This week in labor history: September 23-29

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SEPTEMBER 23
1868The 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 assembly men 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.

 

SEPTEMBER 27
1875 – Striking textile workers in Fall River, Mass., demand bread for their starving children.
1893 – The Int’l Typographical Union renews a strike against the Los Angeles Times; a boycott runs intermittently from 1896 to 1908. A local anti-Times committee in 1903 persuades William Randolph Hearst to start a rival paper, the Los Angeles Examiner. Although the ITU kept up the fight into the 1920s, the Times remained totally nonunion until 2009, when the GCIU — now the Graphic Communications Conference of the Teamsters — organized the pressroom.
1909 – Int’l Ladies’ Garment Workers Union begins strike against Triangle Shirtwaist Co. This would become the “Uprising of the 20,000,” resulting in 339 of 352 struck firms — but not Triangle — signing agreements with the union. The Triangle fire that killed 146 would occur less than two years later.
2002 – Twenty-nine west coast ports lock out 10,500 workers in response to what management says is a worker slowdown in the midst of negotiations on a new contract. The ports are closed for 10 days, reopen when President George W. Bush invokes the Taft-Hartley Act.

SEPTEMBER 28
1864 – The International Workingmen’s Association is founded in London. It was an international organization trying to unite a variety of different left-wing, socialist, communist and anarchist political groups and unions. It functioned for about 12 years, growing to a membership declared to be eight million, before being disbanded at its Philadelphia conference in 1876 as a result of infighting brought on by the wide variety of members’ philosophies.

SEPTEMBER 29
1962 – A report by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that the average weekly take-home pay of a factory worker with three dependents is now $94.87.
2010 – Tens of thousands of protesters take to the streets of Europe, striking against government austerity measures. Workers in more than a dozen countries participate, including Spain, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Slovenia, and Lithuania, protesting job losses, retirement deferments, pension reductions, and cuts to schools, hospitals, and welfare services.

(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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