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Mike Herron

Today in Labor History – Week of August 5, 2013

 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

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

August 06
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

2013.08.05history-debs2August 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 082013.08.05history-charles-james
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

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

2013.08.05history-titan-missileA 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 – 19312013.08.05history-mike-quill2

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 IRT 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


Today in Labor History – Week of July 29, 2013

July 29
The Coast Seamen’s Union merges with the Steamship Sailors’ Union to form the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific – 18912013.07.29history-jones-mill-children

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

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

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

2013.07.29history-baseball-strikeJuly 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 became2013.07.29history-hilo-massacreknown 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

California School Employees Association affiliates with AFL-CIO – 2001

2013.07.29history-ginger-goodwinAugust 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 – 19812013.07.29history-ups-strike

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


Today in Labor History – Week of July 22, 2013

 Today in labor history for the week of July 22, 2013

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

2013.07.22history-preparedness-dayA bomb was is 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

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 – 19682013.07.22history-minwage

The U.S. minimum wage increases 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 rises 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

2013.07.22history-ctwThe 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 the2013.07.22history-battle-viaductGreat 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

2013.07.22history-adaThe Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) took effect today. It requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to qualified disabled employees 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 – 19012013.07.22history-shantytown-burns

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


Today in Labor History – Week of July 15, 2013

 Today in labor history for the week of July 15, 2013

July 15
Some 50,000 lumberjacks strike for 8-hour day – 1917

Robert Gray, an African-American sharecropper and leader of the Share Croppers Union, is murdered in Camp Hill, Ala. – 1931nun989non

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.)

July 16
Ten thousand workers strike Chicago’s Int’l Harvester operations – 1919

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

nun989non2San 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. – 1969nun989non3

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
nun989non4(Kids on Strike: This is a fascinating and amazing book. Kids on Strike! tells the story of children who stood up for their rights against powerful company owners. Nearly two million children were in the U.S. workforce by the early 1900s. Their tiny fingers, strong eyesight, and boundless energy made them perfect employees. But after years and years of working long hours every day under inhumane conditions, they began to organize and make demands in order to protect themselves.)

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 Railroadnun989non5advises 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


Today in Labor History – Week of July 8, 2013

Today in labor history for the week of July 8, 2013
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
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
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