This week in labor history: September 5-11

1882 Between 20,000 and 30,000 marchers participate in New York’s first Labor Day parade, demanding the eight-hour day.
1917 “Palmer raids” on all Wobbly halls and offices in 48 cities in U.S.  Alexander Palmer, U.S. Attorney General, was rounding up radicals and leftists.
1934 Ten thousand angry textile strikers, fighting for better wages and working conditions, besiege a factory in Fall River, Mass., where 300 strikebreakers are working. The scabs are rescued by police using tear gas and pistols on the strikers.
1946 General strike begins across U.S. maritime industry, stopping all shipping. The strikers were objecting to the government’s post-war National Wage Stabilization Board order that reduced pay increases negotiated by maritime unions.

1869 One of the worst disasters in the history of U.S. anthracite mining occurs at the Avondale Mine, near Scranton, Pa., when a fire originating from a furnace at the bottom of a 237-foot shaft roared up the shaft, killing 110 miners.
1973 Tony Boyle, former president of the United Mine Workers, is charged with murder in the 1969 deaths of former UMW rival Joseph A. Yablonski and his wife and daughter.

1916 Federal employees win the right to receive Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage.

1909 Employers give in to the demands of thousands of Wobblies-led striking railroad car production workers in McKees Rocks, Pa., agree to improved working conditions, 15 percent hike in wages and elimination of a “pool system” that gave foremen control over each worker’s pay.
1942 Workers give up their Labor Day weekend holidays to keep the munitions factories working to aid in the war effort. Most Labor Day parades are canceled in respect for members of the Armed Services.
1942 Five Liberty ships named after Labor leaders were launched this Labor Day. They were built by union labor in Kaiser and Bethlehem shipyards on both coasts. The ships were named after the late leaders Andrew Fruseth of the Sailors Union of the Pacific and the International Seamen’s Union; Peter J. McGuire of the Carpenters; James Duncan of the Granite Cutters; John W. Brown of the Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America; and John Mitchell of the Mine Workers.

1965 United Farm Workers union begins historic national grape boycott and strike, Delano, Calif.
1997 Some 2,600 Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) workers begin what is to be a successful six-day strike for higher pay and against a two-tier wage system.

1890 In a convention at Topeka, Kan., delegates create the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen of America. The men who repaired the nation’s rail cars were paid 10 or 15 cents an hour, working 12 hours a day, often seven days a week.
1919 More than a thousand Boston police officers strike after 19 union leaders are fired for organizing activities. Massachusetts Gov. Calvin Coolidge announced that none of the strikers would be rehired, mobilized the state police, and recruited an entirely new police force from among unemployed veterans of the Great War (World War I).
1924 Sixteen striking Filipino sugar workers on the Hawaiian island of Kauai are killed by police; four police died as well. Many of the surviving strikers were jailed, then deported.
1973 United Auto Workers President Leonard Woodcock is named in Pres. Richard Nixon’s “Enemies List,” a White House compilation of Americans Nixon regarded as major political opponents. Another dozen union presidents were added later. The existence of the list was revealed during Senate Watergate Committee hearings.

1897 In Pennsylvania, Polish, Lithuanian and Slovak miners are gunned down by the Lattimer Mine’s sheriff deputies — 19 dead, more than 50 wounded — during a peaceful march from Hazelton to Lattimer. Some 3,000 were marching for collective bargaining and civil liberty. The shooters were tried for murder but the jury failed to convict.

1897 Some 75,000 coal miners in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia end a 10-week strike after winning an eight-hour day, semi-monthly pay, and the abolition of overpriced company-owned stores, where they had been forced to shop. (Remember the song, “Sixteen Tons,” by coal miner’s son Merle Travis, in which there’s this line: “I owe my soul to the company store.”)
2001 – More than 3,000 people die when suicide hijackers crashed planes into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. Among the dead in New York were 634 union members, the majority of them New York City fire fighters and police on the scene when the towers fell.
2009 Crystal Lee Sutton, the real-life Norma Rae of the movies, dies at age 68. She worked at a J.P. Stevens textile plant in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., when low pay and poor working conditions led her to become a union activist.

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

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