This week in labor history: July 13-19

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JULY 13
1934 – Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union organized in Tyronza, Ark.

1995 – Detroit newspaper workers begin 19-month strike against Gannett, Knight-Ridder. The strike was to become a lockout, which lasted four years more.

JULY 14
1877 – The first national strike started at Baltimore’s Camden Yards Station when workers on the B & O Railroad refused to work after a 10 percent wage cut. Eventually involving hundreds of thousands of workers and allies across the U.S., the strike was crushed by federal troops called to action by President Hayes.

1912 – Woody Guthrie, writer of “This Land is Your Land” and “Union Maid,” born in Okemah, Okla.

1921 – Italian immigrants and anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are convicted in Massachusetts of murder and payroll robbery — unfairly, most historians agree — after a two-month trial, and are eventually executed. Fifty years after their deaths the state’s governor issued a proclamation saying they had been treated unfairly and that “any disgrace should be forever removed from their names.”

JULY 15
1917 – Some 50,000 lumberjacks strike for eight-hour day.

1931 – Ralph Gray, an African-American sharecropper and leader of the Share Croppers Union, is murdered in Camp Hill, Ala.

1959 – A half-million steelworkers begin what is to become a 116-day strike that shutters nearly every steel mill in the country. Management wanted to dump contract language limiting its ability to change the number of workers assigned to a task or to introduce new work rules or machinery that would result in reduced hours or fewer employees.

JULY 16
1919 – Ten thousand workers strike Chicago’s Int’l Harvester operations.

1920 – Martial law declared in strike by longshoremen in Galveston, Texas.

1934 – San Francisco Longshoremen’s strike spreads, becomes four-day general strike.

JULY 17
1944 – Two ammunition ships explode at Port Chicago, Calif., killing 322, including 202 African-Americans assigned by the Navy to handle explosives. It was the worst home-front disaster of World War II. The resulting refusal of 258 African-Americans to return to the dangerous work underpinned the trial and conviction of 50 of the men in what is called the Port Chicago Mutiny.

JULY 18
1883 – The Brotherhood of Telegraphers begins an unsuccessful three-week strike against the Western Union Telegraph Co.

1919 – Some 35,000 Chicago stockyard workers strike.

1969 – Hospital workers win 113-day union recognition strike in Charleston, S.C.

JULY 19
1848 – Women’s Rights Convention opens in Seneca Falls, N.Y.  Delegates adopt a Declaration of Women’s Rights and call for women’s suffrage.

1940 – An amendment to the 1939 Hatch Act, a federal law whose main provision prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity, is amended to also cover state and local employees whose salaries include any federal funds.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder Union Communication Services)

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