This week in labor history: April 17-23


1905 The Supreme Court holds that a maximum-hours law for New York bakery workers is unconstitutional under the due process clause of the 14th amendment.
2013 An explosion at a West Texas fertilizer plant kills 15 people and injures nearly 300 when 30 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate – stored in sheds without sprinkler systems – caught fire. Of those killed, 10 were emergency responders.

1912 West Virginia coal miners strike, defend selves against National Guard.
1941 After a four-week boycott led by Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. bus companies in New York City agree to hire 200 Black drivers and mechanics.

1911 In Grand Rapids, Mich., the nation’s “Furniture City,” more than 6,000 immigrant workers – Germans, Dutch, Lithuanians and Poles – put down their tools and struck 59 factories for four months in what was to become known as the Great Furniture Strike.
1995 An American domestic terrorist’s bomb destroys the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, 99 of whom were government employees.

1912 Nearly 10,000 demonstrators celebrate textile workers’ win of a 10-percent pay hike and grievance committees after a one-month strike, Lowell, Mass.
1914 Ludlow massacre: Colorado state militia, using machine guns and fire, kill about 20 people – including 11 children – at a tent city set up by striking coal miners.
1948 An unknown assailant shoots through a window at United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther as he is eating dinner at his kitchen table, permanently impairing his right arm. It was one of at least two assassination attempts on Reuther. He and his wife later died in a small plane crash under what many believe to be suspicious circumstances.
1968 National Association of Post Office Mail Handlers, Watchmen, Messengers & Group Leaders merge with Laborers.
1980 United Auto Workers members end a successful 172-day strike against International Harvester, protesting management demands for new work rules and mandatory overtime provisions.

1967 New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller signs Taylor Law, permitting union organization and bargaining by public employees, but outlawing the right to strike.
1997 Some 12,500 Goodyear Tire workers strike nine plants in what was to become a three-week walkout over job security, wage and benefit issues.
2015 Mary Doyle Keefe, who in 1943 posed as “Rosie the Riveter” for famed painter Norman Rockwell, dies at age 92 in Simsbury, Conn. Published on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in May 1943, Rosie came to symbolize women factory workers during World War II. (The Rockwell painting is sometimes conjoined in peoples’ memories with a similarly-themed poster by Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller, “We Can Do It!” created the year before.).

2011 Songwriter, musician and activist Hazel Dickens dies at age 75. Among her songs: “They’ll Never Keep Us Down” and “Working Girl Blues.” Cultural blogger John Pietaro wrote: “Dickens didn’t just sing the anthems of Labor, she lived them. Her place on many a picket line, staring down gunfire and goon squads, embedded her into the cause.”

1956 – The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) is founded through a merger of the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada (TLC) and the Canadian Congress of Labour (CCL), the two major union congresses in Canada at the time.  The CLC represents the interests of more than three million affiliated workers.
1980 Death of Ida Mae Stull, nationally recognized as the country’s first woman coal miner.
1993 – United Farm Workers of America founder Cesar Chavez dies in San Luis, Ariz., at age 66.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder of Union Communication Services)


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