IBEW Local 131 Information Center

This Week In Labor History

Today in labor history for the week of March 28, 2011  

March 28
Members of Gas House Workers’ Union Local 18799 begin what is to become a four-month recognition strike against the Laclede Gas Light Co. in St. Louis. The union later said the strike was the first ever against a public utility in the U.S. - 1935

Martin Luther King, Jr., leads a march of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn. Violence during the march persuades him to return the following week to Memphis, where he was assassinated - 1968

March 29
Ohio makes it illegal for children under 18 and women to work more than 10 hours a day - 1852

Sam Walton, founder of the huge and bitterly anti-union Wal-Mart empire, born in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. He once said that his priority was to “Buy American,” but Wal-Mart is now the largest U.S. importer of foreign-made goods—often produced under sweatshop conditions - 1918

“Battle of Wall Street,” police charge strikers lying down in front of stock exchange doors, 43 arrested - 1948

National Maritime Union of America merges with National Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association - 1988

March 30
Chicago stockyard workers win 8-hour day - 1918

At the height of the Great Depression, 35,000 unemployed march in New York’s Union Square. Police beat many demonstrators, injuring 100 - 1930

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

Harry Bridges, Australian-born dock union leader, dies at age 88. He helped form and lead the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) for 40 years. A Bridges quote: “The most important word in the language of the working class is ‘solidarity’” - 1990.

March 31
President Martin Van Buren issues a broadly-applicable executive order granting the 10 hour day to all government employees engaged in manual labor - 1840

Cowboys earning $40 per month begin what is to become an unsuccessful 2 1/2 month strike for higher wages at five ranches in the Texas Panhandle - 1883

Cesar Chavez born in Yuma, AZ.- 1927

Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt signs legislation establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps, to help alleviate suffering during the Depression. By the time the program ended after the start of World War II it had provided jobs for more than six million men and boys. The average enrollee gained 11 pounds in his first three months - 1933

Wisconsin state troopers fail to get scabs across the picket line to break a 76-day Allis-Chalmers strike in Milwaukee led by UAW Local 248. The plant remained closed until the government negotiated a compromise - 1941

April 01
United Mine Workers of America win 8 hour day - 1898

San Francisco laundry workers strike for wage increases and an eight-hour day - 1907

More than 2,000 workers strike the Draper Corp. power loom manufacturing plant in Hopedale, Mass., seeking higher wages and a nine-hour workday. Eben S. Draper, president of the firm -- and a former state governor -- declares: "We will spend $1 million to break this strike" and refuses to negotiate. The strike ended in a stalemate 13 weeks later - 1913

Unionized miners at West Virginia’s Coal River Colliery Co. (CRC) strike for union scale. CRC was an investment venture of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE), with shares owned by BLE members - 1924 (Source: Conflict at Coal River Collieries: The UMWA Versus the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, by Thomas J. Robertson & Ronald L. Lewis)

Strike of cotton mill workers begins in Gastonia, NC.  During the strike, police raided the strikers’ tent colony; the chief of police was killed.  The strike leaders were framed for murder and convicted, but later freed - 1929

400,000 members of the United Mine Workers strike for higher wages and employer contributions to the union’s health and welfare fund. President Truman seizes the mines - 1946

40,000 textile workers strike in cotton and rayon mills of six southern states, seeing higher pay, sickness and accident insurance, and pensions - 1951

Longest newspaper strike in U.S. history, 114 days, ends in New York City. Workers at nine newspapers were involved - 1963

Major league baseball players begin what is to become a 13-day strike, ending when owners agreed to increase pension fund payments and to add salary arbitration to the collective bargaining agreement - 1972

Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters merge with Brotherhood of Railway, Airline & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees - 1978

Eleven-day strike by 34,000 New York City transit workers begins, halts bus and subway service in all five boroughs before strikers return to work with a 17 percent raise over two years plus a cost-of-living adjustment - 1980

United Cement, Lime & Gypsum Workers Int’l Union merges with Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers & Helpers - 1984

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers granted a charter by the AFL-CIO - 1989

The U.S. minimum wage increases to $3.80 per hour - 1990

The United Mine Workers of America dedicates the John L. Lewis Mining and Labor Museum at Lewis’ boyhood home in Lucas, Iowa - 1990

The U.S. minimum wage increases to $4.25 per hour - 1991

April 02
The American Federation of Labor charters the Union Label Department. 1909

The Supreme Court declares unconstitutional a 1918 Washington, D.C. law establishing a minimum wage for women - 1923

Major league baseball players end a 232-day strike, which began the prior August 12 and led to the cancellation of the 1994 postseason and the World Series - 1995

April 03
UAW Local 833 strikes the Kohler bathroom fixtures company in Kohler, Wisc. The strike ends six years later after Kohler is found guilty of refusing to bargain, agrees to reinstate 1,400 strikers and pay them $4.5 million in back pay and pension credits - 1954

Martin Luther King Jr. returns to Memphis to stand with striking AFSCME sanitation workers. This evening, he delivers his famous "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech in a church packed with union members and others. He is assassinated the following day - 1968 

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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