1842 – First anthracite coal strike in U.S.
1862 – Labor organizer Ella Reeve “Mother” Bloor born on Staten Island, N.Y. Among her activities: investigating child labor in glass factories and mines, and working undercover in meat packing plants to verify for federal investigators the nightmarish working conditions that author Upton Sinclair had revealed in The Jungle.
1867 – The Pacific Mail Steamship Co. fires all employees who had been working an eight-hour day, then joins with other owners to form the “Ten-Hour League Society” for the purpose of uniting all mechanics “willing to work at the old rates, neither unjust to the laborers nor ruinous to the capital and enterprise of the city and state.” The effort failed.
1905 – Founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W., or Wobblies) concludes in Chicago. Charles O. Sherman, a former American Federation of Labor organizer, is elected president.
1966 – Some 35,000 members of the Machinists union begin what is to become a 43-day strike that shuts down five major U.S. airlines, about three-fifths of domestic air traffic. The airlines were thriving, and wages were a key issue in the fight.
1918 – The worst rail accident in U.S. history occurs when two trains pulled by 80-ton locomotives collided head-on at Dutchman’s Curve in west Nashville, Tenn. One-hundred-one people died, another 171 were injured.
1923 – New England Telephone “girls” strike for seven-hour workday, $27 weekly pay after four years’ service.
1935 – New York City subway system managers in the Bronx attempt to make cleaning crews on the IRT line work faster by forcing the use of a 14-inch squeegee instead of the customary 10-inch tool. Six workers are fired for insubordination; a two-day walkout by the Transport Workers Union wins reversal of the directive and the workers’ reinstatement.
1953 – Fourteen volunteer fire fighters and one Forest Service employee die fighting the Rattlesnake wildfire in California’s Mendocino National Forest. The blaze was set by an arsonist.
1968 – United Packinghouse, Food & Allied Workers merge with Amalgamated Meat Cutters & Butcher Workmen.
2001 – Five thousand demonstrators rally at the state capitol in Columbia, S.C., in support of the “Charleston Five,” labor activists charged with felony rioting during a police attack on a 2000 longshoremen’s picket of a non-union crew unloading a ship.
1875 – Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and civil rights activist, born.
1894 – Some 14,000 federal and state troops finally succeed in putting down the strike against the Pullman Palace Car Co., which had been peaceful until July 5, when federal troops intervened in Chicago, against the repeated protests of the governor and Chicago’s mayor. A total of 34 American Railway Union members were killed by troops over the course of the strike.
1902 – A powerful explosion rips through the Rolling Mill coal mine in Johnstown, Pa., killing 112 miners, 83 of whom were immigrants from Poland and Slovakia.
1916 – The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce holds a mass meeting of more than 2,000 merchants to organize what was to become a frontal assault on union strength and the closed shop. The failure of wages to keep up with inflation after the 1906 earthquake had spurred multiple strikes in the city.
1946 – Sidney Hillman dies at age 59. He led the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, was a key figure in the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations and was a close advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
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.
1917 – Bisbee, Ariz., deports Wobblies; 1,186 miners 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 was future horror movie star (Frankenstein’s Monster) and union activist Boris Karloff.
1934 – Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union organize 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.
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 — 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.”
(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.)