This week in labor history: September 20-26

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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.

SEPTEMBER 21
1896 Militia sent 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
1862 President Abraham Lincoln issues a preliminary proclamation warning that he will order the emancipation of all slaves in any state that does not end its rebellion against the Union by January 1, 1863.
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.
1922 Martial law rescinded in Mingo County, W. Va., after police, U.S. troops and hired goons finally quell coal miners’ strike.
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.
1935 Some 400,000 coal miners strike for higher wages in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Illinois and Ohio.
1953 The AFL expels the Int’l Longshoremen’s Association for racketeering; six years later the AFL-CIO accepted them back into the house of Labor.
2005 OSHA reaches its largest-ever settlement agreement, $21 million, with BP Products North America following an explosion at BP’s Texas City, Texas, plant earlier in the year that killed 15 and injured 170.
2006 – Eleven Domino’s employees in Pensacola, Fla., form the nation’s first union of pizza delivery drivers.
2006 San Francisco hotel workers end a two-year contract fight, ratify a new five-year pact with their employers.

SEPTEMBER 23
1868 The Workingman’s Advocate of Chicago publishes the first installment of The Other Side, by Martin A. Foran, president of the Coopers’ Int’l Union. Believed to be the first novel by a trade union leader and some say the first working-class novel ever published in the U.S.
1886 A coalition of Knights of Labor and trade unionists in Chicago launch the United Labor party, calling for an eight-hour day, government ownership of telegraph and telephone companies, and monetary and land reform. The party elects seven state assemblymen and one senator.
1996 A 42-month strike by Steelworkers at Bayou Steel in Louisiana ends in a new contract and the ousting of scabs.
2002 California Gov. Gray Davis (D) signs legislation making the state the first to offer workers paid family leave.

SEPTEMBER 24
1918 Canada declares the Wobblies illegal.

SEPTEMBER 25
1891 Two African-American sharecroppers are killed during an ultimately unsuccessful cotton-pickers’ strike in Lee County, Ark.  By the time the strike had been suppressed, 15 African-Americans had died and another six had been imprisoned. A white plantation manager was killed as well.

SEPTEMBER 26
1903 The Old 97, a Southern Railway train officially known as the Fast Mail, derails near Danville, Va., killing engineer Joseph “Steve” Broady and 10 other railroad and postal workers. Many believe Broady had been ordered to speed to make up for lost time. The Wreck of the Old 97 inspired balladeers; a 1924 recording is sometimes cited as the first million-selling country music record.
1908 The first production Ford Model T leaves the Piquette Plant in Detroit, Mich. It was the first car ever manufactured on an assembly line, with interchangeable parts. The auto industry was to become a major U.S. employer, accounting for as many as one of every eight to 10 jobs in the country.

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

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