This Week in Labor History: 7/2 - 7/8

July 02
The first Walmart store opens in Rogers, Ark.  By 2014 the company had 10,000 stores in 27 countries, under 71 different names, employing more than 2 million people.  It is known in the U.S. and most of the other countries in which it operates for low wages and extreme anti-unionism - 1962
(Why Unions Matter: In Why Unions Matter, the author explains why unions still matter in language you can use if you happen to talk with someone who shops or works at Walmart. Unions mean better pay, benefits, and working conditions for their members; they force employers to treat employees with dignity and respect; and at their best, they provide a way for workers to make society both more democratic and more egalitarian. Yates uses simple language, clear data, and engaging examples to show why workers need unions, how unions are formed, how they operate, how collective bargaining works, the role of unions in politics, and what unions have done to bring workers together across the divides of race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation.)
 
President Johnson signs Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forbidding employers and unions from discriminating on the basis of race, color, gender, nationality, or religion - 1964
 
The Labor Dept. reports that U.S. employers cut 467,000 jobs over the prior month, driving the nation’s unemployment rate up to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent - 2009

July 03
Children, employed in the silk mills in Paterson, N.J., go on strike for 11-hour day and 6-day week. A compromise settlement resulted in a 69-hour work week - 1835
 
Feminist and labor activist Charlotte Perkins Gilman born in Hartford, Conn. Her landmark study, "Women and Economics,” was radical: it called for the financial independence of women and urged a network of child care centers - 1860

July 04
Albert Parsons joins the Knights of Labor. He later became an anarchist and was one of the Haymarket martyrs - 1876
 
AFL dedicates 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 - 1916
 
Five newspaper boys from the Baltimore Evening Sun died when the steamer they were on, the Three Rivers, caught fire near Baltimore, Md. They are remembered every year at a West Baltimore cemetery, toasted by former staffers of the now-closed newspaper - 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 by race or sex - 1930
 
Two primary conventions of the United Nations' Int’l Labor Organization come 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 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 in the eastern U.S. on the same day - 2004
 
July 05
During a strike against the Pullman Palace Car Company, which had drastically reduced wages, buildings constructed for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago's Jackson Park were set ablaze, reducing seven to ashes - 1894
(In this expanded edition of Strike! you can read about labor-management conflicts that have occurred over the past 140 years. Here you’ll learn much about workers’ struggle to win a degree of justice, from the workers’ point of view. Brecher also examines the ever-shifting roles and configurations of unions, from the Knights of Labor of the 1800s to the AFL-CIO of the 1990s. A new chapter, “Beyond One-Sided Class War,” looks at how modern protest movements, such as the Battle of Seattle and Occupy Wall Street, were ignited and considers the similarities between these challenges to authority and those of labor’s past.)
 
West Coast Longshoremen's Strike, Battle of Rincon Hill, San Francisco. Some 5,000 strikers fought 1,000 police, scabs and national guardsmen.  Two strikers were killed, 109 people injured. The incident, forever known as "Bloody Thursday," led to a general strike – 1934

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the National Labor Relations Act - 1935
 
Three firefighters, a state policeman and an employee of Doxol Gas in Kingman, Arizona are killed in a propane gas explosion. Eight more firefighters were to die of burns suffered in the event – 1973

Fourteen firefighters are killed battling the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain in Glenwood Springs, Colo. - 1994
 
July 06
Two strikers and a bystander are killed, 30 seriously wounded by police in Duluth, Minn. The workers, mostly immigrants building the city’s streets and sewers, struck after contractors reneged on a promise to pay $1.75 a day - 1889
 
Two barges, loaded with Pinkerton thugs hired by the Carnegie Steel Co., land on the south bank of the Monongahela River in Homestead, Pa., seeking to occupy Carnegie Steel Works and put down a strike by members of the Amalgamated Association of Iron & Steel Workers - 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
 
Transit workers in New York begin what is to be an unsuccessful 3-week strike against the then-privately owned IRT subway. Most transit workers labored seven days a week, up to 11.5 hours a day - 1926
 
Explosions and fires destroy 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
 
July 07
Striking New York longshoremen meet 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
 
Mary Harris "Mother" Jones begins "The March of the Mill Children,” when, accompanied part of the way by children, she walked from Philadelphia to President Theodore Roosevelt's home on Long Island to protest the plight of child laborers. One of her demands: reduce the children’s work week to 55 hours - 1903
 
Cloak makers begin what is to be a 2-month strike against New York City sweatshops - 1910
 
Workers begin 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
 
Some 500,000 people participate when a two-day general strike is called in Puerto Rico by more than 60 trade unions and many other organizations. They are protesting privatization of the island's telephone company - 1998
 
July 08
First anthracite coal strike in U.S. - 1842
 
Labor organizer Ella Reeve "Mother" Bloor born on Staten Island, N.Y. Among her activities: investigating child labor in glass factories and mines, and working undercover in meat packing plants to verify for federal investigators the nightmarish working conditions that author Upton Sinclair had revealed in The Jungle - 1862
 
The Pacific Mail Steamship Co. fires all employees who had been working an 8-hour day, then joins with other owners to form the "Ten-Hour League Society" for the purpose of uniting all mechanics "willing to work at the old rates, neither unjust to the laborers nor ruinous to the capital and enterprise of the city and state." The effort failed - 1867
 
Founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W., or Wobblies) concludes in Chicago. Charles O. Sherman, a former American Federation of Labor organizer, is elected president - 1905
 
Some 35,000 members of the Machinists union begin what is to become a 43-day strike that shuts down five major U.S. airlines, about three-fifths of domestic air traffic.  The airlines were thriving, and wages were a key issue in the fight - 1966



—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Older Post Newer Post