This week in labor history: March 16-22

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MARCH 16
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.

MARCH 17
1890 – The leadership of the American Federation of Labor selects the Carpenters union to lead the eight-hour 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 request 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.

MARCH 18
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 New York Woolworth’s in fight for 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.

MARCH 19
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.

MARCH 20
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.

MARCH 21
1853 – American Labor Union is founded. Note that this is not the ALU founded in 1902 that began as the Western Labor Union.

MARCH 22
1886 – Mark Twain, a lifelong member of the Int’l Typographical Union (now part of CWA), speaks in Hartford, Conn., extolling the Knights of Labor’s commitment to fair treatment of all workers, regardless of race or gender.
1941 – The Grand Coulee Dam on Washington state’s Columbia River begins operation after a decade of construction. Eight thousand workers labored on the project; 77 died.
1982 – Eight hundred striking workers at Brown & Sharpe in Kingstown, R.I. are tear-gassed by state and local police in what was to become a losing 17-year fight by the Machinists union.
1990 – A 32-day lockout of major league baseball players ends with an agreement to raise the minimum league salary from $68,000 to $100,000 and to study revenue sharing between owners and players.
1998 – A bitter six-and-a-half-year UAW strike at Caterpillar Inc. ends. The strike and settlement, which included a two-tier wage system and other concessions, deeply divided the union.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder Union Communication Services)

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