Local 105 Bettendorf Iowa

Today in History

July 25th

After striking for seven months, New York garment workers won the right to unionize and secured a closed shop (a shop where everyone must join the Union) and the firing of all scabs. – 1890

Fifteen “living dead women” testified before the Illinois Industrial Commission. They were “Radium Girls,” women who died prematurely after working at clock and watch factories, where they were told to wet small paintbrushes in their mouths so they could dip them in radium to paint dials. A Geiger counter passed over graves in a cemetery near Ottawa, Illinois still registers the presence of radium. – 1937

The Teamsters and Service Employees unions break from the AFL-CIO during the federation’s 50th convention to begin the Change to Win coalition, ultimately comprised of seven unions. They said they wanted more emphasis on organizing and less on electoral politics. – 2005

July 21st

Chicago workers rallied on Market Street during the Great Upheaval, a wave of strikes occurring throughout the country. Future anarchist and Haymarket martyr Albert Parsons spoke to the crowd, advocating the use of the ballot to obtain “state control of the means of production,” and urged workers to join the Workingmen’s Party. Parsons was later abducted by armed men who took him to the police where he was interrogated and informed that he had caused the city great trouble. Local militiamen were called out against striking railroad workers in Pittsburgh. The head of the Pennsylvania Railroad advised giving the strikers “a rifle diet for a few days and see how they like that kind of bread.” Instead, the militiamen joined the workers. Meanwhile, federal troops were sent to Baltimore, where they killed 10 strikers and wounded 25. – 1877

A compressed air explosion killed 20 workers constructing a railroad tunnel under the Hudson River. – 1880

IWW led a strike at Hodgeman’s Blueberry Farm in Grand Junction, Mich. – 1964

Radio station WCFL, owned and operated by the Chicago Federation of Labor (hence the call sign), took to the airwaves with two hours of music. The first and only labor-owned radio station in the country, WCFL was sold in 1979. – 1926

A die-cast operator in Jackson, Mich. was pinned by a hydraulic Unimate robot and died five days later. The incident is the first documented case in the U.S. of a robot killing a human. – 1984

July 13th

Martial law was declared in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, with National Guards and federal troops coming to “restore order” after the dynamiting at the Frisco mine on July 11. – 1892

600 Pressed Steel Car employees went out on strike, supported and encouraged by the IWW. Company President Frank N. Hoffstat immediately fired those who had walked out and hired replacement workers. The next day, IWW representatives led thousands of immigrant workers out in support of the strike, initiating a two-month-long work action that was punctuated by numerous violent clashes. – 1909

The Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union organized in Tyronza, Arkansas. The Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union was one of only a few unions in the 1930s that was open to all races. Promoting not only nonviolent protest for their fair share of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration money, they also promoted the idea that blacks and whites could work efficiently together. Because these ideas were highly controversial at the time, the Farmers’ Union met with harsh resistance from the landowners and local public officials. The Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union leaders were often harassed and ignored. – 1934

Newspaper workers struck against The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. Hundreds of workers were locked out in the strike. – 1995

July 11th

Striking coal miners in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, used dynamite to destroy barracks housing Pinkerton management thugs. – 1892

A nine-year strike, the longest in the history of the United Auto Workers, began at the Division of Park-Ohio Industries Inc. in Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio. During the strike the company lost nearly $50 million, $34.5 in 1992 alone. Despite scabs, arrests and firings, UAW Local 91 members hung tough and in 1992 won and signed a new three year agreement. – 1983

July 10th

Mary Jane McLeod Bethune was born. Bethune was an American educator, stateswoman, philanthropist, humanitarian, and civil right activist best known for starting a private school for African-American students in Daytona Beach, Florida. She attracted donations of time and money, and developed the academic school as a college. It later continued to develop as Bethune-Cookman University. She was appointed as a national adviser to President Roosevelt as part of what was known as his Black Cabinet. She was known as “The First Lady of the Struggle” because of her commitment to gain better lives for African Americans. – 1875

14,000 federal and state troops finally succeed in putting down the strike against the Pullman Palace Car Company The strike had been peaceful until July 5, when federal troops intervened in Chicago, against the repeated protests of the Governor and Chicago’s mayor. Some 34 American Railway Union members were killed by troops over the course of the strike. – 1894

A powerful gas and dust explosion occurred in the Rolling Mill Mine in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. At approximately 11 a.m., the explosion occurred in the Klondike section of the mine, and ultimately 112 miners, 84 of whom were immigrants from England, Poland, and Slovakia, lost their lives. Killed immediately were those miners working in the Klondike section. Many other miners, as well as the vast majority of the mine animals, were killed by an asphyxiating gall called afterdam that spread through the mine as they fled to the Millcreek Portal, several miles away, the only other exit from the mine. The Rolling Mill Mine Disaster still ranks as one the most deadly mining accidents in American history. – 1902

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce held a mass meeting of more than 2,000 merchants to organize what was to become a frontal assault on union strength and the closed shop. The failure of wages to keep up with inflation after the 1906 earthquake had spurred multiple strikes in the city. – 1916

Sidney Hillman died at age 59. Head of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, he was a key figure in the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organization and in marshaling labor’s support for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democratic Party. – 1946

July 7th

Striking New York longshoremen met to discuss ways to keep new immigrants from scabbing. They were successful, at least for a time. On July 14, 500 newly arrived Jews marched straight from their ship to the union hall. On July 15, 250 Italian immigrants stopped scabbing on the railroad and joined the union. – 1882

The March of the Mill Children, the three-week trek from Philadelphia to President Roosevelt’s home on Long Island by striking child and adult textile workers, was launched by Mary Harris “Mother” Jones. The march turned public attention on the scourge of child labor and energized efforts to end it by law. – 1903

Cloakmakers began what was to be a two-month strike against New York City sweatshops. – 1910

Workers began construction on the Boulder Dam (now known as Hoover Dam) on the Colorado River, during the Great Depression. Wages and conditions were horrible—16 workers and work camp residents died of the heat over just a single 30-day period—and two strikes over the four years of construction led to only nominal improvements in pay and conditions. – 1931

The Puerto Rican general strike of 1998 began as a strike of the Puerto Rico Telephone Company (PRTC) workers protested a government privatization plan. Three weeks later, 500,000 people joined a two-day general strike, bringing commerce and travel to a standstill. The strike failed to stop the privatization plan, and in July a consortium led by GTE bought the PRTC for $1.9 billion. – 1998

July 6th

A strike against the Baltimore & Ohio railroad led to a series of strikes across the northeast, known as the Great Railway Strike of 1877. This was the country’s first major rail strike and was the first general strike in the nation’s history. The strike’s violence led governors in ten states to mobilize 60,000 militia members to reopen rail traffic. The strike would be broken within a few weeks, but it helped to set the stage for later strikes in the 1880s and 1890s.Federal troops were call out for the first time in a labor dispute, helping to crush the strike. – 1877

Striking construction workers in Duluth, Minnesota were shot down by the police. The workers, mostly immigrants, went on strike when contractors reneged on an agreement to pay them $1.75 a day. Mayor John Sutphin ordered police to keep strikers away from scabs, leading to fighting between strikers and police. There was an hour-long gunfight on the corner of 20th Avenue West and Michigan Street that killed two strikers and one bystander and wounded an estimated 30 strikers. The police eventually suppressed the strike through violence. – 1889

An all-day battle between locked out Homestead Steel Works workers and 300 Pinkerton detectives hired by Andrew Carnegie stated at 4am. The Pinkertons were trying to import and protect scabs brought in to replace the striking workers. No one knows who fired first, but the violence escalated when striking steelworks, armed with guns and a homemade cannon attacked the barges that brought in the Pinkerton detectives. Seven Pinkertons and 11 union members died in the battle. The strike lasted for months. Court injunctions eventually helped to crush the union, protecting the steel industry for decades from organized labor. Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman plotted to assassinate Homestead Boss Henry Clay Frick for his role in killing the workers. Berkman later carried out the assassination attempt, failed, and spent years in prison. – 1892

Rail union leader Eugene V. Debs is arrested during the Pullman strike, described by the New York Times as “a struggle between the greatest and most important labor organization and the entire railroad capital” that involved some 250,000 workers in 27 states at its peak. – 1894

Wobbly and anarchist labor organizer Joe Hill’s song “The Preacher and the Slave” first appeared in the Industrial Workers of the World’s (IWW’s) Little Red Songbook. – 1911 Long-haired preachers come out every night, Try to tell you what’s wrong and what’s right; But when asked how ’bout something to eat They will answer in voices so sweet Chorus You will eat, bye and bye, in that glorious land above the sky; Work and pray, live on hay, You’ll get pie in the sky when you die And the Starvation Army, they play, And they sing and they clap and they pray, Till they get all your coin on the drum, Then they tell you when you’re on the bum Chorus Workingmen of all countries, unite Side by side we for freedom will fight When the world and its wealth we have gained To the grafters we’ll sing this refrain Chorus

Transit workers in New York began what is to be an unsuccessful 3-week strike against the then-privately owned Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) subway. Workers were forced to sign yellow-dog contracts which mandated they join a company union. Most transit workers labored seven days a week, up to 11.5 hours a day. – 1926

Explosions and fires destroyed the Piper Alpha drilling platform in the North Sea, killing 167 oil workers—the worst loss of life ever in an offshore oil disaster. The operator, Occidental, was found guilty of having inadequate maintenance and safety procedures, but no criminal charges were ever brought. – 1988 Fourteen firefighters were killed battling the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. – 1994

July 5th

Thousands of United States Marshals and some 12,000 United States Army troops, commanded by Brigadier General Nelson Miles, interfered with a peaceful labor strike led by Eugene Debs against the Pullman Palace Car Company, which had drastically cut wages. President Cleveland wanted the trains moving again and based the action on his constitutional responsibility for the mail. His lawyers argued that the boycott violated the Sherman Antitrust Act and represented a threat to the public safety. Federal troops killed 34 American Railway Union members in the Chicago area and buildings constructed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago’s Jackson Park were set ablaze, reducing seven to ashes. Debs and others were imprisoned for violating injunctions. – 189

4 Two strikers were shot and killed and more than 100 were injured by San Francisco police in what came to be known as “Bloody Thursday,” leading to one of the last General Strikes in U.S. that effectively shut down both San Francisco and Oakland. The governor called in the National Guard to suppress the strike in what one paper called “War In San Francisco!” Police and National Guard violence led to 43 injuries due to clubbing and gas, and 30 more from bullet wounds. Two chemical companies used the unrest as an opportunity to test and sell their wares. Joseph Roush, from Federal Laboratories, shot a long-range tear gas shell at the strikers. He then told his company, “I might mention that during one of the riots, I shot a long-range projectile into a group, a shell hitting one man and causing a fracture of the skull, from which he has since died. As he was a Communist, I have had no feeling in the matter and I am sorry that I did not get more.” – 1934

The National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act, was signed by President Roosevelt. This statute guarantees the basic right of private sector employees to organize into trade unions, engage in collective bargaining for better terms and conditions at work, and to take collective action including striking when necessary. The act also created the National Labor Relations Board, which conducts elections that can require employers to engage in collective bargaining with labor unions. The Act does not apply to workers who are covered by the Railway Labor Act, agricultural employees, domestic employees, supervisors, federal, state, or local government workers, independent contractors and some close relatives to individual employers. – 1935

Eleven firefighters and one railway employee were killed in an explosion in Kingman, Arizona., as propane was being transferred from a railroad car to a storage tank. – 1973

Rebel Longshoreman, writer and Wobbly Gilbert Mers (1908-1998) died. Mers wrote the book “Working the Waterfront: The Ups and Downs of a Rebel Longshoreman” in which he exposed the Texas Rangers of the 1930s and 1940s as legalized strike-breaking bullies. – 1998

July 4th

Albert Parsons, who was later wrongly executed as one of the Haymarket martyrs, joined the Knights of Labor today. He later became the president of the Trades Assembly of Chicago, ran for County Clerk, and became the first Workingman nominated by Workingmen to run for President of the United States. – 1876

The first issue of the Yiddish “Freie Arbeiter Stimme” (Free Voice of Labor) was published in New York. The paper ran for 87 years until if finally was forced to stop publication in 1977 due to the declining and aging population of Yiddish speakers and anarchists in the United States. – 1890

The American Federation of Labor dedicated its new Washington, D.C. headquarters building at 9th St. and Massachusetts Ave. NW. The building, still standing, later became headquarters for the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union. – 1916

Five newspaper boys from the Baltimore Evening Sun died when the steamer they were on, the Three Rivers, caught fire near Baltimore, MD. For years there were remembered every year at their West Baltimore cemetery. – 1924

With the Great Depression underway, some 1,320 delegates attended the founding convention of the Unemployed Councils of the U.S.A., organized by the U.S. Communist Party. They demanded passage of unemployment insurance and maternity benefit laws and opposed discrimination based on race and sex. – 1930

In a show of support for independence and freedom, the American Federation of Musician’s Board of Delegates adopted a resolution to fight the “communist menace” within the US Labor movement. – 1938

Two primary conventions of the United Nations’ International Labor Organization came into force: Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize. – 1950

Building trades workers lay the cornerstone of the Freedom Tower on the site of the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City. The WTC had been leveled by a terrorist attack three years earlier. Nearly 3,000 died at the WTC and in other attacks that same day. – 2004

July 3rd

2000 workers, many of whom are children, from 20 textile mills in Paterson, NJ, went on strike. They demanded 11 hour days (down from 13.5 hours). Employers refused to negotiate and broke the strike by declaring a reduction in work hours to twelve hours daily during the week and nine hours on Saturdays. – 1835

Feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born in Hartford, Connecticut. She was a prominent feminist, sociologist, novelist, writer of short stories, poetry and nonfiction, and a lecturer for social reform. Her best-remembered work today is her semi-autobiographical short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” which she wrote after a severe bout of postpartum psychosis. – 1860

A gun battle ensued when striking hard rock miners in Telluride, Colorado confronted scabs at the mine. Three died and six were injured. Later that day, the striking miners rounded up the scabs and ordered them to leave the country. The strike was settled three days later when owners agreed to the miners’ demands for $3/day and an either -hour day. – 1901

June 27th

Emma Goldman, women’s rights activist and radical, was born in Lithuania. She came to the US at age 17. – 1869

The Bureau of Labor, which will become the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), was established. Today, the BLS is a governmental agency that collects, processes, analyzes, and disseminates statistical data on employment, labor, and economics. – 1884

The Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the “Wobblies,” the radical syndicalist union, was founded at Brand’s Hall, in Chicago, Illinois. The Wobblies advocated for industrial unionism, with all workers in a particular industry organized in the same union, as opposed by the trade unions typical today. The Wobblie motto was, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” – 1905

Congress passed the Wagner Act, authored by Senator Robert Wagner of New York. Also known as the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the legislation created the structure for collective bargaining in the United States. – 1935

A 26-day strike of New York City hotels by 26,000 workers, the first such walkout in 50 years, ended with a five-year contract calling for big wage and benefit gains. – 1985

A.E. Staley locked out 763 workers in Decatur, Illinois. The lockout lasted two and one-half years. – 1993

June 23rd

Charles Moyer, president of the Western Federation of Miners, went to Butte, Montana in an attempt to mediate a conflict between factions of the miner’s local there. It didn’t go well. Gunfight in the union hall killed one man. Moyer and other union officers left the building, which was then leveled in a dynamite blast. – 1914

The anti-worker Taft-Hartley Act was passed, overriding President Harry Truman’s veto. The act rolled back many of the labor protections created by the 1935 Wagner Act. Taft-Hartley weakened unions in numerous ways, including the banning of the general strike. It also allowed states to exempt themselves from union requirements. Twenty states immediately enacted anti-union open shop laws. – 1947

OSHA issued standards on cotton dust to protect 600,000 workers from byssinosis, also known as “brown lung”. – 1978

The newly-formed Jobs With Justice group staged its first big support action, backing 3,000 picketing Eastern Airlines mechanics at Miami Airport. – 1987

After a 25-year-long struggle, textile workers at six Fieldcrest Cannon plants in North Carolina voted for union representation by the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE). The combined facilities made up the biggest textile mill in the country, employing more than 5,000 workers and theirs was the largest union victory in a Southern textile mill in US history. – 1999

June 22nd

After calls for revenge against Standard Oil for the Ludlow Massacre, an anarchist bomb intended for the Rockefeller Mansion unintentionally detonated in the Ferrer Center on this date, killing three anarchists and putting a temporary end to the Modern School, which was housed there. – 1914

A horrific train wreck in northwest Indiana between Gary and Hammond, killed an estimated 86 people and injured 127 others. The train was carrying the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. The victims were buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois in an area set aside as Showmen’s Rest that was purchased by the Showmen’s League of America. – 1918

Several hundred striking miners seized a group of strikebreakers scabbing for the Southern Illinois Coal Company killing 19, in what would become known as the “Herrin Massacre.” Several strikers were held in the Williamson County jail, which is now a historical museum focusing on the conflict. Those who were tried for the murders were all acquitted. – 1922

June 21st

Ten miners accused of being militant “Molly Maguires” were hanged in Pennsylvania. Many historians argue that the Molly Maguires, a secret miners’ organization allegedly responsible for violence and social conflict in the coal regions, never really existed. A private corporation initiated the investigation of the ten accused miners through a private detective agency. A private police force arrested them, and private attorneys for the coal companies prosecuted them. “The state provided only the courtroom and the gallows,” a judge said many years later. – 1877

The US Supreme Court upheld the right of unions to publish statements urging members to vote for a specific congressional candidate, ruling that such advocacy is not a violation of the Federal Corrupt Practices Act. – 1948

The UAW began a strike at Illinois Caterpillar plants in Peoria, Decatur, and Pontiac. – 1994 100,000 unionists and other supporters marched in solidarity with striking Detroit News and Detroit Free Press newspaper workers. – 1997

June 19th

Slaves were declared free in Texas, a date now celebrated each year as the holiday “Juneteenth.” – 1865

The kangaroo trial of eight anarchists for the Haymarket bombing began in Chicago on this date. – 1886

Silk workers struck in Paterson, New Jersey. The event escalated into a riot. Silk workers had struck several times in the 19th century and again in 1913, led by the IWW. – 1902

An eight-hour work day was adopted for federal employees. – 1912

AFL President Samuel Gompers and Secretary of War Newton Baker signed an agreement establishing a three-member board of adjustment to control wages, hours and working conditions for construction workers employed on government projects. The agreement protected union wage and hour standards for the duration of World War I. – 1917

The first important sit-down strike in American history was conducted by workers at a General Tire Company factory in Akron, Ohio. The United Rubber Workers union was founded a year later. – 1934

The Women’s Day Massacre: during the Great Ohio Steel Strike of 1937, there were numerous street battles between workers and police, including the Youngstown Riots and Poland Avenue Riot on June 21st. On June 19th, there were smaller battles that some believe were initiated by the cops to test the likely extent of union resistance in a real fight. When the cops in Youngstown couldn’t find any union leaders to beat up, they went after women picketers who were sitting in chairs to support the strike. One union organizer later recalled, “When I got there I thought the Great War had started over again. Gas was flying all over the place and shots flying and flares going up and it was the first time I had ever seen anything like it in my life…” – 1937

The ILWU organized a four-day strike of sugar, pineapple, and allied workers to protest convictions under the anti-communist Smith Act of seven activists, “the Hawai’i Seven.” The convictions were later overturned by a federal appeals court. – 1953

May 31st

The Johnstown Flood occurred on this date. More than 2,200 died when a dam holding back a private resort lake burst upstream of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The resort was owned by wealthy industrialists including Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick. Neither they nor any other members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club were found guilty of fault, despite the fact the group had created the lake out of an abandoned reservoir. – 1889

The infamous trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, in which the two Italian anarchists were railroaded for a crime they did not commit, began in Dedham, Massachusetts. Judge Webster Thayer’s anti-worker and anti-immigrant opening remarks set the tone for the trial. – 1921

Some 25,000 white autoworkers walked off the job at a Detroit Packard Motor Car Company plant heavily involved in wartime production, when three black workers were promoted to work on a previously all-white assembly line. The black workers were relocated and the whites returned. – 1943

May 31 Rose Will Monroe, who became known as “Rosie the Riveter” died at the age of 77. Rose worked at an aircraft parts factory during World War II, and was “discovered” by filmmakers producing a film promoting war bonds. The song and the iconic poster were already well known and a real-life Rosie who was a riveter “proved too good for the film’s producers to resist,” said Monroe’s daughter. – 1997

May 30th

The Ford Motor Company signed a “Technical Assistance” contract to produce cars in the Soviet Union, and Ford workers were sent to the Soviet Union to train the labor force in the use of its parts. Many American workers made the trip, including Walter Reuther, a tool and die maker who later was to become the UAW’s president. Reuther returned home with a different view of the duties and privileges of the industrial laborer. – 1929

In what would become known as the Memorial Day Massacre, police opened fire on striking steelworkers, their families, and supporters who were marching to the Republic Steel plant in South Chicago to set up a picket line. The Police killed ten people and pursued those fleeing the attack, wounding over 160. No one was ever prosecuted. – 1937

The Ground Zero cleanup at the site of the World Trade Center was completed three months ahead of schedule due to the heroic efforts of more than 3,000 building tradesmen and women who had worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for the previous 8 months. – 2002

May 26th

Men and women weavers in Pawtucket, Rhode Island staged the nation’s first “co-ed” strike. – 1824

The Western Federation of Miners members struck for an eight-hour day, Cripple Creek, Colorado. – 1894

The Actors’ Equity was founded by 112 theater actors meeting in the Pabst Grand Circle Hotel in New York City. A strike six years later, during which membership increased from 3,000 to 14,000, loosened the control on performers’ lives by theater owners and producers. – 1913

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Marine Transport Workers struck in Philadelphia. – 1920

One hundred thousand steelworkers and miners in mines owned by steel companies went on strike in seven states. May 26th The Memorial Day Massacre, in which ten strikers were killed by police at Republic Steel in Chicago, took place four days later on May 30. – 1937

Henry Ford unleashed his company goons on United Auto Workers organizers at the Battle of the Overpass near the River Rouge plant. General Motors and Chrysler signed collective bargaining agreements with the UAW in 1937, but Ford held out until 1942. – 1937

May 25th

Pressured by employers, striking shoemakers in Philadelphia were arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy for violating an English common law that barred schemes aimed at forcing wage increases. The strike was broken. – 1805

The U.S. slave trade was abolished. – 1807

Philip Murray was born in Scotland. He went on to emigrate to the U.S., become founder and first president of the United Steelworkers of America, and head of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) from 1940 until his death in 1952. – 1886

Two company houses occupied by scab coal miners were blown up and destroyed during a strike against the Glendale Gas & Coal Company in Wheeling, West Virginia. – 1925

Thousands of unemployed WWI veterans arrived in Washington, D.C. to demand a bonus they had been promised but never received. They built a shantytown near the U.S. Capital but were burned out by U.S. troops after two months. – 1932

The notorious 11-month Remington Rand strike began. The strike spawned the “Mohawk Valley (NY) formula,” described by investigators as a corporate plan to discredit union leaders, frighten the public with the threat of violence, employ thugs to beat up strikers, and other tactics. The National Labor Relations Board termed the formula “a battle plan for industrial war.” – 1936

The railroad strike was settled with terms imposed by President Harry Truman. – 1946 The AFL-CIO began what was to become an unsuccessful campaign for a 35-hour workweek, with the goal of reducing unemployment. Earlier tries by organized labor for 32- or 35-hour weeks also failed. – 1962

May 24th

After 14 years of construction and the deaths of 27 workers, the Brooklyn Bridge over New York’s East River opened. Newspapers call it “the eighth wonder of the world”. – 1883 UAW labor leader Victor Reuther was shot and nearly killed at his Detroit home by police. His brother Walter had previously survived an attempted abduction in April 1938, a shotgun attack in 1948 and a bombing in 1949. He ultimately died in a plane crash in 1970, though curiously only one newspaper speculated that it might have been an assassination. – 1949

An 11-day strike began at the state prison in Lucasville, Ohio. – 1973

Earth First! And IWW members Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were bombed in Oakland, California. Police immediately arrested the victims, destroyed evidence, and went on a witch hunt of local activist groups like Earth First! and Seeds of Peace. – 1990

2,300 members of the United Rubber Workers, on strike for ten months against five Bridgestone-Firestone plants, agreed to return to work without a contract. They had been fighting demands for 12-hour shifts and wage increases tied to productivity gains. – 1995

May 18th

The first women’s anti-slavery conference was held on this date in Philadelphia. – 1838 Tom Mooney‘s scheduled date of execution was stayed while the case was appealed. Mooney ultimately spent 22 years in prison for the San Francisco Preparedness Day Parade bombing in 1916, a crime he did not commit. Mooney, along with codefendant Warren Billings, were members of the IWW and were railroaded because of their union affiliation. – 1917

President Truman ended a nation-wide railroad strike by threatening to take over the railroads and send in the army. -1947

The Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools. – 1954

Twelve Starbucks baristas in a midtown Manhattan store signed cards demanding representation by the Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies, declaring they couldn’t live on $7.75 an hour. – 2004

Fast food workers took to the streets of Milwaukee in a one-day work stoppage to demand a $15.00 an hour wage. – 2013

May 15th

Pope Leo XIII issued the revolutionary encyclical Rerum novarumin defense of workers and the right to organize. Forty years later to the day, Pope Pius XI issued Quadragesimo anno, believed by many to be even more radical than Leo XIII’s. – 1891

The Western Federation of Miners (WFM) was founded by Big Bill Haywood. In 1905, Haywood helped found the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). – 1893

New Jersey became the first state to prohibit employment discrimination against union members. – 1894

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Samuel Gompers and other union leaders for supporting a boycott at the Buck Stove and Range Company in St. Louis, where workers were striking for a nine-hour day. A lower court had forbidden the boycott and sentenced the unionists to prison for refusing to obey the judge’s anti-boycott injunction. – 1906

Factory owner Harry Widdicomb attempted to personally drive scabs through a crowd of 1,200 striking furniture workers and supporters gathered outside his factory in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A battle broke out and the fighting drew more people to help the strikers, swelling the crowd to 2,000. When it ended at midnight, every window in the factory had been smashed. – 1911

The Library Employees’ Union was founded in New York City, the first union of public library workers in the United States. A major focus of the union was the inferior status of women library workers and their low salaries. – 1917

Launched by officers of the Machinists, the first labor bank opened in Washington, D.C.The Locomotive Engineers opened a bank in Cleveland later that year – 1920

IWW songwriter T-Bone Slim, died in New York City. T-Bone wrote such Wobbly classics as The Mysteries of a Hobo’s Life, The Popular Wobbly, and The Lumberjack’s Prayer. (From The Unionist and Rebel Voices, edited by Joyce L. Kornbluh). – 1942

Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathan Kwitny uncovered the true face of American labor bosses: AFL-CIO President George Meany, Secretary-Treasurer Lane Kirkland, and other union officials were among the 60 leading stockholders in the 15,000 acre Punta Cana resort in the Dominican Republic, benefiting handsomely when the Dominican president sent troops to forcibly evict impoverished tobacco farmers and fishermen who had lived there for generations. – 1973

May 10th

Thanks to an army of thousands of Chinese and Irish immigrants who laid 2,000 miles of track, the nation’s first transcontinental railway line was finished by the joining of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific lines at Promontory Point, Utah. – 1869

Pullman fired 3 workers for being on the grievance committee, leading to a strike that shut down the company a day later. – 1894

U.S. and Canadian workers formed the Western Labor Union. It favored industrial organization and independent labor party politics. – 1898

200 labor leaders were arrested in Chicago for complicity in the murder of two policemen and the bombing of factories – 1922

UMW struck at selected U.S. mines. – 1993

A federal bankruptcy judge permitted United Airlines to legally abandon responsibility for pensions covering 120,000 employees. – 2005

May 9th

A coal mine exploded at Roslyn, Washington killing 45 mine workers. – 1892

Striking tram workers blew up a tramcar during riots in St. Louis. – 1900

Japanese workers struck at Oahu, Hawaii’s Aiea Plantation, demanding the same pay as Portuguese and Puerto Rican workers. Ultimately 7,000 workers and their families remained out until August, when the strike was broken. – 1909

Legendary Western Federation of Miners leader William “Big Bill” Haywood went on trial for murder in the bombing death of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg, who had brutally suppressed the state’s miners. Haywood ultimately was declared innocent. – 1907

Longshoremen began a strike for a union hiring hall and union recognition, ultimately leading to the San Francisco general strike. After World War One, West Coast longshore workers were poorly organized or represented by “company unions.” The IWW had tried to organize them and had some successes ( for example, San Pedro in 1922), but they were ultimately crushed by injunctions, imprisonment, deportation and vigilante violence. While longshoremen lacked a well-organized union, they retained a syndicalist sentiment and militancy. Many Wobblies were still working the docks. On May 9, 1934, longshoremen walked off the job at ports up and down the West Coast, soon to be followed by sailors. Strikers were shot by the bosses’ goons in San Pedro. There was also violence in Oakland and San Francisco. Street battles between the cops and strikers continued in San Francisco, heating up on July 3, and culminating in Bloody Thursday, on July 5, when 3 workers were shot by police (two of them died). The attack led to a four-day general strike that effectively shut down commerce in San Francisco, despite police violence and attempts to weaken it by national unions. – 1934

Hollywood studio mogul Louis B. Mayer recognized the Screen Actors Guild. SAG leaders reportedly were bluffing when they told Mayer that 99 percent of all actors would walk out the next morning unless he dealt with the union. Some 5,000 actors attended a victory gathering the following day at Hollywood Legion Stadium; a day later, SAG membership increased 400 percent. – 1937

Labor leader Walter Reuther and his wife May died suspiciously in an airplane crash. Repeated attempts had been made on Reuther’s life going back to 1938. – 1971 4,000 garment workers at Farah Manufacturing Company in El Paso went out on strike over union representation. In January 1974, after a successful national boycott, the NLRB ruled in the workers’ favor, and the company finally recognized the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. The 1974 contract included pay increases, job security and seniority rights, and a grievance procedure. – 1972

May 8th

The American Federation of Teachers was founded. – 1916

Jerry Wurf, who served as president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) from 1964 to his death 1981, was born in New York City. The union grew from about 220,000 members to more than 1 million during his presidency. – 1919

A. Philip Randolph and Milton P. Webster founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. The Brotherhood was the very first African-American labor union to sign a collective bargaining agreement with a major U.S. corporation. – 1925

About 200 construction workers in New York City attacked a crowd of Vietnam war protesters four days after the Kent State killings. More than 70 people were injured, including four police officers. Peter Brennan, head of the New York building trades, was honored at the Nixon White House two weeks later and was eventually named Secretary of Labor. – 1970

Some 12,000 Steelworker-represented workers at Goodyear Tire & Rubber won an 18-day strike for improved wages and job security. – 1997

May 5th

National Typographical Union was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was renamed the International Typographical Union in 1869 in acknowledgment of Canadian members. When the ITU merged into CWA in 1986 it was the oldest existing union in the U.S. – 1852

The Knights of Labor struck at Union Pacific against wage cuts and won. – 1884

On Chicago’s West Side, police attacked Jewish workers as they tried to march into the Loop to protest slum conditions. – 1886 Some 14,000 building trades workers and laborers, demanding an eight-hour work day, gathered at the Milwaukee Iron Company rolling mill in Bay View, Wisconsin. When they approached the mill they were fired on by 250 National Guardsmen under orders from the governor to shoot to kill. Seven died, including a 13-year-old boy. – 1886

Nineteen machinists working for the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad gathered in a locomotive pit to decide what to do about a wage cut. They voted to form a union, which later became the Int’l Association of Machinists. – 1888

Italian-American anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were arrested in Boston for murder and payroll robbery. Eventually, they were executed for a crime most believe they did not commit. – 1920

High School teacher John T. Scopes was arrested for teaching the theory of evolution in a Tennessee school, in a violation of state law. – 1925

The Infamous Battle of Harlan County (“Bloody Harlan”), Kentucky occurred. Also known as the Battle of Evarts, the strike began in response to wage cuts implemented in February. On May 5, a scab accosted a union worker, resulting in three deaths. Governor Flem Sampson called in the National Guard, which killed several more union miners. The Harlan County class war was the inspiration for Florence Reece‘s famous union song Which Side Are You On? The strike continued for years, with the miners finally winning in 1940. – 1931

John J. Sweeney, president of the Service Employees International Union from 1980 to 1995, then president of the AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2009, was born in The Bronx, New York. – 1934

A lumber strike began in the Pacific Northwest and would involve 40,000 workers by the time victory was achieved after 13 weeks: union recognition, a 50 cent per hour minimum wage and an eight-hour day. – 1937

The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to a 30-year low of 3.9 percent; the rate for blacks and Hispanics was the lowest ever since the government started tracking such data. – 2000

May 4th

A day after police killed four striking workers and injured hundreds, protesters gathered at Haymarket Square in Chicago. As the peaceful event drew to a close, a bomb was thrown into the police line, killing one officer and injuring several. Police responded by shooting into the crowd, killing one and wounding many. Eight anarchists were later framed even though most were not even present at the Haymarket rally and there was no evidence that linked any of them to the bombing. Four were hanged, one committed suicide and three were eventually pardoned by Illinois Gov. John Peter Altgeld. The Haymarket affair gave the pretext for a national witch hunt against anarchists and labor radicals and ended the quick rise of the Knights of Labor, a predecessor to the IWW. The Knights of Labor had been growing rapidly, attracting radicals and anarchist members. They professed solidarity with all workers, regardless of race or ethnicity. – 1886

The “Freedom Ride” bus trips began throughout the American South. The Freedom Rides were organized by James Farmer and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to desegregate bus terminals. On May 14, the first freedom bus was attacked. – 1961

May 3rd

At the height of the movement for the eight-hour day, police shot into a crowd of workers engaged in a general strike at McCormick Harvester Company in Chicago. Four workers were killed and hundreds were injured. Anarchists called for a public rally the following day at Haymarket Square to protest the police brutality. At the rally, a bomb was thrown, killing several police. No one was ever caught, yet the police arrested eight leading anarchists who were convicted and sentenced to death. The event became the inspiration for International Workers Day. – 1886

Twenty-five hundred workers marched in Milwaukee for the 8-hour day. Governor Jeremiah Rusk supplied the Milwaukee National Guard headquarters with increased ammunition and the entire city police force with four companies of infantry an artillery. – 1886

Eugene V. Debs and other leaders of the American Railway Union were jailed for six months for contempt of court in connection with the Pullman railroad car strike. – 1895

Folk singer-songwriter and activist Pete Seeger is born. “Now, if you want higher wages, let me tell you what to do./You got to talk to the workers in the shop with you./ You got to build you a union, got to make it strong./ But if you all stick together, boys, it won’t be long./ You’ll get shorter hours. Better working conditions./ Vacations with pay. Take your kids to the seashore.” – From Talking Union, by Lee Hays, Millard Lampell, and Pete Seeger. – 1919

Wisconsin enacted the nation’s first state constitutional Workmen’s Compensation Act, guaranteeing injury compensation as a legal right. The constitutionality of the Act was upheld by the Wisconsin Supreme Court on November 1 (and by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1926). – 1911

The IWW strike at the Draper Manufacturing Company began in Cleveland, Ohio. – 1934 7,000 people were arrested trying to shut down the Pentagon in protest against the Vietnam war. – 1971

May 2nd

This day marked the birth of Richard Trevellick, a ship carpenter, founder of the American National Labor Union and later head of the National Labor Congress, America’s first national labor organization. – 1830

Chicago’s first Trades Assembly, formed three years earlier, sponsored a general strike by thousands of workers to enforce the state’s new eight hour day law. The one-week strike was unsuccessful. – 1867

President Herbert Hoover declared that the stock market crash six months earlier was just a “temporary setback” and the economy would soon bounce back. In fact, the Great Depression would continue and worsen for several more years. – 1930

Adolf Hitler abolished all labor unions in Germany, leading to the mass arrest and murder of thousands of communists, anarchists and labor activists. – 1933

Though Martin Luther King, Jr. had recently been assassinated, his Poor People’s March on Washington, D.C. proceeded as planned, led by his successor Ralph Abernathy. 3,000 people erected Resurrection City on the Mall until the 17th of May. – 1968

A fire at the Sunshine silver mine in Kellogg, Idaho caused the death of 91 workers by carbon monoxide poisoning, likely caused by toxic fumes emitted by burning polyurethane foam used as a fire retardant. – 1972

May 1st

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones was born on this day. Mother Jones was renowned for her militancy and fiery oration, as well as her many juicy quotes. She once said, “I’m no lady. I’m a hell-raiser.” She also was an internationalist, saying “My address is wherever there is a fight against oppression.” Despite the difficulties of constant travel, poor living and jail, she lived to be 100. – 1830

Cigar makers in Cincinnati warned there could be a strike in the fall if factory owners continued to insist that they pay 30 cents per month for heating gas consumed at work during mornings and evenings. – 1883

The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (FOTLU), a forerunner of the AFL, resolved that “8 hours shall constitute a legal day’s work from and after May 1, 1886.

” Ironically, the FOTLU, which was one of the first bureaucratized “business” unions and which was created as a conservative foil against the radical Knights of Labor, essentially contributed to the ensuing mass insurgency with its resolution. – 1884

The first nationwide General Strike for the 8-hour day occurred on this day. 340,000 workers struck in Chicago, Milwaukee, and cities throughout the U.S. Four demonstrators were killed and over 200 were wounded by police in Chicago. – 1886

Nineteen machinists working for the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad gathered in a locomotive pit to decide what to do about a wage cut. They voted to form a union, which later became the International Association of Machinists. – 1888

The first International Labor Day was celebrated. The U.S. decided to create its own labor day in September to undercut worker solidarity and to whitewash its violent history of repressing strikes and worker protests. – 1889

The cross-country march by Coxey’s Army of the Unemployed ended within a march down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. – 1894

The Cooks’ and Waiters’ Union struck in San Francisco. They were demanding one day of rest per week, a ten-hour work day and a closed union shop for all restaurants in the city. – 1901 1,200 members of the Iron Molders Union in Milwaukee struck for shorter hours and more pay. They lost the strike after two years of bitter struggle. One employer, Allis-Chalmers, spent $21,700 to hire the Burr-Herr Detective Agency, resulting in more than 200 assaults on union members, including union leader Peter Cramer, who was killed. The agency offered one unionist ten dollars for each striker he beat up. – 1906

Mother Jones’ 100th birthday was celebrated at the Burgess Farm in Adelphi, Maryland. She died six months later. – 1930 New York City’s Empire State Building officially opened. Construction involved 3,400 workers, mostly immigrants from Europe, and hundreds of Mohawk ironworkers. Five workers died during construction. – 1931

Congress enacted amendments to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, extending protections to the employees of state and local governments. However, these protections didn’t take effect until 1985 because of court challenges. – 1938

Congress enacts amendments to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, extending protections to the employees of state and local governments, protections which didn’t take effect until 1985 because of court challenges and regulation-writing problems. – 1974 The Federal minimum wage rose to $2.00 per hour. – 1974

The International Molders and Allied Workers Union merged with the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers International Union. – 1988

The Woodworkers of America International merged with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. – 1994

The International Leather Goods, Plastics & Novelty Workers Union merged with the Service Employees International Union. – 1996

Millions of immigrants, participating in a national day of mobilization, stayed home from work. Their goal was to demonstrate their economic power and demand comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration laws. It is estimated that 100,000 gathered in San Jose, California, 200,000 in New York, and 400,000 each in Chicago and Los Angeles. There were demonstrations in at least 50 cities. Despite their numbers, the country has seen a wave of increasingly repressive and racist immigration laws enacted locally in places like Arizona, Georgia, and Florida. – 2006

April 27

Bread and Roses Strike

The first strike for the 10 hour day occurred on this date by Boston carpenters, – 1825 1,450 paroled Union POWs died when the steamer Sultana blew up in the worst shipping disaster in American history. The river steamer Sultana was overloaded. It was equipped with tubular boilers which were not well-suited for use in the muddy waters of the lower Mississippi. The boat blew up and sank near Memphis, Tennessee. Over 2,300 perished in all, many of them emaciated Union soldiers returning north after being released from a Confederate prison camp. – 1865 Congress extended the Chinese Exclusion Act indefinitely (first passed in 1882 and again in 1902), making it unlawful for Chinese laborers to enter the U.S. and denying citizenship to those already here. – 1904 James Oppenheim’s poem Bread and Roses was published in IWW newspaper Industrial Solidarity. – 1946 As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day, A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray, Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses, For the people hear us singing:

“Bread and roses! Bread and roses!” As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,

For they are women’s children, and we mother them again. Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;

Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead

Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.

Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.

Yes, it is bread we fight for — but we fight for roses, too!

As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.

The rising of the women means the rising of the race. No more the drudge and idler — ten that toil where one reposes,

But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!

President Dwight Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450: Security Requirements for Government Employment. The order listed “sexual perversion” as a condition for firing a federal employee and for denying employment to potential applicants. – 1953

A concrete cooling tower under construction at a power station at Willow Island, West Virginia, collapsed. All of the 51 construction workers on the scaffolding fell to their deaths. OSHA and the contractor agreed to settle the case for $85,500 (or about $1,700 per dead worker); no criminal charges were ever filed. The final OSHA rule on concrete and masonry construction was not issued for another 10 years and improved scaffolding rules, not until 1990. – 1978

April 26

Child Labor in the coal mines The Anti-Coolie Act of April 26th, 1862 was passed. It was titled “An Act to Protect Free White Labor.” The law was one of a series of xenophobic laws enacted specifically to block the immigration of Chinese to the U.S., particularly in California. – 1862

The U.S. Congress continued its xenophobic and racist practices by passing the second Chinese Exclusion Act, barring Chinese laborers from entering the U.S. for the next 10 years and denying citizenship to the Chinese already here. In 1904 the act was extended indefinitely. – 1902

The U.S. House of Representatives passed House Joint Resolution No. 184, a constitutional amendment to prohibit the labor of persons under 18 years of age. The Senate approved the measure a few weeks later, but it was never ratified by the states and is still technically pending, not having been ratified by the requisite three-quarters of the states. – 1924

After management at Montgomery Ward repeatedly refused to comply with an order by the National War Labor Board (created to avert strikes in critical war-support industries) to recognize the workers’ union and abide by the collective bargaining agreement that the board worked out, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the Army National Guard to seize the company’s property in Chicago and remove its chairman, Sewell Avery. – 1944

60,000 people marched on Washington, D.C., demanding jobs for all Americans. Angry people rushed the stage, which included mainstream politicians like Hubert Humphrey, and caused the rally to be shut down prematurely. – 1975

As the U.S. car industry tanked, the UAW agreed to concessions with Chrysler Corporation in return for a 55 percent stake in the company. The union then sold the shares to fund a trust that took over retiree health care costs. – 2009

April 25

The New York Times declared the struggle for an eight-hour workday to be “un-American” and called public demonstrations for the shorter hours “labor disturbances brought about by foreigners.” Other publications declared that an eight-hour workday day would bring about “loafing and gambling, rioting, debauchery and drunkenness”. – 1886

IWW Marine Transport Workers began a West Coast strike. – 1923

The founding conference of the United Nations began in San Francisco, California. – 1945

The Reverend Ralph David Abernathy and 100 others were arrested while picketing a Charleston, South Carolina hospital in a demand for union recognition. – 1969

The Supreme Court ruled that employers may not require female employees to make larger contributions to pension plans in order to obtain the same monthly benefits as men. – 1978

Over one million marched in Washington, D.C. for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights. – 1993

April 24

The Int’l Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union halts shipping on the West Coast in solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Philadelphia journalist who many believed was on death row because he was an outspoken African-American - 1999

An eight-story building housing garment factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapses, killing 1,129 workers and injuring 2,515. A day earlier cracks had been found in the structure, but factory officials, who had contracts with Benneton and other major U.S. labels, insisted the workers return to the job the next day - 2013

April 21

Bituminous coal miners across the country went on strike over wage cuts. The nationwide strike was met with violence from scabs, company security, sheriff’s deputies, and the National Guard. It ended in eight weeks and severely weakened the United Mine Workers of America, which had been founded just four years earlier. – 1894

Company guards shot down 17 unarmed striking miners in the back as they attempt to run away in Butte Montana in what would be known as the. The IWW and the Metal Mine Workers Industrial Union called for a strike in the mines around Butte. They struck to secure higher wages, end rustling cards, and win an eight-hour day. The Company blamed the IWW for the violence and federal troops arrived the next day to impose martial law and end the strike. Miners were forced back to the mines at gunpoint. -1920

New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed the Taylor Law, permitting union organization and bargaining by public employees, but outlawing the right to strike. – 1967

Some 12,500 Goodyear Tire workers went on strike at nine plants in what was to become a three-week walkout over job security, wage and benefit issues. – 1997

April 20

Nearly 10,000 demonstrators celebrate textile workers’ win of a 10-percent pay hike and grievance committees after a one-month strike, Lowell, Mass. - 1912

Ludlow massacre: Colorado state militia, using machine guns and fire, kill about 20 people—including 11 children—at a tent city set up by striking coal miners - 1914

An unknown assailant shoots through a window at United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther as he is eating dinner at his kitchen table, permanently impairing his right arm. It was one of at least two assassination attempts on Reuther. He and his wife later died in a small plane crash under what many believe to be suspicious circumstances - 1948

National Association of Post Office Mail Handlers, Watchmen, Messengers & Group Leaders merge with Laborers - 1968 United Auto Workers members end a successful 172-day strike against International Harvester, protesting management demands for new work rules and mandatory overtime provisions - 1980

April 19

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, the nation’s “Furniture City,” more than 6,000 immigrant workers—Germans, Dutch, Lithuanians and Poles—put down their tools and struck 59 factories for four months in what was to become known as the Great Furniture Strike - 1911

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