This week in labor history: January 18-24, 2021

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JANUARY 18
1909 U.S. Supreme Court rules in Moyer v. Peabody that a governor and officers of a state National Guard may imprison anyone – in the case at hand, striking miners in Colorado – without probable cause “in a time of insurrection” and deny the person the right of appeal.
1978 “Take This Job and Shove It,” by Johnny Paycheck, is listed by Billboard magazine as the most popular song in the U.S.

JANUARY 19
1915 Twenty strikers at the American Agricultural Chemical Co. in Roosevelt, N.J., are shot, two fatally, by factory guards. They and other strikers had stopped an incoming train in search of scabs when the guards opened fire.
1920 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) founded.
1920 Some 3,000 members of the Filipino Federation of Labor strike the plantations of Oahu, Hawaii. Their ranks swell to 8,300 as they are joined by members of the Japanese Federation of Labor.
1973 Yuba City, Calif., labor contractor Juan V. Corona found guilty of murdering 25 itinerant farm workers he employed during 1970 and 1971.
1986 Bruce Springsteen makes an unannounced appearance at a benefit for laid-off 3M workers, Asbury Park, N.J.

JANUARY 20
1909 Chicago Crib Disaster – A fire breaks out during construction of a water tunnel for the city of Chicago, burning the wooden dormitory housing the tunnel workers. While 46 survive the fire by jumping into the frigid lake and climbing onto ice floes, approximately 60 men die, 29 burned beyond recognition and the others drowned.
1961 Hardworking Mickey Mantle signs a new contract with the New York Yankees making him the highest paid player in baseball: $75,000 for the entire 1961 season. It should be noted that because there were no long-term contracts, salaries fluctuated every year. In 1947, for example, Hank Greenberg signed a contract for a record $85,000. The Major League Baseball Players Association was created in 1953 and in 1968 negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with team owners, raising the minimum salary from $6,000 to $10,000 per year.
1986 Bruce Springsteen’s “My Hometown,” a eulogy for dying industrial cities, is the country’s most listened-to song. The lyrics, in part: “Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores / Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more / They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks / Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back to your hometown…”
2018 Naomi Parker Fraley, a California waitress who worked a Navy machine shop during World War II and who has been identified as the “real” Rosie the Riveter, dies at age 96 in Longview, Wash.  Although the Rosie title had been ascribed to other women over the years, it was Fraley whose image, complete with worksheet and polka-dot bandanna, was shown on the iconic “We can do it!” posters displayed in Westinghouse Electric Corp. plants during the war.

JANUARY 21
1946 Some 750,000 steel workers walk out in 30 states, largest strike in U.S. history to that time.
1974 Postal workers begin four-day strike at the Jersey City, N.J., bulk and foreign mail center, protesting an involuntary shift change. The wildcat was led by a group of young workers who identified themselves as “The Outlaws.”
2000 Six hundred police attack picketing longshoremen in Charleston, S.C.

JANUARY 22
1826 Indian field hands at San Juan Capistrano mission refuse to work, engaging in what was probably the first farmworker strike in California.
1849 Birth of Terence V. Powderly, leader of the Knights of Labor.
1890 The United Mine Workers of America is founded in Columbus, Ohio, with the merger of the Knights of Labor Trade Assembly No. 135 and the National Progressive Miners Union.

JANUARY 23
1913 Some 10,000 clothing workers strike in Rochester, N.Y., for the eight-hour day, a 10 percent wage increase, union recognition, and extra pay for overtime and holidays. Daily parades were held throughout the clothing district and there was at least one instance of mounted police charging the crowd of strikers and arresting 25 picketers. Six people were wounded over the course of the strike and one worker, 18-year-old Ida Breiman, was shot to death by a sweatshop contractor. The strike was called off in April after manufacturers agreed not to discriminate against workers for joining a union.
1936 In Allegany County, MD, workers with the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal era public works program employing unmarried men aged 18-25, are snowbound at Fifteen Mile Creek Camp S-53 when they receive a distress call about a woman in labor who needs to get to a hospital. Twenty courageous CCC volunteers dig through miles of snow drifts until the woman is successfully able to be transported.

JANUARY 24
1935 – Krueger’s Cream Ale, the first canned beer, goes on sale in Richmond, Va.  Pabst was the second brewer in the same year to sell beer in cans, which came with opening instructions and the suggestion: “cool before serving.”

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

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