This week in labor history: October 7-13


1879 – Joe Hill, labor leader and songwriter, born in Gavle, Sweden.
1903 – The Structural Building Trades Alliance (SBTA) is founded, becomes the AFL’s Building Trades Dept. five years later. SBTA’s mission: to provide a forum to work out jurisdictional conflicts.
1946 – Hollywood’s “Battle of the Mirrors.” Picketing members of the Conference of Studio Unions disrupted an outdoor shoot by holding up large reflectors that filled camera lenses with blinding sunlight. Members of the competing IATSE union retaliated by using the reflectors to shoot sunlight back across the street. The battle went on all day, writes Tom Sito in Drawing the Line.

1871 – Thirty of the city’s 185 firefighters are injured battling the Great Chicago Fire, which burned for three days.
1982 – In Poland, the union Solidarity and all other labor organizations are banned by the government.

1888 – United Hebrew Trades is organized in New York by shirt maker Morris Hillquit and others. Hillquit would later become leader of the Socialist Party.
1997 – Retail stock brokerage Smith Barney reaches a tentative sexual harassment settlement with a group of female employees. The suit charged, among other things, that branch managers asked female workers to remove their tops in exchange for money and one office featured a “boom boom room” where women workers were encouraged to “entertain clients.” The settlement was never finalized: a U.S. District Court judge refused to approve the deal because it failed to adequately redress the plaintiff’s grievances.
2003 – An estimated 3,300 sanitation workers working for private haulers in Chicago win a nine-day strike featuring a 28 percent wage increase over five years.

1933 – Six days into a cotton field strike by 18,000 Mexican and Mexican-American workers in Pixley, Calif., four strikers are killed and six wounded; eight growers were indicted and charged with murder.

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.

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.

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.

(Labor History is provided by Union Communications Services, since 1981 North America’s premier publisher and distributor of newsletters, leadership training programs for shop stewards and officers, website materials and other powerful use-it-today strategies and tools to help leaders and activists build union power. Reach them at


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