IBEW Local 131 Information Center

This Week In Labor History

Today in labor history for the week of January 31, 2011  

January 31
12,000 pecan shellers in San Antonio, Tex. – mostly Latino women – walk off their jobs at 400 factories in what was to become a three-month strike against wage cuts. Strike leader Emma Tenayuca was eventually hounded out of the state - 1938

Ida M. Fuller is the first retiree to receive an old-age monthly benefit check under the new Social Security law. She paid in $24.75 between 1937 and 1939 on an income of $2,484; her first check was for $22.54 - 1940

After scoring successes with representation elections conducted under the protective oversight of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, the United Farm Workers of America officially ends its historic table grape, lettuce and wine boycotts - 1978 

Union and student pressure forces Harvard university to adopt new labor policies raising wages for lowest-paid workers - 2002

Five months after Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans school board fires every teacher in the district in what the United Teachers of New Orleans sees as an effort to break the union and privatize the school system - 2005

February 01
Led by 23-year-old Kate Mullaney, the Collar Laundry Union forms in Troy, N.Y, raises earnings for female laundry workers from two dollars to 14 dollars a week - 1864

Bricklayers begin working eight-hour days - 1867

25,000 Paterson, NJ silk workers strike for eight-hour work day and improved working conditions. 1,800 were arrested over the course of the six-month walkout, led by the Wobblies. They returned to work on their employers’ terms - 1913

The federal minimum wage increases to $1.60 per hour - 1968

International Brotherhood of Firemen & Oilers merge with Service Employees International Union - 1995

February 02
Sixteen thousand silk workers in Paterson, NJ and 32,000 in Lawrence, Mass. strike for shorter work week with no cut in pay - 1919

Legal secretary Iris Rivera fired for refusing to make coffee; secretaries across Chicago protest - 1977

The 170-day lockout (although management called it a strike) of 22,000 steelworkers by USX Corp. ends with a pay cut but greater job security. It was the longest work stoppage in the history of the U.S. steel industry - 1987

February 03
The US Supreme Court rules the United Hatters Union violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by organizing a nationwide boycott of Danbury Hatters of Connecticut - 1908

U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Wages and Hours (later Fair Labor Standards) Act banning child labor and establishing the 40-hour work week - 1941

February 04
"Big Bill" Haywood born in Salt Lake City, Utah: Leader of Western Federation of Miners, Wobblies (IWW) founder - 1869

Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man launched the 1955 Montgomery, Ala. bus boycott and the birth of the civil rights movement, is born in Tuskeege, Ala. - 1913

Unemployment demonstrations take place in major U.S. cities - 1932

Thirty-seven thousand maritime workers on the West Coast strike for wage increases - 1937

President Barack Obama imposes $500,000 caps on senior executive pay for the most distressed financial institutions receiving federal bailout money, saying Americans are upset with "executives being rewarded for failure." - 2009 

February 05
First daily labor newspaper, "N.Y. Daily Sentinel", begins publication - 1830

The movie Modern Times premieres. The tale of the tramp (Charlie Chaplin) and his paramour (Paulette Goddard) mixed slapstick comedy and social satire, as the couple struggled to overcome the difficulties of the machine age, including, unemployment and nerve wracking factory work, and get along in modern times - 1937 

President Bill Clinton signs the Family and Medical Leave Act.  The law requires most employers of 50 or more workers to grant up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a family or medical emergency - 1993

In what turns out to be a bad business decision, Circuit City fires 3,900 experienced sales people because they're making too much in commissions. Sales plummet. Duh. - 2003

February 06
Ironworkers from six cities meet in Pittsburgh to form the International Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers of America. Their pay in Pittsburgh at the time: $2.75 for a nine-hour day – 1896

Philadelphia shirtwaist makers vote to accept arbitration offer and end walkout as Triangle Shirtwaist strike winds down. One year later 146 workers, mostly young girls aged 13 to 23, were to die in a devastating fire at the New York City sweatshop - 1910

Seattle General Strike begins.  The city was run by a General Strike Committee for six days as tens of thousands of union members stopped work in support of 32,000 striking longshoremen - 1919 

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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