This week in labor history: August 9-15

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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
1931 The Air Line Pilots Association is founded at a meeting in Chicago attended by 24 activists from across the country.
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.

AUGUST 12
1881 The national Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners is founded in Chicago in a gathering of 36 carpenters from 11 cities.
1919 With the news that their boss, Florenz Ziegfeld, was joining the Producing Managers’ Association, the chorus girls in his Ziegfield Follies create their own union, the Chorus Equity Association. They were helped by a big donation from superstar and former chorus girl Lillian Russell. In 1955 the union merged with the Actor’s Equity Association.
1955 Teamsters official William Grami is kidnapped, bound and beaten near Sebastopol, Calif. He was leading a drive to organize apple plant workers in the area.
1992 The North American Free Trade Agreement — NAFTA — is concluded between the United States, Canada and Mexico, to take effect in January 1994, despite protests from Labor, environmental and human rights groups.
1994 What was to become a 232-day strike by major league baseball players over owners’ demands for team salary caps began on this day; 938 games were cancelled.

AUGUST 13
1892 Striking miners at Tracy City, Tenn., capture their mines and free 300 state convict strikebreakers. The convicts had been “leased” to mine owners by officials in an effort to make prisons self-supporting and make a few bucks for the state. The practice started in 1866 and lasted for 30 years.
1936 Newspaper Guild members begin three-month strike of Hearst-owned Seattle Post-Intelligencer, shutting the publication down in their successful fight for union recognition.
1963 Civil rights leader and union president A. Philip Randolph strongly protests the AFL-CIO Executive Council’s failure to endorse the Aug. 28 “March on Washington.”
1979 Five construction workers are killed, 16 injured when the uncompleted roof of the Rosemont (Ill.) Horizon arena collapses.

AUGUST 14
1935 President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, providing, for the first time ever, guaranteed income for retirees and creating a system of unemployment benefits.
1980 Members of the upstart Polish union Solidarity seize the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk. Sixteen days later the government officially recognizes the union. Many consider the event the beginning of the end for the Iron Curtain.

AUGUST 15
1248 To begin what proved to become one of the world’s longest construction projects, workers lay the foundation stone of Germany’s Cologne Cathedral, built to house the relics of the Three Wise Men. The job was declared completed in 1880 — 632 years later.
1914 The Panama Canal opens after 33 years of construction and an estimated 22,000 worker deaths, mostly caused by malaria and yellow fever.  The 51-mile canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
1935 Populist social commentator Will Rogers killed in a plane crash, Point Barrow, Alaska. One of his many classic lines: “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”
1971 President Richard M. Nixon announces a 90-day freeze on wages, prices and rents in an attempt to combat inflation.
1989 Gerry Horgan, chief steward of CWA Local 1103 and NYNEX striker in Valhalla, NY, is struck on the picket line by a car driven by the daughter of a plant manager and dies the following day. What was to become a four-month strike over healthcare benefits was in its second week.
2008 Eight automotive department employees at a Walmart near Ottawa won an arbitrator-imposed contract after voting for UFCW representation, becoming the giant retailer’s only location in North America with a collective bargaining agreement. Two months later the company closed the department. Three years earlier Walmart had closed an entire store on the same day the government announced an arbitrator would impose a contract agreement there.

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

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