IBEW Local 131 Information Center




This Week In Labor History


Today in labor history for the week of February 7, 2011  

February 08
Mary Kenney O'Sullivan is born in Hannibal, Missouri. At age 28 she was to be appointed the first female general organizer for the American Federation of Labor by AFL President Samuel Gompers - 1864

Vigilantes beat IWW organizers for exercising free-speech rights, San Diego - 1912

February 09
Wobblie activist Tom Mooney convicted in bombing frame-up orchestrated by Pinkerton Detective Agency. He was pardoned and released 22 years later - 1917

Congress approves legislation allowing for a total of $940,000,000 to be used for Depression-era relief projects. $790,000,000 of this money was intended to be used to fund work relief and flood recovery programs - 1937

President Kennedy asks Congress to approve creation of the Medicare program, financed by an increase in Social Security taxes, to aid 14.2 million Americans aged 65 or older - 1961

Some 19,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers in Washington state and Oregon begin what is to become a 40-day strike over economic issues - 2000

February 10
The American Federation of Labor (AFL) founds the Building and Construction Trades Department as a way to overcome the jurisdictional conflicts occurring in the building and construction unions - 1908

Eleven members of the Carpenters’ union in Reesor Siding, Northern Ontario are shot, three fatally, by independent local farmer-settlers who were supplying wood to a Spruce Falls Power and Paper Co. plant. Some 400 union members were attempting to block an outbound shipment from the plant. The action came as the company was insisting on a pay freeze and two months of seven-day-a-week work - 1963

Forty workers are killed on Staten Island, NY when a huge storage tank filled with liquefied gas explodes - 1974

February 11
500 Japanese and 200 Mexican laborers unite to fight the labor contractor responsible for hiring at the American Beet Sugar Co. In Oxnard, Calif. They ultimately win higher wages and the right to shop at stores not owned by the company - 1903

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones is arrested while leading a protest of conditions in West Virginia mines. She was 83 years old at the time - 1913

Fifteen thousand rubber workers strike in Akron, Ohio, protesting speed-up - 1913

The Seattle General Strike ends after six days. Some 65,000 workers struck for higher pay after two years of World War I wage controls - 1919

“White Shirt Day” at UAW-represented GM plants.  Union members are encouraged to wear white shirts, marking the anniversary of the 1937 sitdown strike that gave the union bargaining rights at the automaker. The mission: send a message that “blue collar” workers deserve the same respect as their management counterparts.  One of the day’s traditional rules: Don’t get your shirt any dirtier than the boss gets his.  The 44-day strike was won in 1937 but the tradition didn’t begin until 1948, at the suggestion of Local 598 member Bert Christenson - 1948

Some 1,300 sanitation workers begin what is to become a 64-day strike in Memphis, ultimately win union recognition and wage increases. The April 4 assassination in Memphis of Martin Luther King Jr., who had been taking an active role in mass meetings and street actions, brought pressure on the city to settle the strike - 1968 

February 12
Abolitionist Frederick Douglass born into slavery near Easton, MD - 1817

John L. Lewis, president of United Mine Workers of America and founding president of the CIO, born near Lucas, IA - 1880

February 13
A national eight-month strike by the Sons of Vulcan, a union of iron forgers, ends in victory when employers agreed to a wage scale based on the price of iron bars—the first time employers recognized the union, the first union contract in the iron and steel industry, and what may be the first union contract of any kind in the United States - 1865

Some 12,000 Hollywood writers returned to work today following a largely-successful three-month strike against television and motion picture studios.  They won compensation for their TV and movie work that gets streamed on the Internet - 2008

Sources:
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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