This week in labor history: May 30 – June 5

MAY 30
1929 The Ford Motor Company signs a “Technical Assistance” contract to produce cars in the Soviet Union, and Ford workers are sent to the Soviet Union to train the labor force in the use of its parts. Many American workers who made the trip, including Walter Reuther, a tool and die maker who later was to become the UAW’s president,  returned home with a different view of the duties and privileges of the industrial laborer.
1937 In what became known as the Memorial Day Massacre, police open fire on striking steelworkers at Republic Steel in South Chicago, killing ten and wounding more than 160.
2002 The Ground Zero cleanup at the site of the World Trade Center is completed three months ahead of schedule due to the heroic efforts of more than 3,000 building tradesmen and women who had worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week for the previous eight months.

MAY 31
1943 Some 25,000 white autoworkers walk off the job at a Detroit Packard Motor Car Co. plant, heavily involved in wartime production, when three Black workers are promoted to work on a previously all-White assembly line. The Black workers were relocated and the whites returned.
1997 Rose Will Monroe, popularly known as Rosie the Riveter, dies in Clarksville, Ind. During WWII she helped bring women into the labor force.

JUNE 1
1888 The Ladies Federal Labor Union Number 2703, based in Illinois, was granted a charter from the American Federation of Labor. Women from a wide range of occupations were among the members, who ultimately were successful in coalescing women’s groups interested in suffrage, temperance, health, housing and child labor reform to win state legislation in these areas.
1898 Union carpenters win a 25-cents-per-day raise, bringing wages for a nine-hour day to $2.50.
1898 Congress passes the Erdman Act, providing for voluntary mediation or arbitration of railroad disputes and prohibiting contracts that discriminate against union labor or release employers from legal liability for on-the-job injuries.
1903 Nearly 3,500 immigrant miners begin Clifton-Morenci, Ariz., copper strike.
1916 Some 12,500 longshoremen strike the Pacific coast, from San Diego to Bellingham, Wash. Demands included a closed shop and a wage increase to 55¢ an hour for handling general cargo.
1922 As many as 60,000 railroad shopmen strike to protest cuts in wages.
1966 Farm workers under the banner of the new United Farm Workers Organizing Committee strike at Texas’s La Casita Farms, demand $1.25 as a minimum hourly wage.
2000 Dakota Beef meatpackers win seven-hour sit-down strike over speed-ups, St. Paul, Minn.
2009 General Motors files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The filing made the automaker the largest U.S. industrial company to enter bankruptcy protection. It went on to recover thanks to massive help from the UAW and the federal government.

JUNE 2
1786 Twenty-six journeymen printers in Philadelphia stage the trade’s first strike in America over wages: a cut in their $6 weekly pay.
1924 A constitutional amendment declaring that “Congress shall have power to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under 18 years of age” was approved by the Senate today, following the lead of the House five weeks earlier. But only 28 state legislatures ever ratified the amendment—the last three in 1937—so it has never taken effect.
1952 The U.S. Supreme Court rules that President Harry Truman acted illegally when he ordered the Army to seize the nation’s steel mills to avert a strike.

JUNE 3
1935 – More than 1,000 Canadian men, working at “Royal Twenty Centers” established by the Canadian government to provide work for single, unemployed homeless males during the Great Depression, begin an “On to Ottawa Trek” to protest conditions at the camps. They were being paid 20 cents a day plus food and shelter to build roads, plant trees and construct public buildings.

JUNE 4
1947 The House of Representatives approves the Taft-Hartley Act. The legislation allows the president of the United States to intervene in Labor disputes. President Truman vetoed the law but was overridden by Congress.

JUNE 5
1976 – Thirty-five members of the Teamsters, concerned about the infiltration of organized crime in the union and other issues, meet in Cleveland to form Teamsters for a Democratic Union.
1998 – A strike begins at a General Motors Corp. parts factory in Flint, Mich., that spreads and ultimately forces the closure of GM plants across the country for seven weeks.  The Flint workers were protesting the removal of key dies from their plant and feared their jobs would be lost. The company ended the dispute by assuring the plant would remain open until at least the year 2000.

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

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