This week in labor history: April 6-12

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APRIL 6
1905 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.
1937 Fifty workers at Connecticut Automotive Specialty Company (Casco) in Bridgeport, Conn., conduct a sit-down strike to win recognition of the UE as their bargaining agent while other workers and allies picket outside the plant. Within 24 hours they won a wage increase and union recognition.
2006 – 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.

APRIL 7
1947 National Labor Relations Board attorney tells ILWU members to “lie down like good dogs,” in 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.
2000 Fifteen thousand union janitors strike in Los Angeles.

APRIL 8
1911 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.
1918 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.
1935 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.
1952 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.

APRIL 9
1930 IWW organizes the 1,700-member crew of the Leviathan, then the world’s largest vessel.

APRIL 10
1880 Birth date of Frances Perkins, named Secretary of Labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, becoming the first woman to hold a cabinet-level office.
1917 A total of 133 people, mostly women and girls, are killed when an explosion in the loading room tears apart the Eddystone Ammunition Works in Eddystone, Pa., near Chester. Of the dead, 55 were never identified.
1997 Dancers from the Lusty Lady Club in San Francisco’s North Beach ratify their first-ever union contract by a vote of 57-15, having won representation by SEIU Local 790 the previous summer. The club, which later became a worker-owned cooperative, closed in 2013.
2006 – Tens of thousands of immigrants demonstrate in 100 U.S. cities in a national day of action billed as a campaign for immigrants’ dignity. Some 200,000 gathered in Washington, D.C.

APRIL 11
1941 Ford Motor Company signs first contract with United Auto Workers.
1947 Jackie Robinson, first Black ballplayer hired by a major league team, plays his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbetts Field.
1974 –United Mine Workers President W. A. “Tony” Boyle is found guilty of first-degree murder for ordering the 1969 assassination of union reformer Joseph A. “Jock” Yablonski. Yablonski, his wife and daughter were murdered on December 30, 1969. Boyle had defeated Yablonski in the UMW election earlier in the year — an election marred by intimidation and vote fraud. That election was set aside and a later vote was won by reformer Arnold Miller.
1980 Some 34,000 New York City Transit Authority workers, 11 days into a strike for higher wages, end their walkout with agreement on a nine percent increase in the first year and eight percent in the second, along with cost-of-living protections.
1980 The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issues regulations prohibiting sexual harassment of workers by supervisors in the workplace.
1986 Police in Austin, Minn., tear-gas striking Hormel meatpacking workers. Seventeen strikers are arrested on felony riot charges.
1997 Some 25,000 marchers in Watsonville, Calif., show support for United Farm Workers organizing campaign among strawberry workers, others.

APRIL 12
1858 A group of “puddlers” — craftsmen who manipulated pig iron to create steel—meet in a Pittsburgh bar and form The Iron City Forge of the Sons of Vulcan. It was the strongest union in the U.S. in the 1870s, later merging with two other unions to form what was to be the forerunner of the United Steel Workers.
1900 Birth of Florence Reece, active in Harlan County, Ky., coal strikes and author of famed labor song “Which Side Are You On?”
1909 The Union Label and Service Trades Department is founded by the American Federation of Labor. Its mission: promote the products and services of union members.
1912 Twenty “girl millworkers,” attempting to relieve striking pickets at the Garfield, New Jersey, mill of Forstmann and Huffmann, are beaten “when they did not move fast enough to suit” 30 special deputies who ordered them off the site, according to a news report.
1924 Chris Turner is born in Floyd, Va. He went on to become a NASCAR driver and attempted, along with Fireball Roberts and Tim Flock, to organize the other drivers into a union in 1961 in the hope of better purses, a share in broadcasting rights and retirement benefits for the drivers. He was banned by NASCAR and was unsuccessful when he sued for reinstatement. The court said he was an individual contractor, not an employee of NASCAR or any track.
1934 The Toledo (Ohio) Auto-Lite strike begins today with 6,000 workers demanding union recognition and higher pay. The strike is notable for a five-day running battle in late May between the strikers and 1,300 members of the Ohio National Guard. Known as the “Battle of Toledo,” the clash left two strikers dead and more than 200 injured.  The two-month strike, a win for the workers’ union, is regarded by many Labor historians as one of the nation’s three most important strikes.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder Union Communication Services)

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