This week in labor history: January 31-February 6


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 force 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.

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 an 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.
1968 The federal minimum wage increases to $1.60 per hour.

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.

1908 The U.S. Supreme Court rules the United Hatters Union violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by organizing a nationwide boycott of Danbury Hatters of Connecticut.
1941 U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Wages and Hours (later Fair Labor Standards) Act banning child labor and establishing the 40-hour workweek.
1971 An explosion at a Thiokol chemical plant near Woodbine, Georgia kills 29 workers, seriously injures 50.  An investigation found that contributing factors to the explosion were mislabeled chemicals, poor storage procedures and insufficient fire protection.

1825 The Ohio legislature authorizes construction of the 249-mile Miami and Erie Canal, to connect Toledo to Cincinnati. Local historians say “Irish immigrants, convicts and local farmers used picks, shovels and wheelbarrows,” at 30 cents per day, to construct the 249-mile-long waterway.
1869 “Big Bill” Haywood, leader of the Western Federation of Miners and founder of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), born on this day in Salt Lake City, Utah.
1913 Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man launched the 1955 Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott and the birth of the civil rights movement, is born in Tuskegee, Ala.
1932 Unemployment demonstrations take place in major U.S. cities.
1937 Thirty-seven thousand maritime workers on the West Coast strike for wage increases.
2009 President Barack Obama imposes $500,000 caps on senior executive pay for the most distressed financial institutions receiving federal bailout money, saying Americans are upset with “executives being rewarded for failure.”

1830 First daily labor newspaper, N.Y. Daily Sentinel, begins publication.
1937 The movie “Modern Times” premieres. The tale of the tramp (Charlie Chaplin) and his paramour (Paulette Goddard) mixed slapstick comedy and social satire, as the couple struggled to overcome the difficulties of the machine age including unemployment and nerve-wracking factory work, and to get along in modern times.
1993 President Bill Clinton signs the Family and Medical Leave Act. The law requires most employers of 50 or more workers to grant up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a family or medical emergency.
2003 In what turns out to be a bad business decision, Circuit City fires 3,900 experienced salespeople because they’re making too much in commissions. Sales plummet. Six years later the company declares bankruptcy.

1896 Ironworkers from six cities meet in Pittsburgh to form the Int’l Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers of America. Their pay in Pittsburgh at the time: $2.75 for a nine-hour day.
1910 Philadelphia shirtwaist makers vote to accept arbitration offer and end walkout as Triangle Shirtwaist strike winds down. One year later 146 workers, mostly young girls ages 13 to 23, would die in a devastating fire at Triangle’s New York City sweatshop.
1919 Seattle General Strike begins. The city was run by a General Strike Committee for six days as tens of thousands of union members stopped work in support of 32,000 striking longshoremen.

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


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here