This week in labor history: March 30-April 5

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MARCH 30
1918 Chicago stockyard workers win eight-hour day.
1930 At the height of the Great Depression, 35,000 unemployed march in New York’s Union Square. Police beat many demonstrators, injuring 100.
1970 The federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act is enacted.
1990 Harry Bridges, Australian-born dock union leader, dies at age 88. He helped form and lead the Int’l Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) for 40 years. A Bridges quote: “The most important word in the language of the working class is ‘solidarity.’”
2012 Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild announce that the membership has voted to merge with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, creating the 150,000-member SAG-AFTRA.

MARCH 31
1840 President Martin Van Buren issues a broadly-applicable executive order granting the 10-hour day to all government employees engaged in manual labor.
1883 Cowboys earning $40 per month begin what is to become an unsuccessful two-and-a-half-month strike for higher wages at five ranches in the Texas Panhandle.
1930 Construction begins on the three-mile Hawk’s Nest Tunnel through Gauley Mountain, W. Va., as part of a hydroelectric project. A congressional hearing years later was to report that 476 laborers in the mostly black, migrant workforce of 3,000 were exposed to silica rock dust in the course of their 10-hour-a-day, six-days-a-week shifts and died of silicosis. Some researchers say that more than 1,000 died.
1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs legislation establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps to help alleviate suffering during the Depression. By the time the program ended after the start of World War II it had provided jobs for more than six million men and boys. The average enrollee gained 11 pounds in his first three months.
1941 Wisconsin state troopers fail to get scabs across the picket line to break a 76-day Allis-Chalmers strike in Milwaukee led by UAW Local 248. The plant remained closed until the government negotiated a compromise.
1995 Federal judge Sonia Sotomayor, later to become a Supreme Court justice, issues an injunction against baseball team owners to end a 232-day work stoppage.

APRIL 1
1853 Many believe that Cincinnati on this day became the first U.S. city to pay fire fighters a regular salary. Others say no, it was Boston, back in 1678, exact date unknown.
1898 United Mine Workers of America win eight-hour day.
1907 San Francisco laundry workers strike for wage increases and an eight-hour day.
1913 What was to become a 13-week strike begins today in Hopedale, Mass., when hundreds of workers seeking higher pay and a nine-hour day gathered in the street near the Draper Corp. loom-making plant. The president of the company declared: “We will spend $1 million to break this strike,” and, in fact, did, aided by hundreds of sworn “special policemen” with clubs. Police were drawn from a three-state area as well.
1924 Unionized miners at West Virginia’s Coal River Colliery Co. (CRC) strike for union scale. CRC was an investment venture of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE), with shares owned by BLE members.
1929 Strike of cotton mill workers begins in Gastonia, N.C. During the strike, police raided the strikers’ tent colony; the chief of police was killed. The strike leaders were framed for murder and convicted, but later freed.
1946 Some 400,000 members of the United Mine Workers strike for higher wages and employer contributions to the union’s health and welfare fund. President Truman seizes the mines.
1951 Forty thousand textile workers strike in cotton and rayon mills of six southern states, seeking higher pay, sickness and accident insurance, and pensions.
1963 Longest newspaper strike in U.S. history, 114 days, ends in New York City. Workers at nine newspapers were involved.
1972 Major league baseball players begin what is to become a 13-day strike, ending when owners agree to increase pension fund payments and to add salary arbitration to the collective bargaining agreement.
1980 Eleven-day strike by 34,000 New York City transit workers begins, halts bus and subway service in all five boroughs before strikers return to work with a 17 percent raise over two years plus a cost-of-living adjustment.
1989 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers granted a charter by the AFL-CIO.
1990 The United Mine Workers of America dedicates the John L. Lewis Mining and Labor Museum at Lewis’ boyhood home in Lucas, Iowa.
1992 Players begin the first strike in the 75-year history of the National Hockey League. They win major improvements in the free agency system and other areas of conflict, and end the walkout after 10 days.

APRIL 2
1909 The Union Label Trades Department is chartered by the American Federation of Labor. Its mission: promote the products and services produced in America by union members, especially those products identified by a union label, shop card, store card, and service button.
1923 The Supreme Court declares unconstitutional a 1918 Washington, D.C., law establishing a minimum wage for women.
1995 Major league baseball players end a 232-day strike, which began the prior August 12 and led to the cancellation of the 1994 postseason and the World Series.

APRIL 3
1913 Some 20,000 textile mill strikers in Paterson, N.J., gather on the green in front of the house of Pietro Botto, the socialist mayor of nearby Haledon, to receive encouragement by novelist Upton Sinclair, journalist John Reed and speakers from the Wobblies. Today, the Botto House is home to the American Labor Museum.
1954 UAW Local 833 strikes the Kohler bathroom fixtures company in Kohler, Wisc. The strike ends six years later after Kohler is found guilty of refusing to bargain, agrees to reinstate 1,400 strikers and pay them $4.5 million in back pay and pension credits.
1968 Martin Luther King Jr. returns to Memphis to stand with striking AFSCME sanitation workers. This evening, he delivers his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in a church packed with union members and others. He is assassinated the following day.

APRIL 4
1907 The first issue of The Labor Review, a “weekly magazine for organized workers,” was published in Minneapolis. Edna George, a cigar packer in Minneapolis, won $10 in gold for suggesting the name. The Labor Review has been published continuously since then, currently as a monthly publication.
1968 Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, where he had been supporting a sanitation workers’ strike. In the wake of this tragedy, riots break out in many cities, including Washington, D.C.
1989 Some 1,700 United Mine Workers members in Virginia and West Virginia beat back concessions demanded by Pittston Coal Co.
2016 The Democratic governors of New York and California sign legislation enacting phased-in $15-per-hour minimum wages for workers in their states. Since 2009, the federal minimum had been stagnating at $7.25.

APRIL 5
1956 Columnist Victor Riesel, a crusader against mob infiltration of unions, was blinded in New York City when an assailant threw sulfuric acid in his face. He was also an FBI informer for decades, a proponent of the McCarthy era blacklisting that weakened unions for over a generation, and a crusader against unions connecting with anti-war student activism in the 1960’s and 70’s – 1956
2001 Some 14,000 teachers strike Hawaii schools, colleges.
2010 – A huge underground explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, W. Va., kills 29 miners. It was the worst U.S. mine disaster in 40 years. The Massey Energy Co. mine had been cited for two safety infractions the day before the blast; 57 the month before, and 1,342 in the previous five years. Six years later Massey’s CEO at the time of the disaster, Don Blankenship, was sentenced to one year in jail.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder Union Communication Services)

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