This week in labor history: April 19-25

1911 – In Grand Rapids, Michigan, the nation’s “Furniture City,” more than 6,000 immigrant workers — Germans, Dutch, Lithuanians and Poles — put down their tools and went on strike against 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, Connecticut. 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 people’s 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 of her: “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.

1999 – The Int’l Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union halts shipping on the West Coast in solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Philadelphia journalist who many believed was on death row because he was an outspoken African American.
2013 – An eight-story building housing garment factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapses, killing 1,129 workers and injuring 2,515. A day earlier cracks had been found in the structure, but factory officials, who had contracts with Benneton and other major U.S. labels, insisted the workers return to the job the next day.

1886 – The New York Times declares the struggle for an eight-hour workday to be “un-American” and calls public demonstrations for the shorter hours “labor disturbances brought about by foreigners.” Other publications declare that an eight-hour workday would bring about “loafing and gambling, rioting, debauchery and drunkenness.”
1923 – IWW Marine Transport Workers begin West Coast strike.
1969 – The Reverend Ralph David Abernathy and 100 others are arrested while picketing a Charleston, S.C., hospital in a demand for union recognition.
1978 – Supreme Court rules that employers may not require female employees to make larger contributions to pension plans in order to obtain the same monthly benefits as men.

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top