This Week in Labor History: 7/16 - 7/22

labor history

July 16
Ten thousand workers strike Chicago's Int’l Harvester operations - 1919
 
Martial law declared in strike by longshoremen in Galveston, Texas - 1920
 
San Francisco Longshoremen's strike spreads, becomes 4-day general strike - 1934

July 17
Two ammunition ships explode at Port Chicago, Calif., killing 322, including 202 African-Americans assigned by the Navy to handle explosives. It was the worst home-front disaster of World War II. The resulting refusal of 258 African-Americans to return to the dangerous work underpinned the trial and conviction of 50 of the men in what is called the Port Chicago Mutiny - 1944

July 18
The Brotherhood of Telegraphers begins an unsuccessful 3-week strike against the Western Union Telegraph Co. - 1883
 
Some 35,000 Chicago stockyard workers strike - 1919
 
Hospital workers win 113-day union recognition strike in Charleston, S.C. - 1969
 
July 19
Women's Rights Convention opens in Seneca Falls, N.Y.  Delegates adopt a Declaration of Women's Rights and call for women's suffrage - 1848
 
An amendment to the 1939 Hatch Act, a federal law whose main provision prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity, is amended to also cover state and local employees whose salaries include any federal funds - 1940 
 
July 20
New York City newsboys, many so poor that they were sleeping in the streets, begin a 2-week strike. Several rallies drew more than 5,000 newsboys, complete with charismatic speeches by strike leader Kid Blink, who was blind in one eye. The boys had to pay publishers up front for the newspapers; they were successful in forcing the publishers to buy back unsold papers - 1899
(Kids at Work: Your heart will be broken by this exceptional book’s photographs of children at backbreaking, often life-threatening work, and the accompanying commentary by author Russell Freedman. Photographer Lewis Hine—who himself died in poverty in 1940—did as much, and perhaps more, than any social critic in the early part of the 20th century to expose the abuse of children, as young as three and four, by American capitalism.)
 
Two killed, 67 wounded in Minneapolis truckers' strike—"Bloody Friday" - 1934
 
Postal unions, Postal Service sign first labor contract in the history of the federal government—the year following an unauthorized strike by 200,000 postal workers - 1971
 
July 21
Local militiamen are called out against striking railroad workers in Pittsburgh. The head of the Pennsylvania Railroad advises giving the strikers "a rifle diet for a few days and see how they like that kind of bread." - 1877
 
Compressed air explosion kills 20 workers constructing railroad tunnel under the Hudson River - 1880
 
IWW leads a strike at Hodgeman's Blueberry Farm in Grand Junction, Mich. - 1964
 
Radio station WCFL, owned and operated by the Chicago Federation of Labor, takes 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., is pinned by a hydraulic Unimate robot, dies five days later. Incident is the first documented case in the U.S. of a robot killing a human - 1984
 
July 22
Newly unionized brewery workers in San Francisco, mostly German socialists, declare victory after the city’s breweries give in to their demands for free beer, the closed shop, freedom to live anywhere (they had typically been required to live in the breweries), a 10-hour day, 6-day week, and a board of arbitration - 1886
(From First Contact to First Contract: A Union Organizer’s Handbook is a no-nonsense tool from veteran labor organizer and educator Bill Barry. He looks to his own vast experience to document and help organizers through all the stages of a unionization campaign, from how to get it off the ground to how to bring it home with a signed contract and a strong bargaining unit.)
 
A bomb was set off during a "Preparedness Day" parade in San Francisco, killing 10 and injuring 40 more. Tom Mooney, a labor organizer, and Warren Billings, a shoe worker, were convicted of the crime, but both were pardoned 23 years later - 1916

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

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