This week in labor history: September 16-22

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SEPTEMBER 16
1945 – More than 43,000 oil workers strike in 20 states as part of a 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
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.
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.
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 two-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
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
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 at age 88. Some of his more acclaimed songs include “The Mill Was Made of Marble,” “Too Old To Work” and “Automation.” 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
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.

SEPTEMBER 21
1896 – Militia goes to Leadville, Colo., to break miners’ strike.
1912 – Mother Jones leads a march of miners’ children through the streets of Charleston, W. Va.
1982 – National Football League Players Association members begin what is to become a 57-day strike, their first regular-season walkout ever.
1991 – Members of five unions at the Frontier Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas begin what was to become the longest successful hotel strike in U.S. history. All 550 workers honored the picket line for the entirety of the six-year, four-month, 10-day fight against management’s insistence on cutting wages and eliminating pensions.

SEPTEMBER 22
1910 – Eighteen-year-old Hannah (Annie) Shapiro leads a spontaneous walkout of 17 women at a Hart Schaffner & Marx garment factory in Chicago. It grows into a months-long mass strike involving 40,000 garment workers across the city, protesting 10-hour days, bullying bosses and cuts in already-low wages.
1919 – Great Steel Strike begins; 350,000 workers demand union recognition. The AFL Iron and Steel Organizing Committee calls off the strike, their goal unmet, 108 days later.
1931 – U.S. Steel announces it will cut the wages of 220,000 workers by 10 percent.
1934 – United Textile Workers strike committee orders strikers back to work after 22 days out, ending what was at that point the greatest single industrial conflict in the history of American Organized Labor. The strike involved some 400,000 workers in New England, the mid-Atlantic states and the South.

(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 unionist.com.)

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