This week in labor history: September 14-20

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SEPTEMBER 14
1901 The Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers union calls off an unsuccessful three-month strike against U. S. Steel Corporation subsidiaries.
1929 Gastonia, N.C., textile mill striker and songwriter Ella Mae Wiggins, 29, a mother of five, is killed when local vigilantes and thugs force the pickup truck in which she is riding off the road and begin shooting.
1933 A striker is shot by a bog owner (and town-elected official) during a walkout by some 1,500 cranberry pickers, members of the newly formed Cape Cod Cranberry Pickers Union Local 1. State police were called, more strikers were shot and 64 were arrested. The strike was lost.
1959 Congress passes the Landrum-Griffin Act. The law expands many of the anti-Labor provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, increasing union reporting requirements and restricting secondary boycotting and picketing.

SEPTEMBER 15
1845 Some 5,000 female cotton workers in and around Pittsburgh, Pa., strike for a 10-hour day. The next day, male trade unionists become the first male auxiliary when they gather to protect the women from police attacks. The strike ultimately failed.
1962 President Kennedy signs off on a $900 million public works bill for projects in economically depressed areas.
1970 More than 350,000 members of the United Auto Workers begin what is to become a 69-day strike against General Motors.

SEPTEMBER 16
1945 More than 43,000 oil workers strike in 20 states, part of the post-war strike wave.
2004 A player lockout by the National Hockey League begins, leading to cancellation of what would have been the league’s 88th season. The lockout, over owner demands that salaries be capped, lasted 310 days.
2004 The Farm Labor Organizing Committee wins a signed contract with the Mount Olive Pickle Co. and growers, ending a five-year boycott. The agreement marked the first time an American labor union represented guest workers.
2009 Richard Trumka is elected president of the AFL-CIO at the federation’s convention in Pittsburgh.  He had served as the secretary-treasurer under predecessor John Sweeney from 1995 to 2009, and prior to that was president of the United Mine Workers for 13 years.

SEPTEMBER 17
1862 Seventy-five workers die in explosion at Allegheny Arsenal, Pittsburgh, Pa.
1868 At a New York convention of the National Labor Congress, Susan B. Anthony calls for the formation of a Working Women’s Association. As a delegate to the Congress, she persuaded the committee on female labor to call for votes for women and equal pay for equal work. But male delegates deleted the reference to the vote.
1900 One hundred thousand Pennsylvania anthracite coal miners go on strike. Their average annual wage is $250. They are paid by the ton, defined by Pennsylvania as 2,400 pounds, but which mine operators have increased to as much as 4,000 pounds.
1917 National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) formed at a convention in Washington, D.C. In 1999 it became part of the Int’l Association of Machinists (IAM).
1933 Some Depression-era weekly paychecks around the New York area: physician, $55.32; engineer, $40.68; clerk, $22.15; salesman, $25.02; laborer, $20; typist, $15.09.
1934 Southern employers meeting in Greenville, N.C., ready their big counter-offensive to break the textile labor strikes that have hit the Eastern seaboard. Ultimately they deploy 10,000 national guardsmen and 15,000 deputies, but fail to drive hundreds of thousands of strikers back to work.
1963 A Southern Pacific train loaded with sugar beets strikes a makeshift bus filled with 60 migrant workers near Salinas, Calif., killing 32. The driver said the bus was so crowded he couldn’t see the train coming.

1989 A total of 98 United Mine Workers of America members and a minister occupy the Pittston Coal Company’s Moss 3 preparation plant in Carbon, Va., beginning a year-long strike. Among other issues: management demands for drastic limitations in health and pension benefits for retired and disabled miners and their dependents and beneficiaries.
2011 The Occupy Wall Street movement is launched with an anti-Wall Street march and demonstration that ended up as a 2-month encampment in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. The event led to protests and movements around the world, with their focus on economic inequality, corruption, greed and the influence on government of monied interests. Their slogan: “We are the 99%.”

SEPTEMBER 18
1978 The Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) is formally founded at an Ohio convention, during a period of serious corruption in the union. Two years earlier at an IBT convention in Las Vegas, a union reform leader who (unsuccessfully) called for direct election of officers and a limit on officers’ salaries had been beaten by thugs.
1992 Nine strikebreakers are killed in an explosion at Giant (gold) Mine near Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Miner Roger Warren confessed that he planted the explosives that caused the deaths. He recanted the confession but later confessed once again.
1999 A 20-month illegal lockout of 2,900 Steelworkers members at Kaiser Aluminum plants in three states ends when an arbitrator orders a new contract. Kaiser was forced to fire scabs and fork over tens of millions of dollars in back pay to union members.
2001 One week after the September 11, 2001, attacks, anthrax spores are mailed by an unknown party to several news media offices and two U.S. senators. Five people exposed to the spores died, including two workers at Washington, D.C.’s USPS Brentwood facility: Thomas Morris Jr. and Joseph Curseen, who were to die of their exposure within the month.

SEPTEMBER 19
1885 Chinese coal miners forced out of Black Diamond, Wash.
1981 Between 400,000 and 500,000 unionists converge on Washington D.C., for a Solidarity Day march and rally protesting Republican policies.
2006 Musician and Labor educator Joe Glazer, often referred to as “Labor’s Troubadour,” dies today at age 88.  Some of his more acclaimed songs include “The Mill Was Made of Marble,” “Too Old To Work” and “Automaton.” In 1979 he and labor folklorist Archie Green convened a meeting of 14 other labor musicians to begin what was to become the annual Great Labor Arts Exchange and, soon thereafter, the Labor Heritage Foundation.

SEPTEMBER 20
1878 Upton Sinclair, socialist and author of The Jungle — published on this day in 1906 — born in Baltimore, Md.
1887 According to folklorist John Garst, steel-drivin’ man John Henry, born a slave, outperformed a steam hammer on this date at the Coosa Mountain Tunnel or the Oak Mountain Tunnel of the Columbus and Western Railway (now part of the Norfolk Southern) near Leeds, Ala. Other researchers place the contest near Talcott, W. Va.
1965 Int’l Hod Carriers, Building & Common Laborers Union of America changes name to Laborers’ Int’l Union.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder Union Communication Services)

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