IBEW Local 131 Information Center

This Week In Labor History

Today in labor history for the week of January 24, 2011  

January 24
Krueger Cream Ale, the first canned beer, goes on sale in Richmond, Va.  Pabst was the second brewer in the same year to sell beer in cans, which came with opening instructions and the suggestion: "cool before serving" - 1935

Federal minimum wage increases to 75¢ an hour - 1952

January 25
Sojourner Truth addresses 1st Black Women’s Rights convention - 1851

The Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) is founded in Toledo, Ohio as the Tin, Sheet Iron and Cornice Workers’ International Association - 1888

United Mine Workers of America founded in Columbus, Ohio. The union’s constitution barred racial, religious and ethnic discrimination - 1890

200 miners are killed in an horrific explosion at the Harwick mine in Cheswick, Pa., Allegheny County. Many of the dead lay entombed in the sealed mine to this day - 1904

The Supreme Court upholds “Yellow Dog” employment contracts, which forbid membership in labor unions. Yellow Dog contracts remained legal until 1932 - 1915

16,000 textile workers strike in Passaic, N.J. - 1926

January 26
In what could be considered the first workers’ compensation agreement in America, pirate Henry Morgan pledges his underlings 600 pieces of eight or six slaves to compensate for a lost arm or leg. Also part of the pirate’s code, reports Roger Newell: shares of the booty were equal regardless of race or sex, and shipboard decisions were made collectively. - 1695

Samuel Gompers, first AFL president, born in London, England. He emigrated to the U.S. as a youth - 1850

The Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America is chartered by the American Federation of Labor to organize "every wage earner from the man who takes the bullock at the house until it goes into the hands of the consumer." - 1987 

Workers win a two-day sitdown strike at the Brooklyn electric plant that powers the city's entire subway system - 1937

A handful of American companies announce nearly 60,000 layoffs today, as the recession that began during the George W. Bush presidency charges full-tilt toward what has become known as the Great Recession - 2009

January 27
New York City maids organize to improve working conditions – 1734

Mine explosion in Mount Pleasant, Penn. leaves more than 100 dead – 1891

First meeting of the International Labor Organization (ILO) – 1920

Kansas miners strike against compulsory arbitration - 1920

A 3-cent postage stamp is issued, honoring AFL founder Samuel Gompers - 1950

A group of Detroit African-American auto workers known as the Eldon Avenue Axle Plant Revolutionary Union Movement leads a wildcat strike against racism and bad working conditions. They are critical of both automakers and the UAW, condemning the seniority system and grievance procedures as racist - 1969

January 28
American Miners’ Association formed - 1861

First U.S. unemployment compensation law enacted, in Wisconsin – 1932

January 29
Responding to unrest among Irish laborers building the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Pres. Andrew Jackson orders first use of American troops to suppress a labor dispute - 1834

Six thousand railway workers strike for union and end of 18-hour day - 1889

Sit-down strike helps establish United Rubber Workers as a national union, Akron, Ohio - 1936

American Train Dispatchers Department granted a charter by the AFL-CIO - 1957

Dolly Parton hits number one on the record charts with "9 to 5," her anthem to the daily grind - 1981

Newly-elected President Barack Obama signs the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, making it easier for women and minorities to win pay discrimination suits - 2009

Toil and Trouble, by Thomas R. Brooks; American Labor Struggles, by Samuel Yellen; IWW calendar, Solidarity Forever;
Historical Encyclopedia of American Labor, edited by Robert E. Weir and James P. Hanlan; Southwest Labor History Archives/George Meany Center; Geov Parrish’s Radical History; workday Minnesota; Andy Richards and Adam Wright, AFL-CIO Washington DC Metro Council (graphics research).

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