This Week in Labor History March 18-24

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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.
1937 Police evict retail clerks occupying New York Woolworth’s in fight for 40-hour week.
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.

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.
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.

MARCH 20
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.
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 ruled unanimously that employers could not exclude women from (the often highest paying) jobs where exposure to toxic chemicals could potentially damage a fetus.

MARCH 21
1853 American Labor Union founded.

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.
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-long 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.

MARCH 23
1932 Norris-La Guardia Act restricts injunctions against unions and bans yellow dog contracts, which require newly-hired workers to declare they are not union members and will not join one.
1970 Five days into the Post Office’s first mass work stoppage in 195 years, President Nixon declares a national emergency and orders 30,000 troops to New York City to break the strike. The troops didn’t have a clue how to sort and deliver mail: a settlement came a few days later.
2005 Fifteen workers die, another 170 are injured when a series of explosions rip through BP’s Texas City refinery.

MARCH 24
1900 Groundbreaking on the first section of the New York City subway system, from City Hall to the Bronx.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder Union Communication Services)

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