This week in labor history: March 1-7

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MARCH 1
1900 The Granite Cutters National Union begins what is to be a successful nationwide strike for the eight-hour day. Also won: union recognition, wage increases, a grievance procedure and a minimum wage scale.
1936 Sailors aboard the S.S. California, dock in San Pedro, Calif., refuse to cast off the lines and allow the ship to sail until their wages are increased and overtime paid. The job action lasts three days before the Secretary of Labor intervenes and an agreement is reached. The leaders were fined two days’ pay, fired and blacklisted, although charges of mutiny were dropped. The action marked the beginnings of the National Maritime Union.
1936 After five years of labor by 21,000 workers, 112 of whom were killed on the job, the Hoover Dam (Boulder Dam) is completed and turned over to the government. Citizens were so mad at President Herbert Hoover, for whom the dam had been named, that it was later changed to Boulder Dam, being located near Boulder City, Nev.
1937 CIO president John L. Lewis and U.S. Steel President Myron Taylor sign a landmark contract in which the bitterly anti-union company officially recognized the CIO as sole negotiator for the company’s unionized workers. Included: the adoption of overtime pay, the 40-hour work week and a big pay hike.

MARCH 2
1913 Postal workers granted eight-hour day.
1990 More than 6,000 drivers strike Greyhound Lines, most lose their jobs to strikebreakers after company declares “impasse” in negotiations.

MARCH 3
1906 The local lumber workers’ union in Humboldt County, Calif., founded the Union Labor Hospital Association to establish a hospital for union workers in the county. The hospital became an important community facility that was financed and run by the local Labor Movement.
1931 The Davis-Bacon Act took effect today. It orders contractors on federally financed or assisted construction projects to pay wage rates equal to those prevailing in local construction trades.

MARCH 4
1913 President William Howard Taft signs legislation creating the Department of Labor. Former United Mine Workers Secretary Treasurer William B. Wilson is named to lead the new department.
1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt names a woman, Frances Perkins, to be Secretary of Labor. Perkins became the first female cabinet member in U.S. history.
1989 Machinists strike Eastern Airlines, are soon joined by flight attendants and pilots in the nationwide walkout. Owner Frank Lorenzo refuses to consider the unions’ demands; Eastern ultimately went out of business.

MARCH 5
1770 British soldiers, quartered in the homes of colonists, take the jobs of working people when jobs were scarce. On this date, grievances of rope makers against the soldiers led to a fight. Soldiers shot down Crispus Attucks, a black colonist, then others, in what became known as the Boston Massacre. Attucks is considered the first casualty in the American Revolution.

MARCH 6
1886 The Knights of Labor picket to protest the practices of the Southwestern Railroad system, and the company’s chief, high-flying Wall Street financier Jay Gould. Some 9,000 workers walked off the job, halting service on 5,000 miles of track. The workers held out for two months, many suffering from hunger, before they finally returned to work.
1930 With the Great Depression underway, hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers demonstrate in some 30 cities and towns; close to 100,000 filled Union Square in New York City and were attacked by mounted police.
1970 The federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act is enacted.
1972 Predominantly young workers at a Lordstown, Ohio, GM assembly plant stage a wildcat strike, largely in objection to the grueling work pace. At 101.6 cars per hour, their assembly line was believed to be the fastest in the world.

MARCH 7
1932 Three thousand unemployed auto workers brave the cold in Dearborn, Mich., to demand jobs and relief from Henry Ford. The marchers got too close to the gate and were gassed. After re-grouping, they were sprayed with water and shot at. Four men died and 60 were wounded.
1937 Steel Workers Organizing Committee — soon to become the United Steelworkers — signs its first-ever contract, with Carnegie-Illinois, for $5 a day in wages, benefits.
1942 IWW founder and Labor organizer Lucy Parsons dies.
1988 Hollywood writers represented by the Writers Guild of America strike against 200 television and movie studios over residuals payments and creative rights. The successful strike lasted 150 days, one of the longest in industry history.

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

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