This Week in Labor History July 1-7

JULY 1
1929 Some 1,100 streetcar workers strike in New Orleans, spurring the creation of the po’ boy sandwich by a local sandwich shop owner and one-time streetcar man.
1956 In what was to be a month-long strike, 650,000 steelworkers shut down the industry while demanding a number of wage and working condition improvements.

JULY 2
1962 The first Walmart store opens in Rogers, Ark. By 2014 the company had 10,000 stores in 27 countries, under 71 different names, employing more than two million people. It is known in the U.S. and most of the other countries in which it operates for low wages and extreme anti-unionism.
1964 President Johnson signs Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forbidding employers and unions from discriminating on the basis of race, color, gender, nationality or religion.
2009 The Labor Dept. reports that U.S. employers cut 467,000 jobs over the prior month, driving the nation’s unemployment rate up to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent.

JULY 3
1835 Children, employed in the silk mills in Paterson, N.J., go on strike for an 11-hour day and six-day week. A compromise settlement resulted in a 69-hour work week.
1860 Feminist and Labor activist Charlotte Perkins Gilman born in Hartford, Conn. Her landmark study, “Women and Economics,” was radical: it called for the financial independence of women and urged a network of child care centers.

JULY 4
1876 Albert Parsons joins the Knights of Labor. He later became an anarchist and was one of the Haymarket martyrs.
1930 With the Great Depression underway, some 1,320 delegates attended the founding convention of the Unemployed Councils of the U.S.A., organized by the U.S. Communist Party.
2004 Building trades workers lay the cornerstone of the Freedom Tower on the site of the World Trade Center in New York City.

JULY 5
1894 During a strike against the Pullman Palace Car Company, which had drastically reduced wages, buildings constructed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago’s Jackson Park were set ablaze, reducing seven to ashes.
1934 West Coast Longshoremen’s Strike, Battle of Rincon Hill, San Francisco. Some 5,000 strikers fought 1,000 police, scabs and national guardsmen. Two strikers were killed, 109 people injured.  The incident, forever known as “Bloody Thursday,” led to a general strike.
1994 Fourteen fire fighters are killed battling the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain in Glenwood Springs, Colo.

JULY 6
1894 Rail union leader Eugene V. Debs is arrested during the Pullman strike, described by the New York Times as “a struggle between the greatest and most important Labor Organization and the entire railroad capital” that involved some 250,000 workers in 27 states at its peak.
1926 Transit workers in New York begin what is to be an unsuccessful three-week strike against the then-privately owned IRT subway.
1988 Explosions and fires destroy the Piper Alpha drilling platform in the North Sea, killing 167 oil workers — the worst loss of life ever in an offshore oil disaster.

JULY 7
1882 Striking New York longshoremen meet to discuss ways to keep new immigrants from scabbing. They were successful, at least for a time. On July 14, 500 newly arrived Jews marched straight from their ship to the union hall. On July 15, 250 Italian immigrants stopped scabbing on the railroad and joined the union.
1903 Mary Harris “Mother” Jones begins “The March of the Mill Children,” when, accompanied part of the way by children, she walked from Philadelphia to President Theodore Roosevelt’s home on Long Island to protest the plight of child laborers.
1910 Cloak makers begin what is to be a two-month strike against New York City sweatshops.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder Union Communication Services)

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