This Week In Labor History October 23-29

1902 – President Theodore Roosevelt establishes a fact-finding commission that suspends a nine-months-long strike by Western Pennsylvania coal miners fighting for better pay, shorter workdays and union recognition.
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 work week 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, 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.

1825 – After eight years and at least 1,000 worker deaths — mostly Irish immigrants — the 350-mile Erie Canal opens, linking the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.

1904 – The New York City subway, the first rapid-transit system in America, opens. More than 100 workers died during the construction of the first 13 miles of tunnels and track.
1935 – Three strikes on works-relief projects in Maryland were under way today, with charges that Depression-era Works Projects Administration jobs were paying only about 28 cents an hour — far less than was possible on direct relief.
1951 – The National Labor Council is formed in Cincinnati to unite Black workers in the struggle for full economic, political and social equality.

1879 – Union organizer and anarchist Luisa Capetillo is born in Ariecibo, Puerto Rico. She organized tobacco and other agricultural workers in Puerto Rico and later in New York and Florida. In 1916 she led a successful sugar cane strike of more than 40,000 workers on the island.
1965 – The St. Louis Gateway Arch is completed after two and a-half years. Originally sold as a jobs program for thousands of African Americans in St. Louis suffering from the Depression, the 630-foot high arch of stainless steel marks the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the waterfront of St. Louis, Mo.

1889 – Japanese immigrant and labor advocate Katsu Goto is strangled to death, his body then strung from an electric pole, on the Big Island of Hawaii by thugs hired by plantation owners. They were outraged over Goto’s work on behalf of agricultural workers and because he opened a general store that competed with the owners’ own company store.
1929 – “Black Tuesday” — Wall Street crashes, throwing the world’s economy into a years-long crisis including an unemployment rate in the U.S. that by 1933 hit nearly 25 percent.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder Union Communication Services)

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