This week in labor history: January 27-February 2

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JANUARY 27
1734 – New York City maids organize to improve working conditions.
1891 – Mine explosion in Mount Pleasant, Pa., leaves more than 100 dead.
1920 – First meeting of the Int’l Labor Organization (ILO).
1920 – Kansas miners strike against compulsory arbitration.
1950 – A three-cent postage stamp is issued, honoring AFL founder Samuel Gompers.
1969 – A group of Detroit African-American auto workers known as the Eldon Avenue Axle Plant Revolutionary Union Movement leads a wildcat strike against racism and bad working conditions. They are critical of both automakers and the UAW, condemning the seniority system and grievance procedures as racist.
2014 – Pete Seeger dies in New York at age 94. A musician and activist, he was a revered figure on the American left, persecuted during the McCarthy era for his support of progressive, Labor and civil rights causes. A prolific songwriter, he is generally credited with popularizing the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” He actively participated in demonstrations until shortly before his death.
2014 – Members of the Northwestern University football team announce they are seeking union recognition. A majority signed cards, later delivered to the National Labor Relations Board office in Chicago, asking for representation by the College Athletes Players Association.

JANUARY 28
1861 – American Miners’ Association formed.
1932 – First U.S. unemployment compensation law enacted, in Wisconsin.

JANUARY 29
1834 – Responding to unrest among Irish laborers building the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, President Andrew Jackson orders first use of American troops to suppress a labor dispute.
1889 – Six thousand railway workers strike for a union and the end of the 18-hour workday.
1936 – Sit-down strike helps establish United Rubber Workers as a national union, Akron, Ohio.
1957 – American Train Dispatchers Department granted a charter by the AFL-CIO – 1957
1981 – Dolly Parton hits number one on the record charts with “9 to 5,” her anthem to the daily grind.
2009 – The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is signed into law by President Obama. Ledbetter worked for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. at a wage rate much less than men doing the same job; the statute of limitations for filing a claim of discrimination expired by the time she learned of the unequal treatment. The Fair Pay Act stipulates that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination resets with each new paycheck affected by that discriminatory action.

JANUARY 30
1882 – Franklin Delano Roosevelt is born in Hyde Park, N.Y. He was elected president of the United States four times starting in 1932. His New Deal programs helped America survive the Great Depression. His legislative achievements included the creation of the National Labor Relations Act, which allows workers to organize unions, bargain collectively, and strike.

JANUARY 31
1938 – Some 12,000 pecan shellers in San Antonio, Texas — mostly Latino women — walk off their jobs at 400 factories in what was to become a three-month strike against wage cuts. Strike leader Emma Tenayuca was eventually hounded out of the state.
1940 – Ida M. Fuller is the first retiree to receive an old-age monthly benefit check under the new Social Security law. She paid in $24.75 between 1937 and 1939 on an income of $2,484; her first check was for $22.54.
1978 – After scoring successes with representation elections conducted under the protective oversight of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, the United Farm Workers of America officially ends its historic table grape, lettuce and wine boycotts.
2002 – Union and student pressure forces Harvard University to adopt new labor policies raising wages for lowest-paid workers.
2005 – Five months after Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans school board fires every teacher in the district in what the United Teachers of New Orleans sees as an effort to break the union and privatize the school system.

FEBRUARY 1
1864 – Led by 23-year-old Kate Mullany, the Collar Laundry Union forms in Troy, N.Y., and raises earnings for female laundry workers from $2 to $14 a week.
1867 – Bricklayers begin working eight-hour days.
1913 – Some 25,000 Paterson, N.J., silk workers strike for eight-hour workday and improved working conditions. Eighteen hundred were arrested over the course of the six-month walkout, led by the Wobblies. They returned to work on their employers’ terms.

FEBRUARY 2
1917 – Three hundred newsboys organize to protest a cut in pay by the Minneapolis Tribune.
1977 – Legal secretary Iris Rivera fired for refusing to make coffee; secretaries across Chicago protest.
1987 – The 170-day lockout (although management called it a strike) of 22,000 steelworkers by USX Corp. ends with a pay cut but greater job security. It was the longest work stoppage in the history of the U.S. steel industry.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder Union Communication Services)

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