This week in labor history: August 5-11

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AUGUST 5
1931 – Using clubs, police rout 1,500 jobless men who had stormed the plant of the Fruit Growers Express Co. in Indiana Harbor, Ind., demanding jobs.
1949 – Thirteen fire fighters, including 12 smokejumpers who parachuted in to help their coworkers, die while battling a forest fire at Gates of the Mountain, Montana.
1993 – The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) took effect today. The first law signed by President Clinton, it allows many workers time off each year due to serious health conditions or to care for family members.

AUGUST 6
2011 – Some 45,000 CWA and IBEW-represented workers at Verizon begin what is to be a two-week strike, refusing to accept more than 100 concession demands by the telecommunications giant.

AUGUST 7
1894 – Eugene Debs and three other trade unionists are arrested after Pullman Strike.
1919 – Actors Equity is recognized by producers after stagehands honor their picket lines, shutting down almost every professional stage production in the country. Before unionizing, it was common practice for actors to pay for their own costumes, rehearse long hours without pay, and be fired without notice.
1983 – Some 675,000 employees strike ATT Corp. over wages, job security, pension plan changes and better health insurance. It was the last time CWA negotiated at one table for all its Bell System members: divestiture came a few months later. The strike was won after 22 days.
1988 – Television writers, members of The Writers Guild of America, end a 22-week strike with a compromise settlement.

AUGUST 8
1902 – Delegates to the St. Paul Trades and Labor Assembly elect 35-year-old Charles James, leader of the Boot and Shoe Workers local union, as their president. He was the first African-American elected to that leadership post in St. Paul, and, many believe, the first anywhere in the nation.
1903 – Cripple Creek, Colo., miners strike begins.
1994 – Cesar Chavez is posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton, becoming the first Mexican-American ever to receive the honor.

AUGUST 9
1890 – Knights of Labor strike New York Central railroad, ultimately to be defeated by scabbing.
1927 – Nine men and one woman meet in Oakland, Calif., to form what was to become the 230,000-member California School Employees Association, representing school support staff throughout the state.
1965 – A fire and resultant loss of oxygen when a high pressure hydraulic line was cut with a torch in a Titan missile silo near Searcy, Ark., kills 53 people, mostly civilian repairmen.
1998 – Some 73,000 Bell Atlantic workers end a successful two-day strike over wages and limits on contracting out work.

AUGUST 10
1935 – Hundreds of Transport Workers Union members descend on a New York City courthouse, offering their own money to bail out their president, Mike Quill, and four other union leaders arrested while making their way through Grand Central Station to union headquarters after picketing the Interborough Rapid Transit offices in lower Manhattan.
1939 – President Roosevelt signs amendments to the 1935 Social Security Act, broadening the program to include dependents and survivors’ benefits.
1954 – Construction on the St. Lawrence Seaway begins. Ultimately 22,000 workers spent five years building the 2,342-mile route from the Atlantic to the northernmost part of the Great Lakes.
2010 – President Barack Obama signs a $26 billion bill designed to protect 300,000 teachers, police and others from layoffs spurred by budgetary crises in states hard-hit by the Great Recession.

AUGUST 11
1884 – Federal troops drive some 1,200 jobless workers from Washington D.C. Led by unemployed activist Charles “Hobo” Kelley, the group’s “soldiers” include young journalist Jack London and William Haywood, a young miner-cowboy called “Big Bill.”
1917 – One hundred “platform men,” employed by the privately owned United Railroads streetcar service in San Francisco, abandon their streetcars, tying up many of the main lines in and out of the city center.
2013 – Maine lobster fishers form a local of the Machinists union as they face a 40-year low price for their catches, and other issues. By October, the New York Times reported, it had 600 members, 240 of them dues-payers.

(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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