IBEW Local 131 Information Center




This Week In Labor History


This Week In Labor History
May 23

An estimated 100,000 textile workers, including more than 10,000 children, strike in the Philadelphia area.  Among the issues: 60-hour workweeks, including night hours, for the children – 1903 (for more on textile workers, check out Lyddie, a novel for young adults about a 13-year-old farm girl who takes a job in the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts in the UCS bookstore)
 
Ten thousand strikers at Toledo, Ohio’s Auto-Lite plant repel police who have come to break up their strike for union recognition. The next day, two strikers are killed and 15 wounded when National Guard machine gun units open fire. Two weeks later the company recognized the union and agreed to a 5 percent raise - 1934
 
U.S. railroad strike starts, later crushed when President Truman threatens to draft strikers – 1946
 
The Granite Cutters International Association of America merges with Tile, Marble, Terrazzo, Finishers & Shopmen, which five years later merged into the Carpenters – 1983
 
May 24
After 14 years of construction and the deaths of 27 workers, the Brooklyn Bridge over New York’s East River opens. Newspapers call it “the eighth wonder of the world” – 1883 (the history of the building trades comes alive in Grace Palladino’s Skilled Hands, Strong Spirits: A Century of Building Trades History, available in the UCS bookstore)
 
2,300 members of the United Rubber Workers, on strike for 10 months against five Bridgestone-Firestone plants, agree to return to work without a contract. They had been fighting demands for 12-hour shifts and wage increases tied to productivity gains - 1995
 
May 25
Pressured by employers, striking shoemakers in Philadelphia are arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy for violating an English common law that bars schemes aimed at forcing wage increases. The strike was broken - 1805
 
Philip Murray is born in Scotland. He went on to emigrate to the U.S., become founder and first president of the United Steelworkers of America, and head of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) from 1940 until his death in 1952 - 1886
 
Two company houses occupied by non-union coal miners were blown up and destroyed during a strike against the Glendale Gas & Coal Co. in Wheeling, W. Va. - 1925
 
Thousands of unemployed WWI veterans arrive in Washington, D.C. to demand a bonus they had been promised but never received. They built a shantytown near the U.S. Capitol but were burned out by U.S. troops after two months - 1932
 
The notorious 11-month Remington Rand strike begins. The strike spawned the "Mohawk Valley (NY) formula," described by investigators as a corporate plan to discredit union leaders, frighten the public with the threat of violence, employ thugs to beat up strikers, and other tactics. The National Labor Relations Board termed the formula "a battle plan for industrial war." - 1936
 
The AFL-CIO begins what is to become an unsuccessful campaign for a 35-hour workweek, with the goal of reducing unemployment. Earlier tries by organized labor for 32- or 35-hour weeks also failed - 1962
 
May 26
Men and women weavers in Pawtucket, R.I. stage nation's first "co-ed" strike - 1824
 
Western Federation of Miners members strike for eight-hour day, Cripple Creek, Colo. – 1894
 
Actors’ Equity is founded by 112 theater actors meeting in the Pabst Grand Circle Hotel in New York City. A strike six years later, during which membership increased from 3,000 to 14,000, loosened the control on performers’ lives by theater owners and producers - 1913
 
IWW Marine Transport Workers strike, Philadelphia – 1920
 
One hundred thousand steel workers and miners in mines owned by steel companies strike in seven states.  The Memorial Day Massacre, in which ten strikers were killed by police at Republic Steel in Chicago, took place four days later, on May 30 - 1937
 
Battle of the Overpass, Ford thugs beat United Auto Workers organizers – 1937
 
May 28
The Ladies Shoe Binders Society formed in New York - 1835
 
At least 30,000 workers in Rochester, N.Y. participate in a general strike in support of municipal workers who had been fired for forming a union - 1946
 
May 29
Animators working for Walt Disney begin what was to become a successful five-week strike for recognition of their union, the Screen Cartoonists' Guild. The animated feature "Dumbo" was being created at the time and, according to Wikipedia, a number of strikers are caricatured in the feature as clowns who go to "hit the big boss for a raise" – 1941 (check out the fascinating story of Hollywood animators in Drawing the Line: The Untold Story of the Animation Unions, available in the UCS bookstore)

A contract between the United Mine Workers and the U.S. government establishes one of the nation's first union medical and pension plans, the multi-employer UMWA Welfare and Retirement Fund - 1946
 
The United Farm Workers of America reaches agreement with Bruce Church Inc. on a contract for 450 lettuce harvesters, ending a 17-year-long boycott. The pact raised wages, provided company-paid health benefits to workers and their families, created a seniority system to deal with seasonal layoffs and recalls, and established a pesticide monitoring system – 1996 (the UCS bookstore has four books on UFW founder Cesar Chavez, including The Fight in the Fields, which tells of Chavez and his union’s struggles to raise farmworker pay, win union recognition from savagely resistant grape and lettuce growers and stop the use of deadly pesticides that were killing children in the fields.)


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