August 18, 1932

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The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) receives a charter from the American Federation of Labor. The union was born during the Great Depression, when wage cuts and furloughs were the rule in an economy that was steadily contracting. Today, AFGE is the larges federal employee union, representing 650,000 federal and D.C. government workers nationwide and overseas.

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Today in labor history for the week of August 18, 2014

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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
(The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene V. Debs: Eugene V. Debs was a labor activist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who captured the heart and soul of the nation’s working people. He was brilliant, sincere, compassionate and scrupulously honest. A founder of one of the nation’s first industrial unions, the American Railway Union, he went on to help launch the Industrial Workers of the World — the Wobblies. A man of firm beliefs and dedication, he ran for President of the United States five times under the banner of the Socialist Party, in 1912 earning 6 percent of the popular vote. Many union activists and labor scholars see Debs as the definitive labor leader.)

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. of the AFL-CIO, 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 – 19832014.08.18history-amfa-strike

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

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 2014.08.18history-first.contactreacting 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
(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.)

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 2014.08.18history-silkwood.carlawsuit. 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

2014.08.18history-chavez.fightFarm 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. 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 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 Source Link

August 16, 1937

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Congress passes the National Apprenticeship Act, establishing the National Registered Apprenticeship system. The Act established a national advisory committee to research and draft regulations to establish minimum standards for apprenticeship program. The Act was later amended to allow the Department of Labor to issue regulations protecting the health, safety, and general welfare of apprentices, and to encourage the use of contracts in hiring and employing them.

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August 13, 1936

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Seattle Strike

35 journalists at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer walk off the job to protest the firing of two colleagues for joining the American Newspaper Guild. The P-I was forced to suspend publication and the striking employees began publishing their own newspaper, The Guild Daily, which reached a circulation of 60,000 copies a day. The strike was one of the first significant and successful strikes by white collar workers in the U.S. ended in a victory in late November when the newspaper settled with the Guild.

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August 12, 1892

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After several railroad companies refuse to obey a recently-enacted New York state law mandating a 10-hour workday and increases in the minimum wage, switchmen in Buffalo go out on strike. When the local police refused to intervene, sheriff’s deputies, thousands of soldiers, and scabs were all brought in quickly to crush the Switchmen’s Mutual Association strike. The strike ended later that month.

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August 11, 1937

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The membership of the Pacific Coast district of the International Longshoremen’s Association – with the exception of three locals in the Northwest – votes to disaffiliate and forms the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union. The ILWU today represents over 59,000 workers primarily on the West Coast of the United States, Hawaii, and Alaska.

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Today in labor history for the week of August 11, 2014

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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 – 19552014.08.11history-blackjacks
(From Blackjacks to Briefcases is the first book to document the systematic and extensive use by American corporations of professional unionbusters, an ugly profession that surfaced after the Civil War and has grown bolder and more sophisticated with the passage of time. Since the 1980s, hundreds of firms—including the Detroit News, Caterpillar and Pittston Coal, to name but three—have paid out millions of dollars to hired thugs. Some have been in uniforms and carried nightsticks and guns, others have worn three-piece suits and carried attaché cases, but all had one simple mission: to break the backs of workers struggling for decency and fair treatment on the job.)

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

2014.08.11history-tracy-city-minersAugust 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
(Skilled Hands, Strong Spirits follows the history of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO from the emergence of building trades councils in the age of the skyscraper. It takes the reader through treacherous fights over jurisdiction as new building materials and methods of work evolved; and describes numerous Department campaigns to improve safety standards, work with contractors to promote unionized construction, and forge a sense of industrial unity among its fifteen (and at times nineteen) autonomous and highly diverse affiliates.)

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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
2014.08.11history-jokebook-cover(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 Source Link