This week in labor history: August 19-25

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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 – claims 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 – Deranged 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.

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, are executed. The case became an international cause and sparked demonstrations and strikes throughout the world.
1966 – Seven merchant seamen crewing the SS Baton Rouge Victory lose their lives when the ship is sunk by Viet Cong action en route to Saigon.
1966 – Farm Workers Organizing Committee (to later become United Farm Workers of America) are granted a charter by the AFL-CIO.

AUGUST 24
1877 – The Gatling Gun Co. – manufacturers of an early machine gun – writes to B&O Railroad Co. President John W. Garrett during a strike, urging their product be purchased to deal with the “recent riotous disturbances around the country.” Says the company: “Four or five men only are required to operate (a gun), and one Gatling ... can clear a street or block and keep it clear.”
1970 – United Farm Workers Union begins lettuce strike.

AUGUST 25
1819 – Birth of Allan Pinkerton, whose strike-breaking detectives (“Pinks”) gave us the word “fink.”
1925 – Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters is founded at a meeting in New York City. A. Philip Randolph became the union’s first organizer.

(Labor History is provided by Union Communications Services, since 1981 North America’s premier publisher and distributor of newsletters, leadership training programs for shop stewards and officers, website materials and other powerful use-it-today strategies and tools to help leaders and activists build union power. Reach them at unionist.com.)

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