1881 – Founding convention of the Federation of Trades and Labor Unions is held in Pittsburgh. It urges enactment of employer liability, compulsory education, uniform apprenticeship and child and convict labor laws. Five years later it changes its name to the American Federation of Labor.
1927 – A county judge in Punxsutawney, Pa., grants an injunction requested by the Clearfield Bituminous Coal Co. forbidding strikers from speaking to strikebreakers, posting signs declaring a strike is in progress, or even singing hymns. Union leaders termed the injunction “drastic.”
1982 – The National Football League Players Association ends a 57-day strike that shortened the season to nine games. The players wanted, but failed to win until many years later, a higher share of gross team revenues.
1785 – The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York is founded “to provide cultural, educational and social services to families of skilled craftsmen.” The Society remains in existence to this day.
1900 – Martin Irons dies near Waco, Texas. Born in Dundee, Scotland, he emigrated to the U.S. at age 14. He joined the Knights of Labor and in 1886 led a strike of 200,000 workers against the Jay Gould-owned Union Pacific and Missouri railroads. The strike was crushed, Irons was blacklisted and he died broken-down and penniless. Said Mother Jones: “The capitalist class hounded him as if he had been a wild beast.”
1916 – To the huge relief of Post Office Department employees, the service sets a limit of 200 pounds a day to be shipped by any one customer. Builders were finding it cheaper to send supplies via post than via wagon freight. In one instance, 80,000 bricks for a new bank were shipped parcel post from Salt Lake City to Vernal, Utah, 170 miles away. The new directive also barred the shipment of humans: a child involved in a couple’s custody fight was shipped — for 17 cents — from Stillwell to South Bend, Ind., in a crate labeled “live baby.”
1947 – With many U.S. political leaders gripped by the fear of communism and questioning citizen loyalties in the years following World War II, the Screen Actors Guild votes to force its officers to take a “non-communist” pledge. A few days earlier the Hollywood Ten had been called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
1919 – Seattle printers refuse to print anti-Labor ad in newspaper.
1958 – Thirty-one men died on Lake Michigan with the sinking of the Carl D. Bradley during one of the worst storms in the lake’s history. The 623-foot ship, carrying limestone, broke in two. Only four crewmen survived.
1915 – Joe Hill, Labor leader and songwriter, is executed in Utah on what many believe was a framed charge of murder. Before he died he declared: “Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize.”
1954 – The nation’s first automatic toll collection machine is used at the Union Toll Plaza on New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway.
1981 – The National Writers Union is founded, representing freelance and contract writers and others in the trade. In 1992 it was to merge into and become a local of the United Auto Workers.
1816 – First use of term “scab,” by Albany Typographical Society.
1888 – The time clock is invented by Willard Bundy, a jeweler in Auburn, N.Y. Bundy’s brother Harlow starts mass producing them a year later.
1901 – Mine fire in Telluride, Colo., kills 28 miners, prompts union call for safer work conditions.
1968 – A total of 78 miners are killed in an explosion at the Consolidated Coal Company’s No. 9 mine in Farmington, W. Va.
2008 – The Great Recession hits high gear when the stock market falls to its lowest level since 1997. Adding to the mess: a burst housing bubble and total incompetence and greed — some of it criminal — on the part of the nation’s largest banks and Wall Street investment firms. Officially, the recession lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, but unemployment still hovers around the seven percent mark today.
1927 – Six miners striking for better working conditions under the IWW banner are killed and many wounded in the Columbine Massacre at Lafayette, Colo. Out of this struggle, Colorado coal miners gained lasting union contracts.
1942 – The 1,700-mile Alaska Highway (Alcan Highway) is completed, built during World War II on the order of President Roosevelt. Some 11,000 troops, about one-third of them African-Americans, worked on the project, which claimed the lives of an estimated 30 men. Memorials for the veterans are scattered in spots throughout the highway, including the Black Veterans Memorial Bridge, dedicated in 1993. It wasn’t until 1948 that the military was desegregated.
1945 – The United Auto Workers Union strikes 92 General Motors plants in 50 cities to back up worker demands for a 30-percent raise. An estimated 200,000 workers are out.
1964 – Staten Island and Brooklyn are linked by the new Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time and still the longest in the U.S. Joseph Farrell, an apprentice Ironworker on the project, told radio station WNYC: “The way the wind blows over this water, it would blow you right off the iron. That was to me and still is the most treacherous part of this business. When the wind grabs you on the open iron, it can be very dangerous.” Three workers died over the course of the five-year project.
1989 – Flight attendants celebrate the signing into law a smoking ban on all U.S. domestic flights.
1993 – Congress approves the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), to take effect on Jan. 1 of the following year.
2009 – The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act takes effect in the nation’s workplaces. It prohibits employers from requesting genetic testing or considering someone’s genetic background in hiring, firing or promotions.
(Compiled by David Prosten, founder of Union Communication Services)