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September 7, 2015

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Today is Labor Day. In 1894, after sending in the Army and U.S. Marshals to break the Pullman strike, President Grover Cleveland’s popularity was in the toilet. In the immediate wake of the strike, legislation designating a federal Labor Day holiday was rushed unanimously through Congress and arrived on Cleveland’s desk for his signature.

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Today in labor history for the week of September 7, 2015

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September 07
Federal employees win the right to receive Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage – 1916

September 08
Employers give in to the demands of striking miners in McKees Rocks, Pa., agree to improved working conditions, 15-percent hike in wages and elimination of a “pool system” that gave foremen control over each worker’s pay – 1909

Workers give up their Labor Day weekend holidays to keep the munitions factories working to aid in the war effort. Most Labor Day parades are canceled in respect for members of the Armed Services – 1942

United Farm Workers union begins historic national grape boycott and strike, Delano, Calif. – 1965

Some 2,600 Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) workers begin what is to be a successful 6-day strike for higher pay and against a two-tier wage system – 1997
2015.09.07 history strike(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. Brecher also examines the ever-shifting roles and configurations of unions, from the Knights of Labor of the 1800s to the AFL-CIO of the 1990s. A new chapter, “Beyond One-Sided Class War,” looks at how modern protest movements, such as the Battle of Seattle and Occupy Wall Street, were ignited and considers the similarities between these challenges to authority and those of labor’s past.)

September 09
In convention at Topeka, Kan., delegates create the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen of America. The men who repaired the nation’s rail cars were paid 10 or 15¢ an hour, working 12 hours a day, often seven days a week – 1890

More than a thousand Boston police officers strike after 19 union leaders are fired for organizing activities. Massachusetts Gov. Calvin Coolidge announced that none of the strikers would be rehired, mobilized the state police, and recruited an entirely new police force from among unemployed veterans of the Great War (World War I) – 19192015.09.07 history sugar.workers

Sixteen striking Filipino sugar workers on the Hawaiian island of Kauai are killed by police; four police died as well. Many of the surviving strikers were jailed, then deported – 1924

United Auto Workers President Leonard Woodcock is named in Pres. Richard Nixon’s “Enemy’s List,” a White House compilation of Americans Nixon regarded as major political opponents. Another dozen union presidents were added later. The existence of the list was revealed during Senate Watergate Committee hearings – 1973

2015.09.07 history lattimerSeptember 10
In Pennsylvania, Polish, Lithuanian and Slovak miners are gunned down by the Lattimer Mine’s sheriff deputies—19 dead, more than 50 wounded—during a peaceful march from Hazelton to Lattimer. Some 3,000 were marching for collective bargaining and civil liberty. The shooters were tried for murder but the jury failed to convict – 1897

September 11
Some 75,000 coal miners in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia end a 10-week strike after winning an 8-hour day, semi-monthly pay, and the abolition of overpriced company-owned stores, where they had been forced to shop. (Remember the song, “Sixteen Tons,” by coal miner’s son Merle Travis, in which there’s this line: “I owe my soul to the company store.”) – 1897
2015.09.07 history 911.firefighters
More than 3,000 people died when suicide highjackers crashed planes into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. Among the dead in New York were 634 union members, the majority of them New York City firefighters and police on the scene when the towers fell – 2001

Crystal Lee Sutton, the real-life Norma Rae of the movies, dies at age 68. She worked at a J.P. Stevens textile plant in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., when low pay and poor working conditions led her to become a union activist – 2009

September 12
Eugene V. Debs, labor leader and socialist, sentenced to 10 years for opposing World War I. While in jail Debs received one million votes for president – 1918
2015.09.07 history debs.cross(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.)

Jobless workers march on grocery stores and seize food in Toledo, Ohio – 1932

National Guardsmen fire on “sullen and rebellious” strikers at the Woonsocket (Rhode Island) Rayon plant, killing one and injuring three others. A correspondent said the crowd of about 2,000 “went completely wild with rage.” Word spread, 6,000 more workers arrived at the scene and the city was put under military rule. The governor declared that “there is a Communist uprising and not a textile strike” in the state – 1934

United Rubber Workers formed in Akron, Ohio – 1935

A total of 49 people are killed, 200 injured, in explosion at the Hercules Powder Company plant in Kenvil, N.J. – 19402015.09.07 history attica.riots
New York City’s Union Square, the site of the first Labor Day in 1882, is officially named a national historic landmark. The square has long been a focal point for working class protest and political expression – 1998

September 13
The Post Office Department orders 25,000 railway mail clerks to shoot to kill any bandits attempting to rob the mail – 1926

Eleven AFSCME-represented prison employees, 33 inmates die in four days of rioting at New York State’s Attica Prison and the retaking of the prison. The riot caused the nation to take a closer look at prison conditions, for inmates and their guards alike – 1971

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September 6, 1934

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Scabs and special deputies open fire on the 300 textile workers picketing the Chiquola Mill in Honea Path, South Carolina, killing six people and wounding dozens of others; a seventh man died the next day from his wounds. The national textile strike of 1934 saw nearly half a million textile workers from New England, the Mid Atlantic, and the South walk off the job to demand better wages and working conditions. [Photograph: Spinning room worker Lois McClain outside her home after having been shot in the left hand.]

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September 4, 2013

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Labor organizer and civil rights activist Jessie Lopez de la Cruz dies at the age of 93. Born in 1919 in Anaheim, California, de la Cruz worked as a migrant farm worker from a young age. She joined the United Farm Workers in 1965, became the union’s first female organizer, was involved in numerous strikes, and helped ban the crippling short-handle hoe. De la Cruz remained a political activist until her death.

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September 3, 2005

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In response to a strike by the country’s public servant workers that began in July over wages and democratic reforms, the Tongan government agrees to the Public Service Association’s demand for pay raises of 60-70-80%, no disciplinary action against the striking workers, and a suspension of salary review.

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The Evolution Of Labor Day (Info-Graphic)

As we approach Labor Day it is important to stop and take a look back at how far we have come as organized labor.  180 years ago adults and children were working 12-hour days, 7 days a week, and they still “owed their soul to the company store.”

Throughout the last 200 years organized labor has moved America forward, fighting for all workers.  During the early years, labor unions were focused on three main items: the number of hours per day/week, hourly wages, and workplace safety.  Years have gone by, yet we are still fighting the same battles over hours, wages, and workplace safety.

Some people say that labor is dead, or dying.  I say we need unions now more than ever.  Working families are struggling as corporations and industry fat cats’ reap all the rewards of our hard work.  The rise in income inequality and the suppression of wages looks eerily similar to the years that led up to the Great Depression.

Workers have lost their voice, they have lost their power.  We are living in an age where employers no longer care about their employees, treating them as completely disposable. They only care about how much their decisions will effect their stock prices.

What corporate executives and Wall Street bankers do not seem to understand is that when you invest in the people you will reap greater rewards.  Higher wages for those at the bottom lead to more consumer spending, which creates higher demand, which leads higher sales and higher profits, all in all a strong vibrant economy.

Labor built the middle class, and we will never have the strong middle class we had back 50 years ago without labor.

Check out this great info-graphic the walks you through just a few of the hundreds of events build the labor movement.

Special thanks to MODIS for creating this info-graphic.

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September 1, 1893

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The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers is founded in Chicago. Today, the union represents workers from over 250 locals throughout the United States and Canada working in industrial construction, repair, and maintenance; manufacturing; shipbuilding and marine repair; railroad; mining and quarrying; cement kilns; and related industries.

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August 31, 1999

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Detroit public school teachers go on strike for the first time in seven years after negotiations between the Detroit Federation of Teachers and the school district fail to address their concerns around wages, hours, and working conditions. The strike continued through September when a contract was reached that the teachers accepted.

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Today in labor history for the week of August 31, 2015

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August 31
John Reed forms the Communist Labor Party in Chicago. The Party’s motto: “Workers of the world, unite!” – 1919

Some 10,000 striking miners began a fight at Blair Mountain, W.Va., for recognition of their union, the United Mine Workers of America. Federal troops were sent in and miners were forced to withdraw five days later, after 16 deaths – 1921

The Trade Union Unity League is founded as an alternative to the American Federation of Labor, with the goal of organizing along industrial rather than craft lines. An arm of the American Communist Party, the League claimed 125,000 members before it dissolved in the late 1930s – 1929

“Solidarity” workers movement founded as a strike coordination committee at Lenin Shipyards, Gdansk, Poland. The strike launched a wave of unrest in the Soviet Union that ultimately led to its dissolution in 1991 – 1980

An estimated 325,000 unionists gathered in Washington, D.C., for a Solidarity Day march and rally for workplace fairness and healthcare reform – 1991

Detroit teachers begin what is to become a 9-day strike, winning smaller class sizes and raises of up to 4 percent – 1999

September 01
The Int’l Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers is founded at a meeting in Chicago, the product of two separate brotherhoods created over the previous 13 years – 1893

Congress declares Labor Day a national holiday – 18942015.08.31 history weekend
(From the Folks Who Brought You The Weekend is a sweeping, highly readable history of U.S. labor that will be welcomed by anyone interested in learning more about the struggle of American working people to better their lives through collective action.)

Some 30,000 women from 26 trades marched in Chicago’s Labor Day parade – 1903

Walter Reuther is born. He went on to become a founder of the United Auto Workers and was president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations when it merged with the AFL in 1955 – 1907

A 3-week strike in Woonsocket, R.I., part of a national movement to obtain a minimum wage for textile workers, resulted in the deaths of three workers. Ultimately more than 420,000 workers struck nationally – 1934

2015.08.31 history hawaiianIn Hawaii, some 26,000 sugar workers represented by the Longshoremen’s union begin what is to become a successful 79-day strike that shuts down 33 of the 34 sugar plantations on the islands. The strike brought an end to Hawaii’s paternalistic labor relations and impacted political and social institutions throughout the then-territory – 1946

Int’l Metal Engravers & Marking Device Workers Union changed its name to Int’l Association of Machinists – 1956

Some 20,000 Pennsylvania Railroad shop workers effectively halt operations in 13 states for 12 days. It was the first shutdown in the company’s 114-year history – 1960

Boot and Shoe Workers’ Union merged with Retail Clerks Int’l Union – 1977

The Journeymen Barbers, Hairdressers and Cosmetologists’ Int’l Union of America merged with United Food & Commercial Workers – 1980

Glass Bottle Blowers’ Association of the United States & Canada merged with Int’l Brotherhood of Pottery & Allied Workers to become Glass, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers – 1982

Aluminum, Brick & Clay Workers Int’l Union merged with United Glass & Ceramic Workers of North America to form Int’l Union of Aluminum, Brick & Glass Workers – 1982

Brotherhood of Railway, Airline & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees changed name to Transportation-Communications Union – 1987

Coopers Int’l Union of North America merged with Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers Int’l Union – 1992

The federal minimum wage is increased to $5.15 per hour – 1997

The AFL-CIO creates Working America, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization designed to build alliances among non-union working people – 2003

September 022015.08.31 history rock
White and Chinese immigrants battle in Rock Springs, Wyo., fueled by racial tensions and the practice of Union Pacific Railroad of hiring lower-paid Chinese over whites. At least 25 Chinese died and 15 more were injured. Rioters burned 75 Chinese homes – 1885

Operating railway employees win 8-hour day – 1916

Mineowners bomb West Virginia strikers by plane, using homemade bombs filled with nails and metal fragments. The bombs missed their targets or failed to explode – 1921

President Eisenhower signs legislation expanding Social Security by providing much wider coverage and including 10 million additional Americans, most of them self-employed farmers, with additional benefits – 1954

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was signed by President Ford, regulating and insuring pensions and other benefits, and increasing protections for workers – 1974
2015.08.31 history retire.happy(Retire Happy: What To Do NOW to Guarantee A Great Retirement: Everyone who works for a living thinks at some point about retirement, but few actually consider what that really means, other than escaping the daily grind. For sure, most of us worry about having enough money, and this highly readable book provides a lot of information and advice on the subject: how much we’ll need, how to make the most of what we’ve accumulated, how to accumulate more (even as we get close to retirement) and how to make it last. For that advice alone, Retire Happy is worth the price.)

September 032015.08.31 history cotton.harvesters
African-American cotton pickers organize and strike in Lee County, Texas, against miserably low wages and other injustices, including a growers’ arrangement with local law enforcement to round up blacks on vagrancy charges, then force them to work off their fines on select plantations. Over the course of September a white mob put down the strike, killing 15 strikers in the process – 1891

Some 300 musicians working in Chicago movie houses strike to protest their impending replacement by talking movies – 1928

Twenty-five workers die, unable to escape a fire at the Imperial Poultry processing plant in Hamlet, N.C. Managers had locked fire doors to prevent the theft of chicken nuggets. The plant had operated for 11 years without a single safety inspection – 1991

September 04
Twelve thousand New York tailors strike over sweatshop conditions – 1894

2015.08.31 history peekskillMore than 140 attendees at a benefit for a civil rights group are injured in the Source Link

August 30, 1907

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U.S. labor leader and civil rights activist Luisa Moreno is born in Guatemala. Moreno was active in organizing tobacco, sugar cane, and cannery workers and founded The Spanish-Speaking Peoples Congress in 1938 to bring together all Spanish-speaking people residing in the U.S. around issues of immigration, employment, and civil rights. Targeted for her politics, Moreno was deported in 1950 when she refused to testify against International Longshore and Warehouse Union leader Harry Bridges in exchange for citizenship.

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