This week in labor history: October 19-25



1949 The National Association of Letter Carriers achieves equalization of wages for all letter carriers, meaning city delivery carriers began receiving the same wages regardless of the size of the community in which they worked.

1980 The J.P. Stevens textile company finally signs its first union contract after a 17-year struggle in North Carolina and other southern states.

1926 Eugene V. Debs, U.S. Labor leader and socialist, dies in Elmhurst, Ill. Among his radical ideas: an eight-hour workday, pensions, workman’s compensation, sick leave and Social Security. He ran for president from a jail cell in 1920 and got a million votes.
1947 Hollywood comes under scrutiny as the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) opens hearings into alleged Communist influence in the motion picture industry. Dozens of union members were among those unfairly blacklisted as a result of HUAC’s activities.
1980 Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan writes to PATCO President Robert Poli with this promise: If the union endorses Reagan, “I will take whatever steps are necessary to provide our air traffic controllers with the most modern equipment available and to adjust staff levels and workdays so that they are commensurate with achieving a maximum degree of public safety.” He got the endorsement. Nine months after the election, he fires the air traffic controllers for engaging in an illegal walkout over staffing levels and working conditions.
1983 Death of Merle Travis, songwriter and performer who wrote “Sixteen Tons” and “Dark as a Dungeon.”
2013 Two track workers are killed in a (San Francisco) Bay Area Rapid Transit train accident.  Federal investigators said the train was run by a BART employee who was being trained as an operator as members of the Amalgamated Transit Union were participating in what was to be a four-day strike.

1933 Wisconsin dairy farmers begin their third strike of the year in an attempt to raise the price of milk paid to producers during the Great Depression. Several creameries were bombed before the strike ended a month later. The economy eventually improved, allowing the farmers to make more money.

1934 Bank robber Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd is killed by FBI agents near East Liverpool, Ohio. He was a hero to the people of Oklahoma who saw him as a “Sagebrush Robin Hood,” stealing from banks and sharing some of the proceeds with the poor.

1902 President Theodore Roosevelt establishes a fact-finding commission that suspends a nine-month-long strike by Western Pennsylvania coal miners fighting for better pay, shorter workdays and union recognition. The strikers ended up winning more pay for fewer hours but failed to get union recognition. It was the first time that the federal government had intervened as a neutral arbitrator in a Labor dispute.
1989 Explosion and fire at Phillips Petroleum refinery in Pasadena, Texas, kills 23 and injures 314.
2001 Postal workers Joseph Curseen and Thomas Morris die nearly a month after having inhaled anthrax at the Brentwood mail sorting center in Washington, D.C. Other postal workers had been made ill but survived. Letters containing the deadly spores had been addressed to U.S. Senate offices and media outlets.

1940 The 40-hour workweek goes into effect under the Fair Labor Standards Act, signed by President Roosevelt two years earlier.
1945 U.S. minimum wage increases to 40 cents an hour.

1899 What many believe to be the first formal training on first aid in American history took place at the Windsor Hotel in Jermyn, Penn., when Dr. Matthew J. Shields instructed 25 coal miners on ways to help their fellow miners. Upon completion of the course, each of the miners was prepared and able to render first aid. The training led to marked decreases in serious mining injuries and fatalities.
1934 Some 25,000 silk dye workers strike in Paterson, N.J.
1949 In what becomes known as the Great Hawaiian Dock Strike, a six-month struggle to win wage parity with mainland dock workers ends in victory.
1990 The Tribune Co. begins a brutal five-month-long lockout at the New York Daily News, part of an effort to bust the newspaper’s unions.
1995 John Sweeney, president of the Service Employees Int’l Union, is elected president of AFL-CIO.
2011 After a two-year fight, workers at the Bonus Car Wash in Santa Monica, Calif., win a union contract calling for pay increases, better breaks and other gains. “They didn’t treat us like people,” nine-year employee Oliverio Gomez told the Los Angeles Times.

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

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