This week in labor history: January 6-12

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JANUARY 6
1882 – The Toronto Trades and Labour Council endorses the principle of equal pay for equal work between men and women.
1916 – Eight thousand workers strike at Youngstown Sheet & Tube. The following day the strikers’ wives and other family members join in the protest. Company guards use tear gas bombs and fired into the crowd; three strikers are killed, 25 wounded.

JANUARY 7
1892 – An explosion at Osage Coal and Mining Company’s Mine Number 11 near Krebs, Okla., kills 100, injures 150 when an untrained worker accidentally sets off a stash of explosives.
1939 – Wobbly Tom Mooney, accused of a murder by bombing in San Francisco, pardoned and freed after 22 years in San Quentin.
2009 – The presidents of 12 of the nation’s largest unions meet and call for reuniting the American Labor Movement, which split into two factions in 2005 when seven unions left the AFL-CIO and formed a rival federation. The meeting followed signals from President-elect Barack Obama that he would prefer dealing with a united movement, rather than a fractured one that often had two competing voices. Unions from both sides of the split participated in the meeting. The reunification effort failed, but by mid-2013 four of the unions had rejoined the AFL-CIO.

JANUARY 8
1811 – The largest slave revolt in U.S. history begins on Louisiana sugar plantations. Slaves armed with hand tools marched toward New Orleans, setting plantations and crops on fire, building their numbers to an estimated 300-500 as they went. The uprising lasted for two days before being brutally suppressed by the military.
1864 – Birthdate of Mary Kenney O’Sullivan, first AFL woman organizer. In 1880 she organized the Woman’s Bookbinder Union and in 1903 was a founder of the National Women’s Trade Union League.
1912 – American Federation of Labor charters a Mining Department.
1920 – The AFL Iron and Steel Organizing Committee ends the “Great Steel Strike.” Some 350,000 to 400,000 steelworkers had been striking for more than three months, demanding union recognition. The strike failed.

JANUARY 9
1918 – A Mediation Commission appointed by President Woodrow Wilson finds that “industry’s failure to deal with unions” is the prime reason for labor strife in war industries.
1922 – Eighty thousand Chicago construction workers strike.
1939 – Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union leads Missouri Highway sit-down of 1,700 families. They had been evicted from their homes so landowners wouldn’t have to share government crop subsidy payments with them.
1954 – Former Hawaii Territorial Gov. Ingram Steinbeck opposes statehood for Hawaii, saying left wing unions have an “economic stranglehold” on the islands. Hawaii was to be granted statehood five years later.
2003 – The administration of George W. Bush declares federal airport security screeners will not be allowed to unionize so as not to “complicate” the war on terrorism. The decision was challenged and eventually overturned after Bush left office.

JANUARY 10
1860 – In what is described as the worst industrial disaster in state history, the Pemberton Mill in Lawrence, Mass., collapses, trapping 900 workers, mostly Irish women. More than 100 die, scores more injured in the collapse and ensuing fire. Too much machinery had been crammed into the building.
1914 – Wobbly organizer and singer Joe Hill allegedly kills two men during a grocery store hold-up in Utah. He ultimately is executed by firing squad for the crime despite much speculation that he was framed. His last word was “Fire!”
1980 – Former AFL-CIO President George Meany dies at age 85. The one-time plumber led the labor federation from the time of the AFL and CIO merger in 1955 until shortly before his death.
2004 – The Supreme Court lets stand implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) despite the lack of an Environmental Impact Statement.

JANUARY 11
1912 – The IWW-organized “Bread & Roses” textile strike of 32,000 women and children begins in Lawrence, Mass. It lasted 10 weeks and ended in victory. The first millworkers to walk out were Polish women, who, upon collecting their pay, exclaimed that they had been cheated and promptly abandoned their looms.
1918 – Notice in the Minneapolis Labor Review: “Minneapolis Ice Wagon Drivers’ Union will hold an exceptionally interesting meeting Sunday, at 16 South 5th St. A jazz band, dancing, boxing and good speaking are among the attractions.”
1937 – Nearly two weeks into a sit-down strike at GM’s Fisher Body Plant No. 2 in Flint, Mich., workers battle police when they try to prevent the strikers from receiving food deliveries from thousands of supporters on the outside. Sixteen strikers and spectators and 11 police were injured. Most of the strikers were hit by buckshot fired by police riot guns; the police were injured principally by thrown nuts, bolts, door hinges and other auto parts. The incident became known as the “Battle of the Running Bulls”
1995 – National Hockey League owners end a player lockout that had gone for three months and ten days. A key issue was owner insistence on a salary cap, which they won.
2002 – Ford Motor Co. announces it will eliminate 35,000 jobs while discontinuing four models and closing five plants.

JANUARY 12
1876 – Novelist Jack London is born. His classic definition of a scab – someone who would cross a picket line and take a striker’s job: “After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, the vampire, He had some awful substance left with which He made a scab. A scab is a two-legged animal with a cork-screw soul, a water-logged brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles.”
1919 – Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson orders police to raid an open-air mass meeting of shipyard workers in an attempt to prevent a general strike. Workers were brutally beaten. The strike began the following month, with 60,000 workers walking out in solidarity with some 25,000 metal tradesmen.
1942 – President Roosevelt creates the National War Labor Board to mediate labor disputes during World War II. Despite the fact that 12 million of the nation’s workers were women – to rise to 18 million by war’s end – the panel consisted entirely of men.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder Union Communication Services)

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