This week in labor history: August 23-29

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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 in route to Saigon.
1966 Farm Workers Organizing Committee (to later become United Farm Workers of America) 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
1925 Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters founded at a meeting in New York City. A. Philip Randolph became the union’s first organizer.

AUGUST 26
1919 Fannie Sellins and Joseph Starzeleski are murdered by coal company guards on a picket line in Brackenridge, Pa. Sellins was a United Mine Workers of America organizer and Starzeleski was a miner.
1920 After three-quarters of the states had ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, women win their long struggle for the vote.
1932 With America in the depths of the Great Depression, the Comptroller of the Currency announces a temporary halt on foreclosures of first mortgages.
1957 In what some may consider one of the many management decisions that was to help cripple the American auto industry over the following decades, Ford Motor Co. produces its first Edsel. Ford dropped the project two years later after losing approximately $350 million.
1970 The Women’s Strike for Equality is staged in cities across the U.S., marking the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, under which women won the right to vote. A key focus of the strike — in fact, more accurately a series of marches and demonstrations — was equality in the workplace. An estimated 20,000 women participated, some carrying signs with the iconic slogan, “Don’t Iron While the Strike is Hot.” Another sign: “Hardhats for Soft Broads.”
2003 More than 1,300 bus drivers on Oahu, Hawaii, begin what is to become a five-week strike.

AUGUST 27
1934 Some 14,000 Chicago teachers who have gone without pay for several months finally collect about $1,400 each.
1950 President Truman orders the U.S. Army to seize all the nation’s railroads to prevent a general strike. The railroads were not returned to their owners until two years later.

AUGUST 28
1963 The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom — the Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have A Dream” speech march — is held in Washington, D.C., with 250,000 participating. The AFL-CIO did not endorse the march, but several affiliated unions did.
2017 Effective today, the hourly minimum wage in St. Louis MO was reduced from $10 to $7.70 due to action by the MO state legislature, prohibiting cities from setting a minimum wage rate higher than the state rate.

AUGUST 29
1889 Sixty letter carriers from 18 states meet in a room above Schaefer’s Saloon on Plankinton Avenue in Milwaukee. They unanimously adopt a resolution to form a National Association of Letter Carriers.
1907 Seventy-five workers die when the lower St. Lawrence River’s Quebec Bridge collapses while under construction. A flawed design was found to be the cause. Thirteen more workers were killed nine years later when the reconstructed bridge’s central span was being raised and fell into the river because of a problem with hoisting devices.
1996 Dancers at San Francisco’s Lusty Lady Club vote 57-15 to be represented by SEIU Local 790. Their first union contract, ratified eight months later, guaranteed work shifts, protection against arbitrary discipline and termination, automatic hourly wage increases, sick days, a grievance procedure, and removal of one-way mirrors from peep show booths.
1998 Northwest Airlines pilots, after years of concessions to help the airline, begin what is to become a two-week strike for higher pay.
2000 Delegates to the Minnesota AFL-CIO convention approve the launching of workdayminnesota.org, first web-based daily labor news service by a state labor federation.

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

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