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Leo W Gerard: Subjugation in Steel

Image of USW member at EVRAZ North America by Steven Dietz

One cost of freedom is steel. To remain independent, America must maintain its own vibrant steel industry.

Steel is essential to make munitions, armor plate, aircraft carriers, submarines and fighter jets, as well as the roads and bridges on which these armaments are transported, the electrical grid that powers the factories where they are produced, the municipal water systems that supply manufacturers, even the computers that aid industrial innovation.

If America imports that steel, it becomes a vassal to the producing countries. It would be victim to the whims of countries that certainly don’t have America’s interests in mind when they act. In the case of China, the attempt to subjugate is deliberate. Beijing intentionally overproduces, repeatedly promises to cut back while it actually increases capacity, then exports its excess, state-subsidized steel at below-market costs. This slashes the international price, which, in turn, bankrupts steelmakers in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Spain and elsewhere. Then, China dominates.

To his credit, President Donald Trump has said America can’t be great without the ability to make its own steel. He ordered the Commerce Department to investigate the extent to which steel imports threaten national security. Commerce officials are scheduled to brief Senate committees on the inquiry today. That’s because they’re being second guessed by a handful of federal officials, exporters and corporations whose only concern is profit, not patriotism. To protect national security, American steel and family-supporting jobs, the administration must stand strong against foreign unfair trade in steel that kills American jobs and creates American dependency.

Imports already take more than a quarter of the U.S. steel market. They rose in May by 2.6 percent, seizing a 27 percent market share. That is dangerous. America can’t rely on unfairly traded foreign steel as it tries to expand manufacturing jobs or when it faces foreign threats. Defense needs are the basis of the administration inquiry, called a Section 232 investigation under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

National security relies on dependable, modern transportation and utility systems as well as armaments. To produce defense materials, factories need supplies to arrive routinely and electricity to flow consistently. Steel is just as crucial for roads, bridges, airports and utilities as it is for armor plate.

Some importers are pressuring Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross not to recommend imposing limits or tariffs on steel imports, asserting that the only consideration should be price. They contend that if China, South Korea, Japan and Turkey subsidize their steel production, which lowers the cost of exports, then American builders should benefit – no matter how much that damages national security or destroys steelworkers’ family-supporting jobs. Their preoccupation with profit at their country’s expense should disqualify them from consideration.

To be clear, American steel companies and my union, the United Steelworkers, have tried repeatedly to resolve the problem of trade cheating through normal channels – filing trade enforcement cases against the violators. But the United States has refused to take currency manipulation by countries like China into account. And every time an American company wins an enforcement case against a trade law violator and tariffs are imposed on a particular type of steel import, China and other cheaters begin subsidizing a different type of steel and exporting that.

American companies  have won dozens of cases – welded stainless steel pressure pipe, rebar, line pipe, oil country tubular goods, wire rod, corrosion-resistant steel, hot-rolled steel, cold-rolled steel, cut-to-length plate, grain-oriented electrical steel. But in every case, countries like China and South Korea find a way to circumvent the rulings by subsidizing some new steel product and exporting that or by trans-shipping – sending the product to another country first to make it look like the steel originated there to evade the tariffs.

American steel producers and steelworkers can compete successfully against any counterpart in the world, but they can’t win a contest against a country.

The USW and American producers are looking for a broader solution now, something that will prevent cheating and circumvention across-the-board. And they have good reason to believe they can count on Commerce Secretary Ross. This is a guy who knows the industry and has a track record of saving steel mills and jobs.

At the turn of the century, as recession and the Asian financial crisis pushed more than 30 U.S. steel companies into bankruptcy, Secretary Ross bought a half dozen failing steel firms and restored them to solvency.

Because of his experience, Secretary Ross can be trusted to know the difference between China and Canada. American steelworkers and steel producers aren’t looking for blatant protectionism. American firms and Canadian companies have relationships in which steel from Canton, Ohio, may travel to St. Catherines, Ontario, where it is converted into engine blocks that are then shipped back across the border to Detroit, Mich., for installation in cars. Canada doesn’t illegally subsidize its steel industry or manipulate its currency. Only countries like China, Russia, South Korea and others that flagrantly violate international trade rules should be subject to the Section 232 sanctions.

Secretary Ross experienced the hell of 30 steel bankruptcies. He knows just how bad it can be for workers, companies and the country. With President Trump at his back, Secretary Ross now is key to ensuring American steel doesn’t descend back into that hell and that America remains steel independent.

Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017

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.)

Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017The 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
Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017Birth 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

Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017(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 Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017York 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
Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017(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.)

Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017Ten 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 22Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017
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
Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017Charles 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 24Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017
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

Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017(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
Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017
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

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Leo W Gerard: Trump Offers Fool’s Gold to Fund Infrastructure

Image from USW / Getty

Donald Trump surrounds himself in gold. The signs on Trump buildings shimmer in it. His penthouse in New York is gilded in it.

He claims now to have found the alchemy to conjure $1 trillion in infrastructure gold. He plans to put up a mere $200 billion in federal funds and stir it together with $800 billion in private investment and state dollars.

That is fool’s gold. A falsely-funded infrastructure program is a massive broken promise. America needs real improvements to roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, airports, water systems and railways. That requires a commitment of real tax dollars, not the relinquishment of America’s public assets to profit-seeking private Wall Street entities. Americans should not be charged twice for maintenance of the public good, once through tax breaks to investors and again in outrageous tolls and fees the investors charge.

On Wednesday, standing on the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Trump reiterated the pledge he made repeatedly on the campaign trail to put $1 trillion into infrastructure. He said “restoring America” is a promise that Washington, D.C., has broken. “It has not been kept, but we are going to keep it,” he said.

“Taxpayers deserve the best results for their investment,” he said, “and I will be sure that is what they get.” But the plan to turn over public assets to private corporations for tax-supported investment is gold only for the 1 percent who can afford to invest.

The Wall Street Journal reported last fall that to raise the private funds, Trump planned to give massive tax breaks of 82 percent of equity to investors that help pay for infrastructure repair. For citizens, that’s a crappy deal – giving Wall Street control over public assets in addition to being forced to fork over the taxes that rich investors will not pay.

That financial alchemy creates poison, not gold.

In addition, there is no profit in many types of infrastructure that need repair, like schools and hospitals. A corporation can’t collect tolls from children entering their elementary school each morning.

Despite Trump’s promise in Cincinnati that he would take care of rural areas, there’s no profit in many crucial infrastructure projects in such regions. Investors won’t pay for a highway needed to connect two isolated towns in West Virginia.

And the profit in some projects is highly questionable. Several corporations that have bought or built toll roads have filed for bankruptcy. This includes highways in Texas, California, Indiana and Alabama.

In other cases, the profits reaped are outrageous. After Chicago sold its 36,000 parking meters to Morgan Stanley, the Wall Street bank doubled the parking rates and charged the city tens of millions annually for meters Chicago took out of service for street repairs, mass transit stops and safety. A city inspector general report on the deal says Chicago under-priced the meters by nearly $1 billion when former Mayor Richard M. Daley signed the 75-year contract in 2008. The bank is expected to make back its $1.15 billion investment by 2020, giving it 60 more years to rake in pure profit on the backs of Chicago taxpayers who paid to install the meters and who feed them daily.

That’s gold for Morgan Stanley, grief for taxpayers.

Another part of Trump’s financing plan is to shift infrastructure costs to states and towns. This also cheats too many citizens. Sure, some places high on the hog like Silicon Valley might be able to afford that. But too many will be left out.

That’s because large numbers of cities and states are facing fiscal crises. Chicago sold its parking meters to fill a budget shortfall. In Oklahoma, where there’s a $900 million budget gap, schools are so underfunded that 96 of the state’s 513 districts have reduced the school week to four days and another 44 may be forced to do that in the fall. The state has shuttered rural hospitals, overcrowded its prisons and limited state troopers to 100 miles of driving a day.

In Kansas, with a $1.1 billion budget deficit, the state Supreme Court just ordered the legislature to properly pay for its schools. The court said Kansas’ under-funding meant inadequate education in basic reading and math for students in one fourth of its public schools. The state shortchanged half of the state’s black students and a third of its Hispanic pupils.

Illinois hasn’t had a budget for two years. The state’s credit rating has been downgraded eight times. It has accrued $14.5 billion in unpaid bills. As a result, more than 1,500 public university and community college workers have been laid off and untold numbers of social service agencies have closed or severely curtailed services.

Other states, including Connecticut, Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, face massive pension shortfalls after years of failing to properly pay into the funds.

These places aren’t going to be able to jump up and take on the federal government’s responsibility to invest in infrastructure.

Even the $200 billion that the Trump administration is saying the federal government will provide is in question. It’s in the budget Trump submitted to Congress, but also in that budget is $206 billion in cuts to existing infrastructure programs, including those conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Army Corps of Engineers. That’s the very Corps of Engineers that would pay for the river lock and dam projects that Trump complained Wednesday in Cincinnati were grossly underfunded, causing costly breakdowns.

That kind of budgeting is bad alchemy. That’s not $1 trillion in infrastructure gold.

Trump said Wednesday, “We will build because our people want to build and because we need them to build. We will build because our prosperity demands it. We will build because that is how we make America great again.”

That sounds wonderful. But to build, projects must be properly paid for. And so far, the Trump administration has offered only pyrite.

Leo W Gerard: Workers Want A Green Economy, Not A Black Environment

The BlueGreen Alliance

To justify withdrawing from the Paris climate change accord, President Trump said during his press conference yesterday, “I was elected to represent the city of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

From terrible experience, Pittsburghers know about pollution.

Before Pittsburgh’s renaissance, the streetlights Downtown frequently glowed at noon to illuminate sidewalks through the darkness of smoke and soot belched from mills. White collar office workers changed grimy shirts midday. To the west 130 miles, the polluted Cuyahoga River in Cleveland burned – several times.

Pollution sickened and killed. It triggered asthma and aggravated emphysema. In Donora, just south of Pittsburgh, an air inversion in 1948 trapped smog in the Monongahela River valley.  Poisonous steel mill and zinc plant emissions mixed with fog and formed a yellow earth-bound cloud so dense that driving was impossible. Within days, 20 people were dead. Within a month, another 50 of the town’s 14,000 residents succumbed.

Some viewed pollution as a blessing, a harbinger of jobs. Air that tasted of sulfur signified paychecks. For most, though, pollution was a curse. It meant scrubbing the grime off stoops daily. It meant children wheezing and gasping for air. It meant early death.

The preventable deaths are why my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), has fought against pollution for decades, long before scientists conclusively linked it to global climate change. That connection made combatting pollution even more urgent. It crystalized our obligation to save the planet for posterity. Signing the Paris Climate Accord last year committed the United States to preserving what we all share, the water and the air, for our children and their children. Donald Trump’s withdrawal from that agreement moves the United States, and the world, back in time to rivers so toxic they burn and air so noxious it poisons. Trump’s retreat makes America deadly again.

Don’t get me wrong. The USW supports job creation. But the union believes clean air pays; clear water provides work. Engineers design smokestack scrubbers, skilled mechanics construct them and still other workers install them. Additional workers install insulation and solar panels. Untold thousands labor to make the steel and other parts for wind turbine blades, towers and nacelles, fabricate the structures and erect them. Withdrawing from the Paris Accord diminishes these jobs and dispatches the innovators and manufacturers of clean technologies overseas where countries that continue to participate in the climate change agreement will nurture and grow them.

Eleven years ago, the USW joined with the Sierra Cub to form the BlueGreen Alliance because USW members believe Americans deserve both a clean environment and good jobs. The USW believes Americans must have both. Or, in the end, they will have neither.

The Alliance, which now includes more than a dozen unions and environmental groups, has collaborated with industry leaders to find solutions to climate change in ways that create high -quality jobs.

It’s an easy sell to many corporate leaders. Shortly after the election last fall, hundreds of companies and investors, including the likes of Nike and Starbucks, signed a letter asking Trump to abandon his campaign rhetoric about withdrawing from the Paris Accord.

In April, more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies, including giants Google, BP and Shell, also wrote Trump urging against reneging on nation’s climate commitment. They said that because the agreement requires action by all countries, it reduces the risk of competitive imbalances for U.S. companies that comply with environmental regulations.

More recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Trump that disavowing the accord would injure U.S. business, the economy and the environment. Tesla CEO Elon Musk told Trump that if he turned his back on the accord, Musk would resign from two White House advisory boards.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, also urged Trump to keep the United States’ commitments under the 195-nation pact, rather than joining Syria as an outlier. Syria and Nicaragua are the only non-signatory countries, but Nicaragua declined to sign because its leaders felt the accord was not strong enough.

The streetlights never switch on at noon in Pittsburgh anymore. The Cuyahoga River now supports fish that live only in clean water. Donora’s sole reminder of those dark days in October of 1948 is a Smog Museum.

But the United States remains the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas polluter. It has an obligation to lead the world in combating climate change. Great leaders don’t shirk responsibility.

Today in labor history for the week of May 29, 2017

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 

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

Today in labor history for the week of May 29, 2017(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
Today in labor history for the week of May 29, 2017
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

Today in labor history for the week of May 29, 2017Rose 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 – 1922Today in labor history for the week of May 29, 2017

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.

Today in labor history for the week of May 29, 2017A 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 – 1918Today in labor history for the week of May 29, 2017
(The Essential Guide To Federal Employment Laws, 4th edition: Find out what federal laws are on the books in this well-indexed book, updated in 2013, which offers the full text of 20 federal laws affecting workers’ lives, along with plain-English explanations of each. An entire chapter is devoted to each law, explaining what is allowed and prohibited and what businesses must comply.)

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

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

Today in labor history for the week of May 29, 2017The 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

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

A 21st Century New Deal For Jobs: A Progressive Plan To Rebuild America And Put People To Work

With Failing Roads and Water Systems Across The Country:
Democrats Kick Off Massive Infrastructure Investment
and Jobs Campaign in Congress

Via KIRO-TV

One of the greatest problems plaguing the United States right now is our crumbling infrastructure. Throughout the U.S. roads and bridges are literally falling to pieces. During the 2016 election nearly every candidate talked about fixing our growing infrastructure problem.

Since Trump’s election people have been waiting to see what his jobs plan would look like and what he is going to do to fix our growing infrastructure problem.

Last week, Trump unveiled his budget that did increase spending on some infrastructure projects but ultimately it fails to uphold his campaign promises or the needs of the nation.

Trump’s proposal would result in a net negative in direct infrastructure investment. The Washington Post reports, “Despite his much-touted plans to spur significant increases in infrastructure investment, President Trump’s budget would actually cut more federal spending on such programs than it would add, according to an analysis by Senate Democrats.”

Last Monday, Politico reported a Fox News interview in which Department of Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao said, Trump’s plan will center on “some kind of public-private partnerships” and “maybe some sale of government assets as well.” This is basically privatization of our roads and bridges to private corporations that will most likely lead to tolls or fee for use.

According to Bloomberg News, the Trump plan will likely include selling $40 billion of American infrastructure to Saudi Arabia.

Those in the Congressional Progressive Caucus have rejected Trumps proposal and submitted their own “21st Century New Deal for Jobs.” The proposal is a massive infrastructure plan that they estimate will put more than 2.5 million people to work.

“Drawing on the legacy of President Franklin Roosevelt’s bold vision and adapting it to a modern context, our 21st Century New Deal for Jobs makes Wall Street, big corporations, and the wealthiest pay their fair share in order to put America back to work. It invests $2 trillion over 10 years, employing 2.5 million Americans in its first year, to rebuild our transportation, water, energy, and information systems, while massively overhauling our country’s unsafe and inefficient schools, homes, and public buildings.”

“Democrats can lead the way in creating millions of new jobs by using true public investment to rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges, and outdated water systems. But any plan we pursue must adhere to a set of fundamental principles of social, racial, and environmental justice so our infrastructure planning workforce reflects the needs of our diverse communities,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ-3), Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair. “Any good plan, such as the 21st Century New Deal for Jobs, must provide significant investments to create jobs by addressing the current needs of our country –such as modernizing our outdated schools and replacing our lead-ridden pipelines that have destroyed the public health of children in Flint. Overall, it must commit public money for the public good.”

“Rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure is about so much more than construction projects,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5) who co-chaired the Congressional Progressive Caucus in years past. “It’s about replacing the pipes in Flint that poisoned an entire community, making our roads and bridges safer, and rebuilding crumbling schools. As Democrats, we believe we must improve the lives of millions of hardworking families, putting millions of Americans to work at good jobs, and make our tax system fairer by making the wealthiest pay their fair share. The Republican infrastructure plan is nothing more than another tax break for millionaires and billionaires.”

“Our country is in dire need of a bold vision to repair our crumbling roads and bridges, clean our air and water, restore our children’s unsafe school buildings, and connect our communities to each other with high-speed rail and internet,” said Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-2), Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair. “While President Trump and the Republicans are busy concocting a trillion-dollar Wall Street giveaway under the guise of infrastructure, Democrats believe big corporations should pay their fair share to support dignified employment and build a more sustainable and vibrant economy for everyone.”

The 21st Century New Deal for Jobs currently has over 20 co-sponsors including Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) both from my home state of New Hampshire.

“Smart meaningful investments in our infrastructure are absolutely critical to creating jobs and increasing our economic competitiveness in the 21st Century. We can’t allow our economy to fall behind our global competitors due to inaction,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “Improving our aging infrastructure will create jobs, expand our economy, improve public safety, and ensure that our businesses and industries are able to thrive. It’s common sense. I’m proud to support this resolution with a set of principles for job creation and infrastructure investment that will help move our country forward.”

“Too much of our infrastructure is in fair or critical condition, even though there are hard-working people across New Hampshire and our nation ready to do the job,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “It’s time for Congress to work together on a comprehensive infrastructure plan that follows these basic principles to address our urgent needs, invest in our future, and create good jobs.”

Local Granite Staters have already come out in support of the 21st Century New Deal for Jobs plan.

“We have to invest in water infrastructure to provide clean, safe water to our residents,” said NH State Representative Mindi Messmer (District NH-01), “Federal money could support much needed upgrades to aging water supplies and provide support needed to ensure that residents have clean, safe drinking water. The 5-town seacoast area has two pediatric cancer clusters and higher than expected rates of pediatric brain cancer. Children are dying and getting sick. We have to make sure their water is safe!”

“Let’s fund local projects first. Taxation in New Hampshire means that there is little support for local road and bridge repair, much less addressing other infrastructure needs,” said Mary A., a Sanbornton, NH resident and Progressive Change Campaign Committee member.

Unions representing millions of American workers also endorsed the progressive framework, and proposal. Labor endorsers include North America’s Building Trades Unions; Transportation Trades Department of AFL–CIO; Teamsters; United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting and Sprinkler Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; American Federation of Teachers; National Educators Association; Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers; International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers; and Amalgamated Transit Union.

“We applaud the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ commitment to our nation’s transportation manufacturing sector by calling for strengthened and more defined Buy America rules. Expanding American job creation by maximizing public purchasing power must be included in any infrastructure plan,” said Edward Wytkind, President of the Transportation Trades Department AFLCIO. “We look forward to working with our advocacy partners to pass a large-scale infrastructure investment package that finally ends an era of neglect that has harmed our economy and idled millions of good jobs.”

“The question is, will we have a 21st century infrastructure plan that will create millions of jobs and strengthen the backbone of our communities or will we privatize everything for corporate profit and further the decline of this country,” said Rafael Navar, Communication Workers of America national political director.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus resolution, announced Thursday, clearly differentiates Democrats from Trump. It lays out 10 principles that must be true of any jobs plan:

  1. Invest in creating millions of new jobs.
  2. Prioritize public investment over corporate giveaways and selling off public goods.
  3. Ensure that direct public investment provides the overwhelming majority of the funds for infrastructure improvement.
  4. Prioritize racial and gender equity, environmental justice, and worker protections.
  5. Embrace 21st century clean-energy jobs.
  6. Protect wages, expand Buy American provisions, encourage project labor agreements, and prioritize the needs of disadvantaged communities — both urban and rural.
  7. Ensure the wealthiest Americans and giant corporations who reap the greatest economic benefit from public goods pay their fair share for key investments.
  8. It must not be paid for at the expense of Social Security and other vital programs.
  9. It must not weaken or repeal existing rules and laws protecting our environment, worker safety, wages, or equity hiring practices.
  10. Prioritize resilient infrastructure that can withstand natural disasters and cyber or physical attacks.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus and Millions Of Jobs Coalition will urge all Democrats in the House of Representatives to co-sponsor the resolution and draw a sharp contrast with Trump.

“This bold plan can be summed up in three words: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” said Stephanie Taylor, Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder. Democrats have a plan to put millions of Americans to work rebuilding bridges, roads, and schools in local communities — and to create 21st Century jobs in fields like clean energy. It’s ridiculous that Trump wants to sell off our public roads to Wall Street investors and foreign corporations who would put up tolls and keep the money for themselves. The difference between the progressive Democratic vision of job creation and Trump’s vision of jobless corporate giveaways is night and day, and the Millions of Jobs Coalition will ensure voters see this contrast.”

“From his steaks to his university, Trump believes he can stamp his name on junk and call it gold. His so-called infrastructure plan will be nothing more than a massive giveaway to Wall Street, and he’ll stick our children with the bill for generations to come,” said Dan Cantor, Working Families Party national director. “Progressives have a plan to create millions of jobs, build a 21st century economy, and pay for it by taxing the big banks that still never paid the bill for crashing the economy almost a decade ago.”

“The water shutoffs in Detroit and Baltimore and poisoned water in Flint, East Chicago and other communities should serve as a wakeup call: Our nation is facing a water crisis, and nothing short of a massive, direct federal investment in publicly-controlled water systems will save it. Abdicating control of our water services to corporations is not the answer,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Instead, we need the federal government to renew its commitment to funding community water and sewer systems. Repairing and updating our nation’s water infrastructure will create nearly a million jobs while ensuring that water service is safe and affordable for everyone in the country.”

If your Representative has not already signed on to support the 21st Century New Deal for Jobs plan, contact them today. Rebuilding our nations roads, bridges, and waterways is the right way to spend American taxpayer money and create jobs for millions of Americans at the same time.

Today in labor history for the week of April 3, 2017

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 Today in labor history for the week of April 3, 2017April 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 newspaper - 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’ Today in labor history for the week of April 3, 2017strike.  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 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 Today in labor history for the week of April 3, 2017Some 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. Three and one-half years after the disaster Massey’s then-CEO, Don Blankenship, was indicted by a federal grand jury on four criminal counts - 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 Today in labor history for the week of April 3, 2017active 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 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 Today in labor history for the week of April 3, 2017National 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 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 (Agitate! Educate! Organize! American Labor Posters: WPA artists’ depictions of workers can be seen in Today in labor history for the week of April 3, 2017labor posters of that era. In Agitate! Educate! Organize!, Lincoln Cushing and Timothy W. Drescher share their vast knowledge about the rich graphic tradition of labor posters. Here you will find lavish full-color reproductions of more than 250 of the best posters that have emerged from the American labor movement on topics ranging from core issues such as wages and working conditions to discrimination to international solidarity.) 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 Today in labor history for the week of April 3, 2017April 09 IWW organizes the 1,700-member crew of the Leviathan, then the world’s largest vessel - 1930

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017

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 Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017in 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

Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017Three 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 08Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017
Thousands of New York needle trades workers demonstrate for higher wages, shorter workday, and end to child labor. The demonstration became the basis for International Women’s Day – 1908

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

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

Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017(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. This book tells of Chavez and his union’s struggles: to raise farmworker pay from .40 an hour; to win union recognition from savagely resistant grape and lettuce growers; to stop the use of deadly pesticides that were killing children in the fields. The pacifist Chavez endured several month-long fasts to counteract what he saw as a growing tendency toward violence in the farmworker movement, and many think those heroic acts contributed to his early death, at the age of 64.)

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
Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017
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

Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017(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.)

New York City bus drivers, members of the Transport Workers Union, go on strike. After 12 days of no Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017buses—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

Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017March 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
Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017
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

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Today in labor history for the week of February 27, 2017

This Week in Labor History
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 Today in labor history for the week of February 27, 2017days 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

(Actually Leap Year Feb. 29) The minimum age allowed by law for workers in mills, factories, and mines in South Carolina is raised from 12 to 14 – 1915

Today in labor history for the week of February 27, 2017(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.)

Members of the Chinese Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union in San Francisco’s Chinatown begin what is to be a successful four-month strike for better wages and conditions at the National Dollar Stores factory Today in labor history for the week of February 27, 2017and three retail outlets – 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

Today in labor history for the week of February 27, 2017March 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. – 1936Today in labor history for the week of February 27, 2017

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

Today in labor history for the week of February 27, 2017(From the Folks Who Brought You The Weekend: This 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. This excellent narrative surveys the historic efforts and sacrifices that working people made to win the rights we take for granted today, from minimum wage and overtime protections to health and safety guarantees to even the weekend itself.)

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
Today in labor history for the week of February 27, 2017
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

Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017

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
Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017(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.)

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

February 21Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017
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
Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017Representatives 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

February 23
W.E.B. DuBois, educator and civil rights activist, born – 1868Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017

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

Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017(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 an easy-to-read, honest description of Guthrie’s life, from a childhood of poverty to an adulthood of music and organizing—and a life cut short by incurable disease. Guthrie’s life and work inspired millions while he lived and continues to do so through musicians such as his son Arlo, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Billy Bragg and Bruce Springsteen, to name just a few. Guthrie is portrayed as he was—an imperfect being but one with a gift that helped millions as they struggled toward better lives.)

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
Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017
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

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

Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017A 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

(The Labor Law Source Book: Texts of 20 Federal Labor Laws is a very handy collection that puts the full Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017texts 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 valuable basic reference. This book contains the texts of federal labor law amended as of December 31, 2013.)

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

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

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