This week in labor history: March 15-21

1887 Official formation of the Painters Int’l Union.
1917 Supreme Court approves Eight-Hour Act under threat of a national railway strike.
1948 – Bituminous coal miners begin nationwide strike, demanding adoption of a pension plan.
2002 The Wall Street Journal begins a series alleging insider stock deals at the union-owned Union Labor Life Insurance Co. (ULLICO). After three years a settlement was reached with Robert Georgine, a building trades leader serving as ULLICO president and CEO, requiring him to repay about $2.6 million in profits from the sale of ULLICO stock, forfeit $10 million in compensation and make other payments worth about $4.4 million. All but two of the company’s directors were said to have profited from the deals.

1960 The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) is formed in New York to represent New York City public school teachers and, later, other education workers in the city.

1890 The leadership of the American Federation of Labor selects the Carpenters union to lead the eight-hour workday movement. Carpenters throughout the country strike in April; by May 1, some 46,000 carpenters in 137 cities and towns have achieved shorter hours.
1894 A U.S.-China treaty prevents Chinese laborers from entering the U.S.
1968 Staffers at San Francisco progressive rock station KMPX-FM strike, citing corporate control over what music is played and harassment over hair and clothing styles, among other things. The Rolling Stones, Joan Baez, the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and other musicians demand that the station not play their music as long as the station is run by strikebreakers.
2000 Boeing Co. and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) come to terms on a new contract, settling the largest white-collar walkout in U.S. history. SPEEA represented some 22,000 workers, of whom 19,000 honored picket lines for 40 days.

1834 Six laborers in Dorset, England — the “Tolpuddle Martyrs” — are banished to the Australian penal colony for seven years for forming a union, the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers.  Some 800,000 residents of the United Kingdom signed petitions calling for their release.
1937 Police evict retail clerks occupying the New York Woolworth’s in the fight for a 40-hour week.
1970 The Post Office’s first mass work stoppage in 195 years begins in Brooklyn and Manhattan and spreads to 210,000 of the nation’s 750,000 postal employees. Mail service is virtually paralyzed in several cities, and President Nixon declares a state of emergency. A settlement comes after two weeks.
1997 The Los Angeles City Council passes the first living wage ordinance in California. The ordinance required almost all city contractors to pay a minimum wage of $8.50 an hour, or $7.25 if the employer was contributing at least $1.25 toward health benefits, with annual adjustments for inflation.
2005 Walmart agrees to pay a record $11 million to settle a civil immigration case for using undocumented immigrants to do overnight cleaning at stores in 21 states.
2010 As the Great Recession continues, President Obama signs a $17.6 billion job-creation measure a day after it is passed by Congress.

1917 U.S. Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the Adamson Act, a federal law that established an eight-hour workday, with overtime pay, for interstate railway workers. Congress passed the law a year earlier to avert a nationwide rail strike.
1962 In an effort to block massive layoffs and end a strike, New York City moves to condemn and seize Fifth Avenue Coach, the largest privately-owned bus company in the world.
1981 Three workers are killed, five injured during a test of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

1865 Michigan authorizes formation of workers’ cooperatives. Thirteen are formed in the state over a 25-year period. Labor reform organizations were advocating “cooperation” over “competitive” capitalism following the Civil War, and several thousand cooperatives opened for business across the country during this era. Participants envisioned a world free from conflict where workers would receive the full value of their labor and freely exercise democratic citizenship in the political and economic realms.
1905 Fifty-eight workers are killed, 150 injured when a boiler explosion levels the R.B. Grover  shoe factory in Brockton, Mass. The four-story wooden building collapsed and the ruins burst into flames, incinerating workers trapped in the wreckage.
1908 The American Federation of Labor issues a charter to a new Building Trades Department. Trades unions had formed a Structural Building Trades Alliance several years earlier to work out jurisdictional conflicts, but lacked the power to enforce Alliance rulings.
1956 Members of the Int’l Union of Electrical Workers reach agreement with Westinghouse Electric Corp., end a 156-day strike.
1991 The U.S. Supreme Court rules unanimously that employers could not exclude women from (the often highest paying) jobs where exposure to toxic chemicals could potentially damage a fetus.
1997 Three hundred family farmers at a National Pork Producers Council meeting in Iowa protest factory-style hog farms.

1853 American Labor Union founded. Note that this is not the ALU founded in 1902 that began as the Western Labor Union.

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


  • Thank you for the labor history. We need more of it.We also need some labor analysts by Professor Richard Wolff.

  • Thank you for the labor history. We need more of it.We also need some labor analysts by Professor Richard Wolff.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top