This Week in Labor History July 24-30

1968 The United Auto Workers and the Teamsters form the Alliance for Labor Action (ALA), later to be joined by several smaller unions.
2008 The U.S. minimum wage increased to $6.55 per hour today. The original minimum, set in 1938 by the Fair Labor Standards Act, was 25¢ per hour.
2009 U.S. minimum wage rose to $7.25 per hour, up from $6.55.

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.
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, Ill., 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.

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.
1912 Battle of Mucklow, W.Va., coal strike. An estimated 100,000 shots were fired; 12 miners and four guards were killed.
1948 President Truman issues Executive Order 9981, directing equality of opportunity in armed forces.
1992 The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) took effect today.

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

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, improved working conditions ends after six months, with the workers’ demands unmet.
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.

1891 The Coast Seamen’s Union merges with the Steamship Sailors’ Union to form the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific.
1903 A preliminary delegation from Mother Jones’ March of the Mill Children from Philadelphia to President Theodore Roosevelt’s summer home in Oyster Bay, Long Island, publicizing the harsh conditions of child labor, arrives today. They are not allowed through the gates.
1970 Following a five-year table grape boycott, Delano-area growers file into the United Farm Workers union hall in Delano, Calif., to sign their first union contracts.

1965 President Lyndon Johnson signs the Social Security Act of 1965, establishing Medicare and Medicaid.
1975 Former Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa disappears. Declared legally dead in 1982, his body has never been found.
1999 United Airlines agrees to offer domestic-partner benefits to employees and retirees worldwide.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder Union Communication Services)

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