IBEW Local 131 Information Center




This Week In Labor History


Today in labor history for the week of May 2, 2011  

May 02 
Chicago's first Trades Assembly, formed three years earlier, sponsors a general strike by thousands of workers to enforce the state's new eight hour day law. The one-week strike was unsuccessful - 1867

Birth of Richard Trevellick, a ship carpenter, founder of American National Labor Union and later head of the National Labor Congress, America’s first national labor organization - 1830

First Workers’ Compensation law in U.S. enacted, in Wisconsin - 1911

Pres. Herbert Hoover declares that the stock market crash six months earlier was just a "temporary setback" and the economy would soon bounce back. In fact the Great Depresssion was to continue and worsen for several more years - 1930

In Germany, Adolph Hitler issues an edict abolishing all labor unions, part of his effort to ban any political opposition - 1933

May 03
Four striking workers are killed, at least 200 wounded, when police attack a demonstration on Chicago’s south side at the McCormick Harvesting Machine plant. The Haymarket Massacre is to take place the following day - 1886

Eugene V. Debs and other leaders of the American Railway Union are jailed for six months for contempt of court in connection with Pullman railroad car strike - 1895

Pete Seeger, folksinger and union activist, born in Patterson, N.Y. Among his songs: “If I Had A Hammer” and “Turn, Turn, Turn” - 1919

May 04
Haymarket massacre. A bomb is thrown as Chicago police start to break up a rally for strikers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. A riot erupts, 11 police and strikers die, mostly from gunfire, and scores more are injured - 1886

May 05
National Typographical Union founded, Cincinnati, Ohio. It was renamed the International Typographical Union in 1869, in acknowledgment of Canadian members. When the ITU merged into CWA in 1986 it was the oldest existing union in the U.S. - 1852

On Chicago’s West Side, police attack Jewish workers as they try to march into the Loop to protest slum conditions - 1886

Some 14,000 building trades workers and laborers, demanding an eight-hour work day, gather at the Milwaukee Iron Co. rolling mill in Bay View, Wisc. When they approach the mill they are fired on by 250 National Guardsmen under orders from the governor to shoot to kill. Seven die, including 13-year-old boy - 1886

Italian-American anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are arrested in Boston for murder and payroll robbery. Eventually they are executed for a crime most believe they did not commit - 1920

Heavily armed deputies and other mineowner hirelings attack striking miners in Harlan County, Ky., starting the Battle of Harlan County - 1931

John J. Sweeney, president of the Service Employees Intl. Union from 1980 to 1995, then president of the AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2009, born in The Bronx, N.Y. - 1934

Lumber strike begins in Pacific Northwest, will involve 40,000 workers by the time victory is achieved after 13 weeks: union recognition, a 50 cent per hour minimum wage and an eight-hour day - 1937

The U.S. unemployment rate drops to a 30-year low of 3.9 percent; the rate for blacks and Hispanics is the lowest ever since the government started tracking such data - 2000

May 06
Works Projects Administration (WPA) established at a cost of $4.8 billion -- more than $72 billion in 2011 dollars -- to provide work opportunities for millions during the Great Depression - 1935

400 black women working as tobacco stemmers walk off the job in a spontaneous revolt against poor working conditions and a $3 weekly wage at the Vaughan Co. in Richmond, Va. - 1937

May 07
The Knights of St. Crispin union is formed at a secret meeting in Milwaukee. It grew to 50,000 members before being crushed by employers later that year - 1867

Two die, 20 are injured in “Bloody Tuesday” as strikebreakers attempt to run San Francisco streetcars during a strike by operators. The strike was declared lost in 1908 after many more deaths, including several in scab-operated streetcar accidents - 1907

Philadelphia’s longest transit strike ends after 44 days. A key issue in the fight was the hiring and use of part-timers - 1977

May 08
The constitution of the Brotherhood of the Footboard was ratified by engineers in Detroit, Mich. Later became the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers - 1863

Jerry Wurf, who was to serve as president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) from 1964 to his death 1981, born in New York City. The union grew from about 220,000 members to more than 1 million during his presidency - 1919

About 200 construction workers in New York City attack a crowd of Viet Nam war protesters four days after the Kent State killings. More than 70 people were injured, including four police officers. Peter Brennan, head of the New York building trades, was honored at the Nixon White House two weeks later, eventually named Secretary of Labor - 1970

12,000 Steelworker-represented workers at Goodyear Tire & Rubber win an 18-day strike for improved wages and job security - 1997 

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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