This week in labor history: February 20-26

1834 Responding to a 15 percent wage cut, women textile workers in Lowell, Mass., organize a “turn-out” — a strike — in protest. The action failed. Two years later they formed the Factory Girl’s Association in response to a rent hike in company boarding houses and the increase was rescinded. One worker’s diary recounts a “stirring speech” of resistance by a co-worker, 11-year-old Harriet Hanson Robinson.
1908 Rally for unemployed becomes major confrontation in Philadelphia, 18 arrested for demanding jobs.
1917 – Thousands of women march to New York’s City Hall demanding relief from exorbitant wartime food prices. Inflation had wiped out any wage gains made by workers, leading to a high level of working-class protest during World War I.
1990 United Mine Workers settle 10-month Pittston strike in Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia.

1868 A state law was enacted in California providing the eight-hour day for most workers, but it was not effectively enforced.
1972 United Farm Workers of America granted a charter by the AFL-CIO.

1892 – Representatives of the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers meet in St. Louis with 20 other organizations to plan the founding convention of the People’s Party. Objectives: end political corruption, spread the wealth, and combat the oppression of the rights of workers and farmers.
1997 Albert Shanker dies at age 68. He served as president of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers from 1964 to 1984 and of the American Federation of Teachers from 1974 to 1997.

1868 W.E.B. DuBois, educator and civil rights activist, born.
1875 The National Marine Engineers Association (now the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association), representing deck and engine officers on U.S. flag vessels, is formed at a convention in Cleveland, Ohio.
1887 The Journeyman Bakers’ National Union receives its charter from the American Federation of Labor.
1904 William Randolph Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner began publishing articles on the menace of Japanese laborers, leading to a resolution in the California legislature that action be taken against their immigration.
1940 Woody Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land” following a frigid trip — partially by hitchhiking, partially by rail — from California to Manhattan. The Great Depression was still raging. Guthrie had heard Kate Smith’s recording of “God Bless America” and resolved to himself: “We can’t just bless America; we’ve got to change it.”

1984 Association of Flight Attendants granted a charter by the AFL-CIO.
2004 Following voter approval for the measure in 2003, San Francisco’s minimum wage rises to $8.50, up from $6.75.

1908 U.S. Supreme Court upholds Oregon state restrictions on the working hours of women, justified as necessary to protect their health. A laundry owner was fined $10 for making a female employee work more than 10 hours in a single day.
1912 Women and children textile strikers beaten by Lawrence, Mass., police during a 63-day walkout protesting low wages and work speedups.
1919 Congress passes a federal child labor tax law that imposed a 10 percent tax on companies that employ children, defined as anyone under the age of 16 working in a mine/quarry or under the age 14 in a “mill, cannery, workshop, factory, or manufacturing establishment.”  The Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional three years later.

1965 Amalgamated Association of Street & Electric Railway Employees of America change name to Amalgamated Transit Union.
1965 The Order of Railroad Telegraphers change name to Transportation-Communication Employees Union.
2011 A crowd estimated to be 100,000 strong rallied at the Wisconsin state Capitol in protest of what ultimately was to become a successful push by the state’s Republican majority to cripple public employee bargaining rights.

1885 Congress OKs the Contract Labor Law, designed to clamp down on “business agents” who contracted abroad for immigrant labor. One of the reasons unions supported the measure: employers were using foreign workers to fight against the growing U.S. Labor Movement, primarily by deploying immigrant labor to break strikes.
1941 Bethlehem Steel workers strike for union recognition, Bethlehem, Pa.
1972 – A coal slag heap doubling as a dam in West Virginia’s Buffalo Creek Valley collapsed, flooding the 17-mile long valley: 118 died, 5,000 were left homeless. The Pittston Coal Co. said it was “an act of God.”
2004 A 20-week strike by 70,000 Southern California supermarket workers ends, with both sides claiming victory.

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

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