IBEW Local 131 Information Center




This Week In Labor History


This Week in Labor History for the week of February 27, 2011

February 28
U.S. Supreme Court finds that a Utah state law limiting mine and smelter workers to an eight-hour workday is constitutional - 1898

(Actually Leap Year Feb. 29) The minimum age allowed by law for workers in mills, factories, and mines in South Carolina is raised from twelve to fourteen - 1915

Members of the Chinese Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union in San Francisco’s Chinatown begin what is to be a successful four-month strike for better wages and conditions at the National Dollar Stores factory and three retail outlets - 1938

In response to the layoff of 450 union members at a 3M factory in New Jersey, every worker at a 3M factory in Elandsfontein, South Africa, walks off the job in sympathy - 1986.

March 01
The Granite Cutters National Union begins what is to be a successful nationwide strike for the 8-hour day. Also won: union recognition, wage increases, a grievance procedure and a minimum wage scale - 1900

Joseph Curren is born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. At age 16 he joined the Merchant Marines and in 1937 went on to lead the formation of the National Maritime Union. He was the union’s founding president and held the post until 1973, when he resigned amidst corruption charges. He died in 1981 - 1906

IWW strikes Portland, Ore. sawmills - 1907

CIO president John L. Lewis and U.S. Steel President Myron Taylor sign a landmark contract in which the bitterly anti-union company officially recognized the CIO as sole negotiator for the company's unionized workers. Included: the adoption of overtime pay, the 40-hour work week, and a big pay hike - 1937

(Actually leap year Feb. 29) Screen Actors Guild member Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American to win an Academy Award, honored for her portrayal of “Mammy” in “Gone with the Wind” - 1940

After five years of labor by 21,000 workers, 112 of whom were killed on the job, the Hoover Dam (Boulder Dam) is completed and turned over to the government. Citizens were so mad at Pres. Herbert Hoover, for whom the dam had been named, that it was later changed to Boulder Dam, being located near Boulder City, Nev - 1936

The federal minimum wage increases to $1.00 per hour - 1956

March 02
Postal workers granted 8 hour day - 1913

U.S. Steel yields, recognizes the Steel Workers Organizing Committee as the sole representative for its workforce. The agreement led directly to many other steel firms recognizing the union - 1937

More than 6,000 drivers strike Greyhound Lines, most lose jobs to strikebreakers after company declares “impasse” in negotiations - 1990

March 03
Birth date in Coshocton, Ohio of William Green, a coal miner who was to succeed Samuel Gompers as president of the American Federation of Labor, serving in the role from 1924 to 1952. He held the post until his death, to be succeeded by George Meany - 1873

Congress approves the Seamen’s Act, providing the merchant marine with rights similar to those gained by factory workers. Action on the law was prompted by the sinking of the Titanic three years earlier. Among other gains: working hours were limited to 56 per week; guaranteed minimum standards of cleanliness and safety were put in place - 1915

The Davis-Bacon Act took effect today. It orders contractors on federally financed or assisted construction projects to pay wage rates equal to those prevailing in local construction trades - 1931

March 04
In his inaugural address, President Thomas Jefferson declares: “Take not from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” - 1801

Pres. William Howard Taft signs legislation creating the Department of Labor. Former United Mine Workers Secretary Treasurer William B. Wilson is named to lead the new department - 1913

President Franklin D. Roosevelt names a woman, Frances Perkins, to be Secretary of Labor. Perkins became the first female cabinet member in U.S. history - 1933

UAW workers win sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan, forcing General Motors to recognize the union. In the 40-day action, the strikers were protected by 5,000 armed workers circling the Fisher Body plant - 1937

Machinists strike Eastern Airlines are soon joined by flight attendants and pilots in the nationwide walkout. Owner Frank Lorenzo refuses to consider the unions’ demands; Eastern ultimately went out of business - 1989

March 05
British soldiers, quartered in the homes of colonists, took the jobs of working people when jobs were scarce. On this date, grievances of ropemakers against the soldiers led to a fight. Soldiers shot down Crispus Attucks, a black colonist, then others, in what became known as the Boston Massacre. Attucks is considered the first casualty in the American Revolution - 1770

United Shoe Workers of America merge with Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union - 1979

March 06
The Knights of Labor picket to protest the practices of the Southwestern Railroad system, and the company's chief, high-flying Wall Street financier Jay Gould. Some 9,000 workers walked off the job, halting service on 5,000 miles of track. The workers held out for two months, many suffering from hunger, before they finally returned to work - 1886

Joe Hill’s song “There Is Power In A Union” appears in “Little Red Song Book” - 1913

With the Great Depression underway, hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers demonstrated in some 30 cities and towns; close to 100,000 filled Union Square in New York City and were attacked by mounted police - 1930

International Brotherhood of Paper Makers merges with United Paperworkers of America to become United Papermakers & Paperworkers - 1957

The federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act is enacted - 1970

Predominantly young workers at a Lordstown, Ohio GM assembly plant stage a wildcat strike, largely in objection to the grueling workpace: at 101.6 cars per hour, their assembly line was believed to be the fastest in the world - 1972

President Jimmy Carter invoked the Taft-Hartley law to halt the 1977-78 national contract strike by the United Mine Workers of America. The order was ignored and Carter did little to enforce it. A settlement was reached in late March - 1978

The U.S. Dept. Of Labor reports that the nation’s unemployment rate soared to 8.1 percent in February, the highest since late 1983, as cost-cutting employers slashed 651,000 jobs amid a deepening recession - 2009


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