This week in labor history: November 16-22

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NOVEMBER 16
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.

NOVEMBER 17
1785The 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.

NOVEMBER 18
1919 Seattle printers refuse to print anti-Labor ad in newspaper.
1958 Thirty-one men die 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. Four crewmen survived.

NOVEMBER 19
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

NOVEMBER 20
1816 First use of the 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.

NOVEMBER 21
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.
1969 The promise of telecommuting arrives when the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network — RPANET, the beginnings of the global internet — is established when a permanent link is created between the University of California at Los Angeles and the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, Calif.
1980 A fire at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas kills 85 hotel employees and guests and sends 650 injured persons, including 14 fire fighters, to the hospital. Most of the deaths and injuries were caused by smoke inhalation.
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 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.

NOVEMBER 22
1909 “The Uprising of the 20,000.” Some 20,000 female garment workers are on strike in New York. Judge tells arrested pickets: “You are on strike against God.” The walkout, believed to be the first major successful strike by female workers in American history, ended the following February with union contracts bringing better pay and working conditions.
1919 The district president of the American Federation of Labor and two other white men are shot and killed in Bogalusa, La., as they attempt to assist an African-American organizer working to unionize African-American workers at the Great Southern Lumber Co.
1963 President John F. Kennedy is assassinated. Generally considered a friend of Labor, Kennedy a year earlier had issued Executive Order 10988, which authorized unionization and a limited form of collective bargaining rights for most federal workers (excluding the Department of Defense). Many states followed the example set by Kennedy.

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

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