This week in labor history: April 2-8


1867 Chicago’s first Trades Assembly, formed three years earlier, sponsors a general strike by thousands of workers to enforce the state’s new 8-hour-day law. The one-week strike was unsuccessful.
1911 First workers’ compensation law in the U.S. enacted in Wisconsin.
1933 German police units occupy all trade unions headquarters in the country, arresting union officials and leaders. Their treasuries are confiscated and the unions abolished. Hitler announces that the German Labour Front, headed by his appointee, would replace all unions and look after the working class.
1972 A fire at the Sunshine silver mine in Kellogg, Idaho, causes the death of 91 workers who died from carbon monoxide poisoning, likely caused by toxic fumes emitted by burning polyurethane foam used as a fire retardant.

1886 Four striking workers are killed, at least 200 wounded, when police attack a demonstration on Chicago’s south side at the McCormick Harvesting Machine plant. The Haymarket Massacre would take place the following day.
1895 Eugene V. Debs and other leaders of the American Railway Union are jailed for six months for contempt of court in connection with Pullman railroad car strike.

1886 Haymarket Massacre. – a  bomb is thrown as Chicago police start to break up a rally for strikers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. A riot erupts, 11 police and strikers die, mostly from gunfire, and scores more are injured.

1886 On Chicago’s West Side, police attack Jewish workers as they try to march into the Loop to protest slum conditions.
1886 Some 14,000 building trades workers and laborers, demanding an eight-hour work day, gather at the Milwaukee Iron Co. rolling mill in Bay View, Wisc. When they approach the mill they are fired on by 250 National Guardsmen under orders from the governor to shoot to kill. Seven die, including a 13-year-old boy.
1888 Nineteen machinists working for the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad gather in a locomotive pit to decide what to do about a wage cut. They vote to form a union, which later became the Int’l Association of Machinists.
1931 Heavily armed deputies and other mine owner hirelings attack striking miners in Harlan County, Ky., starting the Battle of Harlan County.
1934 John J. Sweeney, president of the Service Employees Int’l Union from 1980 to 1995, then president of the AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2009, born in the Bronx, N.Y.
1937 Lumber strike begins in Pacific Northwest, will involve 40,000 workers by the time victory is achieved after 13 weeks, with union recognition, a 50-cent-per-hour minimum wage and an eight-hour day.

1935 Works Progress Administration (WPA) established at a cost of $4.8 billion –– more than $100.7 billion in 2022 dollars — to provide work opportunities for millions during the Great Depression.
1937 Four hundred Black women working as tobacco stemmers walk off the job in a spontaneous revolt against poor working conditions and a $3 weekly wage at the Vaughan Co. in Richmond, Va.

1907 Two die and 20 are injured in “Bloody Tuesday” as strikebreakers attempt to run San Francisco streetcars during a strike by operators. The strike was declared lost in 1908 after many more deaths, including several in scab-operated streetcar accidents.
1977 Philadelphia’s longest transit strike ends after 44 days. A key issue in the fight was the hiring and use of part-timers.

1863 The constitution of the Brotherhood of the Footboard (later to become the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers) is ratified by engineers in Detroit, Mich.
1997 Some 12,000 Steelworker-represented workers at Goodyear Tire & Rubber win an 18-day strike for improved wages and job security.

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


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