This week in labor history: October 12-18

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OCTOBER 12
1898 – Company guards kill at least eight miners who are attempting to stop scabs, Virden, Ill. Six guards are also killed, and 30 persons wounded.
1902 – Fourteen miners killed, 22 wounded at Pana, Ill.
1933 – Some 2,000 workers demanding union recognition close down dress manufacturing, 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 a four-day walkout with a victory.

OCTOBER 14
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 guerrilla 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.
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!
1966 – Twelve New York City fire fighters die fighting a blaze in midtown Manhattan.

OCTOBER 18
1648 – The “Shoemakers of Boston” — the first Labor organization in what would later become the United States — was authorized by the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
1911 – New York City agrees to pay women school teachers a rate equal to that of men.
1927 – IWW Colorado Mine strike; first time all coal fields are out.
1939 – Some 58,000 Chrysler Corp. workers strike for wage increases.
1943 – The United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) was formed as a self-governing union, an outgrowth of the CIO’s Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee. UPWA merged with the Meatcutters union in 1968, which merged with the Retail Clerks in 1979 to form the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
1983 – GM agrees to hire more women and minorities for five years as part of a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder Union Communication Services)

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