This week in labor history: August 17-23

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AUGUST 17
1985 Year-long Hormel meatpackers’ strike begins in Austin, Minn.

AUGUST 18
1927 Radio station WEVD, named for Eugene V. Debs, goes on the air in New York City, operated by The Forward Association as a memorial to the Labor and socialist leader.

AUGUST 19
1909 First edition of IWW Little Red Song Book published.
1917 Some 2,000 United Railroads streetcar service workers and supporters parade down San Francisco’s Market Street in support of pay demands and against the company’s anti-union policies. The strike failed in late November in the face of more than 1,000 strikebreakers, some of them imported from Chicago.
1946 Founding of the Maritime Trades Dept., AFL, to give “workers employed in the maritime industry and its allied trades a voice in shaping national policy.”
1983 Phelps-Dodge copper miners in Morenci and Clifton, Ariz., are confronted by tanks, helicopters, 426 state troopers and 325 National Guardsmen brought in to walk strikebreakers through picket lines in what was to become a failed three-year fight by the Steelworkers and other unions.
2005 Some 4,400 mechanics, cleaners and custodians, members of AMFA at Northwest Airlines, strike the carrier over job security, pay cuts and work rule changes. The 14-month strike was to fail, with most union jobs lost to replacements and outside contractors.

AUGUST 20
1910 The Great Fire of 1910, a wildfire that consumed about three million acres in Washington, Idaho and Montana — an area about the size of Connecticut — claimed the lives of 78 fire fighters over two days. It is believed to be the largest, although not deadliest, fire in U.S. history.
1986 Relief postal service carrier Patrick “Crazy Pat” Henry Sherrill shoots and kills 14 coworkers, and wounds another six, before killing himself at an Edmond, Okla., postal facility.  Supervisors had ignored warning signs of Sherrill’s instability, investigators later found; the shootings came a day after he had been reprimanded for poor work. The incident inspired the objectionable term “going postal.”

AUGUST 21
1831 Slave revolt led by Nat Turner begins in Southampton County, Va.
2018 An unknown number of prisoners across the United States begin what is to be a five-day strike in support of 10 demands, one of them being what they call “prison slavery” – no or virtually no pay for work performed both in and outside their institutions. One example cited was being paid $1.45 a day for fighting forest fires.

AUGUST 22
1945 Five flight attendants form the Air Line Stewardesses Association, the first Labor union representing flight attendants. They were reacting to an industry in which women were forced to retire at the age of 32, remain single, and adhere to strict weight, height and appearance requirements. The association later became the Association of Flight Attendants, now a division of the Communications Workers of America.
1963 Int’l Broom & Whisk Makers Union disbands.
1980 Joyce Miller, a vice president of the Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers, becomes first female member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council.
1986 The Kerr-McGee Corp. agrees to pay the estate of the late Karen Silkwood $1.38 million, settling a 10-year-old nuclear contamination lawsuit. She was a union activist who died in 1974 under suspicious circumstances on her way to talk to a reporter about safety concerns at her plutonium fuel plant in Oklahoma.

AUGUST 23
1912 The U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations is formed by Congress, during a period of great labor and social unrest. After three years and hearing witnesses ranging from Wobblies to capitalists, it issued an 11-volume report frequently critical of capitalism. The New York Herald characterized the Commission’s president, Frank P. Walsh, as “a Mother Jones in trousers.”
1927 Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, accused of murder and tried unfairly, were executed on this day. The case became an international cause and sparked demonstrations and strikes throughout the world.
1966 Seven merchant seamen crewing the SS Baton Rouge Victory lost their lives when the ship was sunk by Viet Cong action en route to Saigon.
1966 Farm Workers Organizing Committee (to later become United Farm Workers of America) granted a charter by the AFL-CIO.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder Union Communication Services)

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