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Today in labor history for the week of May 25, 2015

2015.05.25 history shoemakers

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 2015.05.25 history wwi.vetsdemand 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

2015.05.25 history copingActors’ 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 – 19372015.05.25 history battle.of.overpass

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

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

2015.05.25 history rochester.gen.strikeAt 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 – 19292015.05.25 history bye.america
(Bye, America: The transfer of work to other countries has escalated since Reuther’s day. In this book, young readers learn that their contemporary, Brady, is proud of his dad and wants to be just like him, working at the factory and making useful things. But that dream dies when his dad goes to work one day and is told that the factory is closing and the work is being sent to China.)

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 Source Link

May 18, 1928

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William “Big Bill” Haywood – founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World, member of the Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of America, secretary of the Western Federation of Miners, and an advocate of industrial unionism – dies in the Soviet Union where he had fled after having been found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison under the Espionage Act of 1917.

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May 16, 1934

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When employers refuse to recognize their union, members of the Minneapolis General Drivers and Helpers Union Local 574 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters go on strike, bringing trucking operations in the city to a halt. Despite a concerted and violent effort by employers, the police, and military, the strike ended successfully and was a turning point in Minneapolis labor history.

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Today in labor history for the week of May 18, 2015

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

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

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

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Today in labor history for the week of May 11, 2015

2015.05.11 history pullman

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 – 20082015.05.11 history mobilizing
(Mobilizing Against Inequality: Unions, Immigrant Workers, and the Crisis of Capitalism: Are immigrant workers themselves responsible for low wages and shoddy working conditions? Should unions expend valuable time and energy organizing undocumented workers? Unions in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States have taken various approaches to confront the challenges of this significant segment of the workforce. As U.S. immigration policy is debated, readers will gain insight into how all workers benefit when wages and working conditions for immigrant workers are improved.)

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

2015.05.11 history iww.philadelphiaSome 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 accepts 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 2015.05.11 history beginnersfocus of the union was the inferior status of women library workers and their low salaries – 1917
(Union for Beginners: Written and profusely illustrated in a user-friendly, accessible style, Unions for Beginners lays down a simple presentation of the colorful epic story of the struggle of working people to rise from lives dominated by toil and underpaid work to becoming full-fledged participants in the American dream they helped to build. Unions for Beginners presents the history of unions and the labor movement, the principles underlying union organizing, the decline of unions in the shadow of the rising corporate state, and the resurgence in the 21st century of union activism.)

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

2015.05.11 history teamsters.strikeWall Street Journal reporter Jonathon 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 2015.05.11 history a philip randolphthe 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. Management roadblocks continue to deny the workers their union to this day – 2004
2015.05.11 history embedded(Embedded with Organized Labor: This valuable collection describes how union members have organized successfully, on the job and in the community, in the face of employer opposition now and in the past. The author—a one-time union organizer and strike strategist–has produced a provocative series of essays based on his insider experiences. It’s a useful collection for any reader concerned about social and economic justice. As workers struggle to survive and the labor movement tries to revive during the current economic crisis, this book provides ideas and inspiration for union activists and friends of labor alike.)

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Today in labor history for the week of May 4, 2015

2015.05.04 history ppls.history

May 04
Haymarket massacre. A bomb is thrown as Chicago police start to break up a rally for strikers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. A riot erupts, 11 police and strikers die, mostly from gunfire, and scores more are injured – 1886
(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. Howard Zinn (1922-2010) was a widely respected historian, author, playwright, and social activist. In A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present, he 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.)

May 05
National Typographical Union founded, Cincinnati, Ohio. It was renamed the Int’l Typographical Union in 1869, in acknowledgment of Canadian members. When the ITU merged into CWA in 1986 it was the oldest existing union in the U.S. – 1852

On Chicago’s West Side, police attack Jewish workers as they try to march into the Loop to protest slum conditions – 1886

Some 14,000 building trades workers and laborers, demanding an 8-hour work day, gather at the Milwaukee Iron Co. rolling mill in Bay View, Wisc. When they approach the mill they are fired on by 250 National Guardsmen under orders from the governor to shoot to kill. Seven die, including a 13-year-old boy – 1886

2015.05.04 history iam.logo

Nineteen machinists working for the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad gather in a locomotive pit to decide what
to do about a wage cut. They vote to form a union, which later became the Int’l Association of Machinists – 1888

Italian-American anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are arrested in Boston for murder and payroll robbery. Eventually they are executed for a crime most believe they did not commit – 1920

2015.05.04 history harlan.countyHeavily armed deputies and other mine owner hirelings attack striking miners in Harlan County, Ky., starting the Battle of Harlan County – 1931

John J. Sweeney, president of the Service Employees Int’l Union from 1980 to 1995, then president of the AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2009, born in the Bronx, N.Y. – 1934

Lumber strike begins in Pacific Northwest, will involve 40,000 workers by the time victory is achieved after 13 weeks: union recognition, a 50¢-per-hour minimum wage and an 8-hour day – 1937

The U.S. unemployment rate drops to a 30-year low of 3.9 percent; the rate for blacks and Hispanics is the lowest ever since the government started tracking such data – 2000

May 06
Works Progress Administration (WPA) established at a cost of $4.8 billion—more than $72 billion in 2011 dollars—to provide work opportunities for millions during the Great Depression – 1935

May 07
Four hundred black women working as tobacco stemmers walk off the job in a spontaneous revolt against poor working 2015.05.04 history tobacco.stemmers
conditions and a $3 weekly wage at the Vaughan Co. in Richmond, Va. – 1937

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
2015.05.04 history blackjacks(From Blackjacks to Briefcases: This 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 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.)

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

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 – 19192015.05.04 history construction.attack

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
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

2015.05.04 history haywoodLegendary 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 Source Link

May 3, 1932

cumber

The National Farmers’ Holiday Association (FHA) is founded by Milo Reno, former president of the Iowa Farmers’ Union. The FHA fought foreclosures, sometimes by blocking the roads and physically preventing a sheriff from selling a farmer’s home and land. Other times, they held penny auctions, where everyone refused to bid more than a few pennies for the farm. The farm would then be given back to its original owner with no debt and the bank would only be a few cents richer.

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