This week in labor history: December 7-13

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DECEMBER 7
1888 Heywood Broun born in New York City. Journalist, columnist and co-founder, in 1933, of The Newspaper Guild.
1896 Steam boiler operators from 11 cities across the country meet in Chicago to form the National Union of Steam Engineers of America, the forerunner to the Int’l Union of Operating Engineers. Each of the men represented a local union of 40 members or fewer.
1931 More than 1,600 protesters staged a national hunger march on Washington, D.C., to present demands for unemployment insurance.
2009 Delegates to the founding convention of the National Nurses United (NNU) in Phoenix, Ariz., unanimously endorse the creation of the largest union and professional organization of registered nurses in U.S. history. The 150,000-member union is the product of a merger of three groups.

DECEMBER 8
1886 Twenty-five unions found the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in Columbus, Ohio; Cigarmaker’s union leader Samuel Gompers is elected president. The AFL’s founding document’s preamble reads: “A struggle is going on in all of the civilized world between oppressors and oppressed of all countries, between capitalist and laborer…”
1962 One-hundred-fourteen-day newspaper strike begins, New York City.
1993 President Bill Clinton signs The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
2001 Nearly 230 jailed teachers—about one-fourth of the 1,000-member Middletown Township, N.J., staff—are ordered freed after they and their colleagues agree to end a nine-day strike and go into mediation with the local school board.
2009 Faced with a national unemployment rate of 10 percent, President Barack Obama outlines new multibillion-dollar stimulus and jobs proposals, saying the country must continue to “spend our way out of this recession” until more Americans are back at work. Joblessness had soared six percent in the final two years of George W. Bush’s presidency.

DECEMBER 9
2001 Ratification of a new labor agreement at Titan Tire of Natchez, Miss., ends the longest strike in the history of the U.S. tire industry, which began May 1, 1998, at the company’s Des Moines, Iowa, plant.

DECEMBER 10
1906 First sit-down strike in U.S. called by IWW at General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y.
1948 Int’l Human Rights Day, commemorating the signing at the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, in part: “Everyone has the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”
1956 American Federation of Teachers Local 89 in Atlanta, Ga., disaffiliates from the national union because of an AFT directive that all its locals integrate. A year later, the AFT expelled all locals that refused to do so.
1970 Cesar Chavez jailed for 14 days for refusing to end United Farm Workers’ lettuce boycott.

DECEMBER 11
1886 A small group of Black farmers organize the Colored Farmers’ National Alliance and Cooperative Union in Houston County, Texas. They had been barred from membership in the all-White Southern Farmers’ Alliance. Through intensive organizing, along with merging with another Black farmers group, the renamed Colored Alliance by 1891 claimed a membership of 1.2 million.
1951 Ten days after an Illinois state mine inspector approved coal dust removal techniques at New Orient mine in West Frankfort, the mine exploded, apparently due to accumulated methane gas, killing 119 workers.
1968 The U.S. Department of Labor announces that the nation’s unemployment rate had dropped to 3.3 percent, the lowest mark in 15 years.
1995 Forty thousand workers go on general strike in London, Ontario — a city with a population of 300,000 — protesting cuts in social services.
2012 Michigan becomes the 24th state to adopt so-called “right-to-work” legislation. The Republican-dominated state Senate introduced two measures — one covering private workers, the other covering public workers — by surprise five days earlier and immediately voted their passage; the Republican House approved them five days later (the fastest it legally could) and the Republican governor immediately signed both bills.

DECEMBER 12
2006 A U.S. immigration sweep of six Swift meat plants results in arrests of nearly 1,300 undocumented workers.

DECEMBER 13
1924 Samuel Gompers, president and founder of the American Federation of Labor, died on this day in San Antonio, Texas.

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

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