This week in labor history: July 18-24

JULY 11
1892 – Striking coal miners in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, dynamite barracks housing Pinkerton management thugs.
1936 – After seven years of labor by as many as 2,800 construction workers, the Triborough Bridge opens in New York. Actually a complex of three bridges, it connects the boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens. Construction began on Black Friday, 1929, and New Deal money turned it into one of the largest public works projects of the Great Depression.
1983 – A nine-year strike begins at the Ohio Crankshaft Division of Park-Ohio Industries in Cleveland. Overcoming scabs, arrests and firings, UAW Local 91 members hung on and approved a contract in 1992 with the company – now under new management – that included company-funded health and retirement benefits, as well as pay increases.

JULY 12
1917 – Bisbee, Ariz., deports Wobblies; 1,186 miners are sent into the desert in manure-laden boxcars. They had been fighting for improved safety and working conditions.
1933 – The Screen Actors Guild holds its first meeting. Among those attending: future horror movie star (Frankenstein’s monster) and union activist Boris Karloff.

JULY 13
1934 – Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union is organized in Tyronza, Ark.
1995 – Detroit newspaper workers begin a 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 starts at Baltimore’s Camden Yards Station when workers on the B&O Railroad refuse 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 – and after a two-month trial 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 an 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 International Harvester operations.
1920 – Martial law declared in strike by longshoremen in Galveston, Texas.
1934 – San Francisco Longshoremen’s strike spreads and becomes a 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.

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

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