This week in labor history: October 11-17

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OCTOBER 11
1873 The Miners’ National Association is formed in Youngstown, Ohio, with the goal of uniting all miners, regardless of skill or ethnic background.
1948 – Nearly 1,500 plantation workers strike Olaa Sugar, on Hawaii’s Big Island.

OCTOBER 12
1898 Company guards kill at least eight miners who are attempting to stop scabs in Virden, Ill. Six guards are also killed, and 30 persons wounded.
1933 Some 2,000 workers demanding union recognition close down dress manufacturing in Los Angeles.
1976 More than one million Canadian workers demonstrate against wage controls.

OCTOBER 13
1934 American Federation of Labor votes to boycott all German-made products as a protest against Nazi antagonism to Organized Labor within Germany.
1985 More than 1,100 office workers strike Columbia University in New York City. The mostly female and minority workers win union recognition and pay increases.
1998 National Basketball Association cancels regular season games for the first time in its 51-year history, during a player lockout. Player salaries and pay caps are the primary issue. The lockout lasts 204 days.
2000 Hundreds of San Jose Mercury News newspaper carriers end four-day walkout with victory.

OCTOBER 14
1883 Int’l Working People’s Association founded in Pittsburgh, Pa.
1938 The Seafarers Int’l Union (SIU) is founded as an AFL alternative to what was then the CIO’s National Maritime Union. SIU is an umbrella organization of 12 autonomous unions of mariners, fishermen and boatmen working on U.S.-flagged vessels.
2013 Formal construction began today on what is expected to be a five-year, $3.9 billion replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River. It’s estimated the project would be employing 8,000 building trades workers over the span of the job.

OCTOBER 15
1914 President Woodrow Wilson signs the Clayton Antitrust Act — often referred to as “Labor’s Magna Carta” — establishing that unions are not “conspiracies” under the law. It for the first time freed unions to strike, picket and boycott employers. In the years that followed, however, numerous state measures and negative court interpretations weakened the law.

OCTOBER 16
1793 Queen Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI, is beheaded during the French Revolution. When alerted that the peasants were suffering due to widespread bread shortages, lore has it that she replied, “Let them eat cake.” In fact she never said that, but workers were, justifiably, ready to believe anything bad about their cold-hearted royalty.
1859 Abolitionist John Brown leads 18 men, including five free Blacks, in an attack on the Harper’s Ferry ammunition depot, the beginning of guerilla warfare against slavery.

OCTOBER 17
1814 – A huge vat ruptures at a London brewery, setting off a domino effect of similar ruptures, and what was to become known as The London Beer Flood. Nearly 1.5 million liters of beer gushed into the streets, drowning or otherwise causing the deaths of eight people, mostly poor people living in nearby basements.
1932 Founding of the American Federation of Government Employees, following a decision by the National Federation of Federal Employees (later to become part of the Int’l Association of Machinists) to leave the AFL.
1939 Labor activist Warren Billings is released from California’s Folsom Prison. Along with Thomas J. Mooney, Billings had been pardoned for a 1916 conviction stemming from a bomb explosion during a San Francisco Preparedness Day parade. He had always maintained his innocence.
1950 “Salt of the Earth” strike begins by the mostly Mexican-American members of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union Local 890 in Bayard, N.M. Strikers’ wives walked picket lines for seven months when their husbands were enjoined during the 14-month strike against the New Jersey Zinc Co. A great movie, see it!

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

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