This Week in Labor History: 9/10 - 9/16

September 10

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

September 11

Some 75,000 coal miners in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia end a 10-week strike after winning an 8-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.") - 1897



More than 3,000 people died when suicide highjackers 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 firefighters and police on the scene when the towers fell - 2001

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 - 2009

September 12

Eugene V. Debs, labor leader and socialist, sentenced to 10 years for opposing World War I. While in jail Debs received one million votes for president - 1918

Jobless workers march on grocery stores and seize food in Toledo, Ohio – 1932

National Guardsmen fire on “sullen and rebellious” strikers at the Woonsocket (Rhode Island) Rayon plant, killing one and injuring three others. A correspondent said the crowd of about 2,000 “went completely wild with rage.” Word spread, 6,000 more workers arrived at the scene and the city was put under military rule. The governor declared that “there is a Communist uprising and not a textile strike” in the state - 1934

United Rubber Workers formed in Akron, Ohio - 1935

A total of 49 people are killed, 200 injured, in explosion at the Hercules Powder Company plant in Kenvil, N.J. - 1940


New York City’s Union Square, the site of the first Labor Day in 1882, is officially named a national historic landmark. The square has long been a focal point for working class protest and political expression - 1998

September 13

The Post Office Department orders 25,000 railway mail clerks to shoot to kill any bandits attempting to rob the mail - 1926

Eleven AFSCME-represented prison employees, 33 inmates die in four days of rioting at New York State’s Attica Prison and the retaking of the prison. The riot caused the nation to take a closer look at prison conditions, for inmates and their guards alike - 1971

September 14

The Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers union calls off an unsuccessful 3-month strike against U. S. Steel Corporation subsidiaries - 1901


Gastonia, N.C., textile mill striker and songwriter Ella Mae Wiggins, 29, a mother of five, is killed when local vigilantes and thugs force the pickup truck in which she is riding off the road and begin shooting – 1929

A striker is shot by a bog owner (and town-elected official) during a walkout by some 1,500 cranberry pickers, members of the newly-formed Cape Cod Cranberry Pickers Union Local 1. State police were called, more strikers were shot and 64 were arrested. The strike was lost - 1933

Congress passes the Landrum-Griffin Act. The law expands many of the anti-labor provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, increasing union reporting requirements and restricting secondary boycotting and picketing - 1959

September 15

Some 5,000 female cotton workers in and around Pittsburgh, Pa., strike for a 10-hour day. The next day, male trade unionists become the first male auxiliary when they gather to protect the women from police attacks. The strike ultimately failed - 1845

President Kennedy signs off on a $900 million public-works bill for projects in economically depressed areas - 1962

More than 350,000 members of the United Auto Workers begin what is to become a 69-day strike against General Motors - 1970

Int’l Association of Siderographers merges with Int’l Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers - 1992

September 16

More than 43,000 oil workers strike in 20 states, part of the post-war strike wave - 1945


A player lockout by the National Hockey League begins, leading to cancellation of what would have been the league’s 88th season. The lockout, over owner demands that salaries be capped, lasted 310 days - 2004

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee wins a signed contract with the Mount Olive Pickle Co. and growers, ending a 5-year boycott. The agreement marked the first time an American labor union represented guest workers - 2004

Richard Trumka is elected president of the AFL-CIO at the federation’s convention in Pittsburgh. He had served as the secretary-treasurer under predecessor John Sweeney from 1995 to 2009, and prior to that was president of the United Mine Workers for 13 years - 2009

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