accepted their demands, but Blatz was ousted from the Brewers Association for “unethical” business methods – 1953

May 15
Pope Leo XIII issues revolutionary encyclical ‘Rerum novarum’ in defense of workers and the right to organize. Forty years later to the day, Pope Pius XI issues ‘Quadragesimo anno,’ believed by many to be even more radical than Leo XIII’s – 1891

U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Samuel Gompers and other union leaders for supporting a boycott at the Buck Stove and Range Co. in St. Louis, where workers were striking for a 9-hour day. A lower court had forbidden the boycott and sentenced the unionists to prison for refusing to obey the judge’s anti-boycott injunction – 1906

The Library Employees’ Union is founded in New York City, the first union of public library workers in the United States. A major focus of the union was the inferior status of women library workers and their low salaries – 1917

The first labor bank opens in Washington, D.C., launched by officers of the Machinists. The Locomotive Engineers opened a bank in Cleveland later that year – 1920

Death of IWW songwriter T-Bone Slim, New York City – 1942

Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathan Kwitney reports that AFL-CIO President George Meany, Secretary-Treasurer Lane Kirkland and other union officials are among the 60 leading stockholders in the 15,000-acre Punta Cana, Dominican Republic resort. When the partners needed help clearing the land, the Dominican president sent troops to forcibly evict stubborn, impoverished tobacco farmers and fishermen who had lived there for generations, according to Kwitney’s expose – 1973

May 16
Minneapolis general strike backs Teamsters, who are striking most of the city’s trucking companies – 1934

U.S. Supreme Court issues Mackay decision, which permits the permanent replacement of striking workers. The decision had little impact until Ronald Reagan’s replacement of striking air traffic controllers (PATCO) in 1981, a move that signaled anti-union private sector employers that it was OK to do likewise – 1938

Black labor leader and peace activist A. Philip Randolph dies. He was president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and first Black on the AFL-CIO executive board, and a principal organizer of the 1963 March on Washington – 1979

May 17
Supreme Court outlaws segregation in public schools – 1954

Twelve Starbucks baristas in a midtown Manhattan store, declaring they couldn’t live on $7.75 an hour, signed cards demanding representation by the Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies – 2004

May 18
In what may have been baseball’s first labor strike, the Detroit Tigers refuse to play after team leader Ty Cobb is suspended: he went into the stands and beat a fan who had been heckling him.  Cobb was reinstated and the Tigers went back to work after the team manager’s failed attempt to replace the players with a local college team: their pitcher gave up 24 runs – 1912

Amalgamated Meat Cutters union organizers launch a campaign in the nation’s packinghouses, an effort that was to bring representation to 100,000 workers over the following two years – 1917

Jerry Wurf, who was to serve as president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) from 1964 to his death in 1981, born in New York City. The union grew from about 220,000 members to more than 1 million during his presidency – 1919

Big Bill Haywood, a founding member and leader of the Industrial Workers of the World (the Wobblies), dies in exile in the Soviet Union – 1928

Atlanta transit workers, objecting to a new city requirement that they be fingerprinted as part of the employment process, go on strike. They relented and returned to work six months later – 1950

Insurance Agents Int’l Union and Insurance Workers of America merge to become Insurance Workers Int’l Union (later to merge into the UFCW) – 1959

Oklahoma jury finds for the estate of atomic worker Karen Silkwood, orders Kerr-McGee Nuclear Co. to pay $505,000 in actual damages, $10 million in punitive damages for negligence leading to Silkwood’s plutonium contamination – 1979

May 19
Two hundred sixteen miners die from an explosion and its aftermath at the Fraterville Mine in Anderson County, Tenn.  All but three of Fraterville’s adult males were killed.  The mine had a reputation for fair contracts and pay—miners were represented by the United Mine Workers—and was considered safe; methane may have leaked in from a nearby mine – 1902

Shootout in Matewan, W. Va., between striking union miners (led by Police Chief Sid Hatfield) and coal company agents. Ten died, including seven agents – 1920
(Working Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds, and Riffraff: An Expanded Guide to Films About Labor: The conflict in W. Va. is the subject of the terrific film, Matewan, one of many movies included in this encyclopedic guide to 350 labor films from around the world, ranging from those you’ve heard of—Salt of the Earth, The Grapes of Wrath, Roger & Me—to those you’ve never heard of but will fall in love with once you see them.)

The Steel Workers Organizing Committee, formed by the Congress of Industrial Organizations, formally becomes the United Steelworkers of America – 1942

A total of 31 dockworkers are killed, 350 workers and others are injured when four barges carrying 467 tons of ammunition blow up at South Amboy, N.J. They were loading mines that had been deemed unsafe by the Army and were being shipped to the Asian market for sale – 1950

May 20
The Railway Labor Act takes effect today. It is the first federal legislation protecting workers’ rights to form unions – 1926

Some 9,000 rubber workers strike in Akron, Ohio – 1933

 

This Week in Labor History: May 7-13

May 07
The Knights of St. Crispin union is formed at a secret meeting in Milwaukee. It grew to 50,000 members before being crushed by employers later that year – 1867

Two die, 20 are injured in “Bloody Tuesday” as strikebreakers attempt to run San Francisco streetcars during a strike by operators. The strike was declared lost in 1908 after many more deaths, including several in scab-operated streetcar accidents – 1907

Philadelphia’s longest transit strike ends after 44 days. A key issue in the fight was the hiring and use of part-timers – 1977

May 08
The constitution of the Brotherhood of the Footboard was ratified by engineers in Detroit, Mich. Later became the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers – 1863

About 200 construction workers in New York City attack a crowd of Vietnam war protesters four days after the Kent State killings. More than 70 people were injured, including four police officers. Peter Brennan, head of the New York building trades, was honored at the Nixon White House two weeks later, eventually named Secretary of Labor – 1970

Some 12,000 Steelworker-represented workers at Goodyear Tire & Rubber win an 18-day strike for improved wages and job security – 1997

May 09
The first Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women was held on this date in New York City. Attendees included women of color, the wives and daughters of slaveholders, and women of low economic status – 1837

Japanese workers strike at Oahu, Hawaii’s Aiea Plantation, demanding the same pay as Portuguese and Puerto Rican workers. Ultimately 7,000 workers and their families remained out until August, when the strike was broken – 1909

Legendary Western Federation of Miners leader William “Big Bill” Haywood goes on trial for murder in the bombing death of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg, who had brutally suppressed the state’s miners. Haywood ultimately was declared innocent – 1907

Longshoremen’s strike to gain control of hiring leads to general work stoppage, San Francisco Bay area – 1934

Hollywood studio mogul Louis B. Mayer recognizes the Screen Actors Guild. SAG leaders reportedly were bluffing when they told Mayer that 99 percent of all actors would walk out the next morning unless he dealt with the union. Some 5,000 actors attended a victory gathering the following day at Hollywood Legion Stadium; a day later, SAG membership increased 400 percent – 1937

United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther and his wife May die in a plane crash as they travel to oversee construction of the union’s education and training facility at Black Lake, Mich. – 1971

Four thousand garment workers, mostly Hispanic, strike for union recognition at the Farah Manufacturing Co. in El Paso, Texas – 1972
(The Union Steward’s Guide, Spanish 3rd edition: This bound, 169-page compilation contains more than 130 articles from the Spanish language edition of Steward Update newsletter, read today by more than 80,000 stewards across North America. Chapter headings include A Union Steward’s Rules & Tools, Grievance Handling, Health and Safety Issues, Building Unity and Strength, and more—every article will develop skills and build confidence!)

May 10
Thanks to an army of thousands of Chinese and Irish immigrants, who laid 2,000 miles of track, the nation’s first transcontinental railway line was finished by the joining of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific lines at Promontory Point, Utah – 1869

U.S. & Canadian workers form Western Labor Union. It favors industrial organization and independent labor party politics – 1898

A federal bankruptcy judge permits United Airlines to legally abandon responsibility for pensions covering 120,000 employees – 2005

May 11
Nationwide railway strike begins at Pullman, Ill. Nearly 260,000 railroad workers ultimately joined the strike to protest wage cuts by the Pullman Palace Car Co. – 1894

Seventeen crewmen on the iron ore freighter Henry Steinbrenner die when the ship, carrying nearly 7,000 tons of ore, sinks during a violent storm on Lake Erie. Another 16 crewmen survived – 1953

May 12
Laundry & Dry Cleaning Int’l Union granted a charter by the AFL-CIO – 1958

Int’l Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots merges with Longshoremen’s Association – 1971

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raid the Agriprocessors, Inc. slaughterhouse and meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa, arresting nearly 400 immigrant workers. Some 300 are convicted on document fraud charges. The raid was the largest ever until that date.  Several employees and lower and mid-level managers were convicted on various charges, but not the owner—although he later was jailed for bank fraud and related crimes – 2008

May 13
Western Federation of Miners formed in Butte, Mont. – 1893

The Canadian government establishes the Department of Labour. It took the U.S. another four years – 1909

Some 10,000 IWW dock workers strike in Philadelphia – 1913

UAW President Douglas A. Fraser is named to the Chrysler Corp. board of directors, becoming the first union representative ever to sit on the board of a major U.S. corporation – 1980

Thousands of yellow cab drivers in New York City go on a 1-day strike in protest of proposed new regulations. “City officials were stunned by the (strike’s) success,” The New York Times reported – 1998

This Week in Labor History: April 23-29
April 23
The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) is founded through a merger of the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada (TLC) and the Canadian Congress of Labour (CCL), the two major union congresses in Canada at the time.  The CLC represents the interests of more than three million affiliated workers – 1956

Death of Ida Mae Stull, nationally recognized as the country’s first woman coal miner – 1980

United Farm Workers of America founder Cesar Chavez dies in San Luis, Ariz., at age 66 – 1993
April 24
The Int’l Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union halts shipping on the West Coast in solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Philadelphia journalist who many believed was on death row because he was an outspoken African-American – 1999

An eight-story building housing garment factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapses, killing 1,129 workers and injuring 2,515.  A day earlier cracks had been found in the structure, but factory officials, who had contracts with Benneton and other major U.S. labels, insisted the workers return to the job the next day – 2013

April 25
The New York Times declares the struggle for an 8-hour workday to be “un-American” and calls public demonstrations for the shorter hours “labor disturbances brought about by foreigners.” Other publications declare that an eight-hour workday would bring about “loafing and gambling, rioting, debauchery and drunkenness” – 1886

IWW Marine Transport Workers begin West Coast strike – 1923

The Reverend Ralph David Abernathy and 100 others are arrested while picketing a Charleston, S.C., hospital in a demand for union recognition – 1969

Supreme Court rules that employers may not require female employees to make larger contributions to pension plans in order to obtain the same monthly benefits as men – 1978

April 26
The U.S. House of Representatives passes House Joint Resolution No. 184, a constitutional amendment to prohibit the labor of persons under 18 years of age. The Senate approved the measure a few weeks later, but it was never ratified by the states and is still technically pending – 1924
(Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor: Your heart will be broken by this exceptional book’s photographs of children at backbreaking, often life-threatening work, and the accompanying commentary by author Russell Freedman. Photographer Lewis Hine—who himself died in poverty in 1940—did as much, and perhaps more, than any social critic in the early part of the 20th century to expose the abuse of children, as young as three and four, by American capitalism.)

On the orders of President Roosevelt, the U.S. Army seizes the Chicago headquarters of the unionized Montgomery Ward & Co. after management defies the National Labor Relations Board – 1944

April 27
First strike for 10-hour day, by Boston carpenters – 1825

James Oppenheim’s poem “Bread and Roses” published in IWW newspaper Industrial Solidarity – 1911

President Dwight Eisenhower signs Executive Order 10450: Security Requirements for Government Employment. The order listed “sexual perversion” as a condition for firing a federal employee and for denying employment to potential applicants – 1953

A cooling tower for a power plant under construction in Willow Island, West Virginia collapses, killing 51 construction workers in what is thought to be the largest construction accident in U.S. history.  OSHA cited contractors for 20 violations, including failures to field test concrete.  The cases were settled for $85,000—about $1,700 per worker killed – 1978

April 28
Coal mine collapses at Eccles, W.Va., killing 181 workers – 1914

A total of 119 die in Benwood, W.Va., coal mine disaster – 1924

United Wallpaper Craftsmen & Workers of North America merges with Pulp, Sulfite & Paper Mill Workers – 1958

American Federation of Hosiery Workers merges with Textile Workers Union of America – 1965

Congress creates OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The AFL-CIO sets April 28 as “Workers Memorial Day” to honor all workers killed or injured on the job every year – 1971

First “Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” promoted by the Ms. Foundation, to boost self-esteem of girls with invitations to a parent’s workplace – 1993

April 29
Coxey’s Army of 500 unemployed civil war veterans reaches Washington, D.C. – 1894

An estimated one thousand silver miners, angry over low wages, the firing of union members and the planting of spies in their ranks by mine owners, seize a train, load it with 3,000 pounds of dynamite, and blow up the mill at the Bunker Hill mine in Wardner, Idaho – 1899

The special representative of the National War Labor Board issues a report, “Retroactive Date for Women’s Pay Adjustments,” setting forth provisions for wage rates for women working in war industries who were asking for equal pay.  Women a year earlier had demanded equal pay for comparable work as that done by men – 1943

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