This week in labor history: September 27-October 3


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 during negotiations on a new contract. The ports are closed for 10 days, re-open when President George W. Bush invokes the Taft-Hartley Act.

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, victim of infighting brought on by the wide variety of members’ philosophies.

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.

1892 – A total of 29 strike leaders are charged with treason – plotting “to incite insurrection, rebellion and war against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania” – for daring to strike the Carnegie Steel Co. in Homestead, Pa. Jurors refuse to convict them.
1899 – 70-year-old Mother Jones organizes the wives of striking miners in Arnot, Pa., to descend on the mine with brooms, mops and clanging pots and pans. They frighten away the mules and their scab drivers. The miners eventually won their strike.
1915 – Railroad shopmen in 28 cities strike the Illinois Central Railroad and the Harriman lines for an 8-hour day, improved conditions and union recognition, but railroad officials obtain sweeping injunctions against them and rely on police and armed guards to protect strikebreakers.
1919 – Black farmers meet in Elaine, Ark. to establish the Progressive Farmers and Householders Union to fight for better pay and higher cotton prices. They are shot at by a group of whites, and return the fire. News of the confrontation spread and a riot ensued, leaving at least 100, perhaps several hundred blacks dead and 67 indicted for inciting violence.
1919 – There were dozens of racist attacks and massacres across the country in the Red Summer of 1919. One of the worst was in Elaine, Ark., in which at least 200 Black farmers and their families were slaughtered. The farmers had recently unionized and were planning to bypass the unfair sharecropping system.

1910 – Twenty-one die when the L.A. Times building is dynamited during a citywide fight over labor rights and organizing. A union member ultimately confessed to the bombing, which he said was supposed to have occurred early in the morning when the building would have been largely unoccupied.
1935 – Thousands of dairy farmers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa strike in demand of higher prices for their milk.
1994National Hockey League team owners began a lockout of the players that lasted 103 days.

1934 – American Federation of Labor officially endorses campaign for a six-hour day, five-day work week.
1949 – Joining with 400,000 coal miners already on strike, 500,000 CIO steel workers close the nation’s foundries, steel and iron mills, demanding pensions and better wages and working conditions.
2007 – Starbucks Workers Union baristas at an outlet in East Grand Rapids, Mich., organized by the Wobblies, win their grievances after the National Labor Relations Board cites the company for labor law violations, including threats against union activists.
2010 – Union members, progressives and other rally in Washington DC under the banner of One Nation Working Together, demanding “good jobs, equal justice and quality education for all.” Crowd estimates range from tens of thousands to 200,000.

1932 – The state militia is called in after 164 high school students in Kincaid, Ill. go on strike when the school board buys coal from the scab Peabody Coal Co.
1933 – The Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America is founded in Camden, N.J. It eventually merged with the International Association of Machinists, in 1988.
1943 – The United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) is formed as a self-governing union, an outgrowth of the CIO’s Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee. UPWA merged with the Meatcutters union in 1968, which in turn merged with the Retail Clerks in 1979, forming the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
1945 – Pacific Greyhound Lines bus drivers in seven western states begin what is to become a three-week strike, eventually settling for a 10.5 percent raise.
1961 – The United Auto Workers calls for a company-wide strike against Ford Motor Co., the first since Ford’s initial contract with the union 20 years earlier.
1967 – Folk singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie (“This Land Is Your Land,” “Union Maid” and hundreds of others) dies of Huntington’s disease in New York at the age of 55.
1970 – Baseball umpires strike for recognition of their newly formed Major League Umpires Association, win after one day.

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


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here