This week in labor history: September 28-October 4

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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, victim 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.

SEPTEMBER 30
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 Seventy-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 eight-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.
1962 Cesar Chavez, with Dolores Huerta, co-founds the National Farm Workers Association, which later was to become the United Farm Workers of America.

OCTOBER 1
1910 An ink storage room in the L.A. Times building is dynamited during a citywide fight over labor rights and organizing. The explosion was relatively minor, but it set off a fire in the unsafe, difficult-to-evacuate building, ultimately killing 21. A union member eventually confessed to the bombing, which he said was supposed to have occurred early in the morning when the building would have been largely unoccupied.
1931 The George Washington Bridge officially opens, spanning the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York. Thirteen workers died during the four-year construction project for what at the time was the longest main span in the world.
1935 Thousands of dairy farmers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa strike in demand of higher prices for their milk.
1940 The Pennsylvania Turnpike opens as the first toll superhighway in the United States. It was built in most part by workers hired through the state’s Re-Employment offices.
1975 Some 200 Pressmen begin what is to become a two-year strike at the Washington Post.  Nine of the paper’s 10 other unions engaged in sympathy strikes for more than four months but ultimately returned to their jobs as the paper continued publishing. The press operators picketed for 19 months but eventually decertified the union.

OCTOBER 2
1934 American Federation of Labor officially endorses campaign for a six-hour day, five-day workweek.
1949 Joining with 400,000 coal miners already on strike, 500,000 CIO steel workers close down 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 others rally in Washington D.C., under the banner of “One Nation Working Together,” demand “good jobs, equal justice, and quality education for all.” Crowd estimates range from tens of thousands to 200,000.
2018 Facing harsh criticism for how little it pays its workers, Amazon announces it is raising its minimum wage for all employees to $15 per hour. The company has 250,000 regular and 100,000 seasonal workers. The company was facing stiff competition for employees at the time from other low-wage employers, including Walmart and Target, both of which had earlier announced minimum increases of varying amounts. Amazon is owned by Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, worth more than $100 billion.

OCTOBER 3
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.
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.
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).
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.
1970 Baseball umpires strike for recognition of their newly formed Major League Umpires Association, win after one day.

OCTOBER 4
1927 Work begins on the carving of Mt. Rushmore, a task 400 craftsmen would eventually complete in 1941.  Despite the dangerous nature of the project, not one worker died.
1945 President Truman orders the U.S. Navy to seize oil refineries, breaking a 20-state post-war strike .
1961 The United Mine Workers of America votes to re-affiliate with the AFL-CIO after years of on-and-off conflict with the federation. In 2009 the union’s leader, Richard Trumka, becomes AFL-CIO President.

(Compiled by David Prosten, founder Union Communication Services)

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