This week in labor history: July 22-28

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JULY 22
1886 – Newly unionized brewery workers in San Francisco, mostly German socialists, declare victory after the city’s breweries give in to their demands for free beer, the union shop, freedom to live anywhere (they had typically been required to live in the breweries), a 10-hour day, 6-day week, and a board of arbitration.
1916 – A bomb is set off during a “Preparedness Day” parade in San Francisco, killing 10 and injuring 40 more. Tom Mooney, a labor organizer, and Warren Billings, a shoe worker, were convicted of the crime, but both were pardoned 23 years later.

JULY 23
1892 – Anarchist Alexander Berkman shoots and stabs but fails to kill steel magnate Henry Clay Frick in an effort to avenge the Homestead massacre 18 days earlier, in which nine strikers were killed. Berkman also tried to use what was, in effect, a suicide bomb, but it didn’t detonate.
1913 – Northern Michigan copper miners strike for union recognition, higher wages and eight-hour day. By the time they threw in the towel the following April, 1,100 had been arrested on various charges and Western Federation of Miners President Charles Moyer had been shot, beaten and forced out of town.

JULY 24
1968 – The United Auto Workers and the Teamsters form the Alliance for Labor Action (ALA), later to be joined by several smaller unions. The ALA’s agenda included support of the civil rights movement and opposition to the war in Vietnam. It disbanded after four years following the death of UAW President Walter Reuther.

JULY 25
1877 – Workers stage a general strike — believed to be the nation’s first — in St. Louis, in support of striking railroad workers. The successful strike was ended when some 3,000 federal troops and 5,000 deputized special police killed at least 18 people in skirmishes around the city.
1890 – New York garment workers win closed shop and firing of scabs after seven-month strike.
1937 – Fifteen “living dead women” testify before the Illinois Industrial Commission. They were “Radium Girls,” women who died prematurely after working at clock and watch factories, where they were told to wet small paintbrushes in their mouths so they could dip them in radium to paint dials. A Geiger counter passed over graves in a cemetery near Ottawa, Illinois still registers the presence of radium.
2005 – The Teamsters and Service Employees unions break from the AFL-CIO during the federation’s 50th convention to begin the Change to Win coalition, ultimately comprised of seven unions (four by 2011: SEIU, Teamsters, UFCW and the UFW). They say they want more emphasis on organizing and less on electoral politics.

JULY 26
1877 – In Chicago, 30 workers are killed by federal troops, more than 100 wounded at the “Battle of the Viaduct” during the Great Railroad Strike.
1894 – President Grover Cleveland appoints a United States Strike Committee to investigate the causes of the Pullman strike and the subsequent strike by the American Railway Union. Later that year, the commission issues its report, absolving the strikers and blaming Pullman and the railroads for the conflict.
1912 – Battle of Mucklow, W.Va., in coal strike. An estimated 100,000 shots were fired; 12 miners and four guards were killed.
1992 – The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) takes effect. It requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities and bans discrimination against such workers.

JULY 27
1869 – William Sylvis, founder of the National Labor Union, died.

JULY 28
1869 – Women shoemakers in Lynn, Mass., create Daughters of St. Crispin, demand pay equal to that of men.
1901 – Harry Bridges is born in Australia. He came to America as a sailor at age 19 and went on to help form and lead the militant Int’l Longshore and Warehouse Union for more than 40 years.
1913 – A strike by Paterson, N.J., silk workers for an eight-hour day and improved working conditions ends after six months, with the workers’ demands unmet. During the course of the strike, approximately 1,800 strikers were arrested, including Wobbly leaders Big Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.
1932 – Federal troops burn the shantytown built near the U.S. Capitol by thousands of unemployed WWI veterans, camping there to demand a bonus they had been promised but never received.
2002 – Nine miners are rescued in Sommerset, Pa., after being trapped for 77 hours 240 feet underground in the flooded Quecreek Mine.

(Labor History is provided by Union Communications Services, since 1981 North America’s premier publisher and distributor of newsletters, leadership training programs for shop stewards and officers, website materials and other powerful use-it-today strategies and tools to help leaders and activists build union power. Reach them at unionist.com.)

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