IBEW Local 131 Information Center

This Week In Labor History

July 04
Albert Parsons joins the Knights of Labor. He later became an anarchist and was one of the Haymarket martyrs - 1876

AFL dedicates its new Washington, D.C. headquarters building at 9th St. and Massachusetts Ave. NW. The building, still standing, later became headquarters for the Plumbers and Pipefitters - 1916
Five newspaper boys from the Baltimore Evening Sun died when the steamer they were on, the Three Rivers, caught fire near Baltimore, Md.  They are remembered every year at a West Baltimore cemetery, toasted by former staffers of the now-closed newspaper - 1924
With the Great Depression underway, some 1,320 delegates attended the founding convention of the Unemployed Councils of the U.S.A., organized by the U.S. Communist Party.  They demanded passage of unemployment insurance and maternity benefit laws and opposed discrimination by race or sex - 1930

Two primary conventions of the United Nations' International Labor Organization come into force: Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize – 1950
(Organizing for Social Change is an organizer’s Bible: a comprehensive, real-world tool for organizers of all stripes determined to create attention and affect change. Compiled by leaders of the Midwest Academy, a respected training ground for serious union, community and nonprofit organizers since 1973, the book deals with everything from tactics to the mechanics of how to track a campaign, from coalition-building to using the media to supervising less experienced organizers. In the UCS bookstore now.)
July 05
During a strike against the Pullman Palace Car Company, which had drastically reduced wages, buildings constructed for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago's Jackson park were set ablaze, reducing seven to ashes - 1894
Battle of Rincon Hill, San Francisco, in longshore strike. 5,000 strikers fought 1,000 police, scabs and national guardsmen.  Two strikers were killed, 109 people injured.  The incident, forever known as "Bloody Thursday," led to a General Strike - 1934
National Labor Relations Act, providing workers rights to organize and bargain collectively, signed by President Roosevelt - 1935
July 06
Two strikers and a bystander are killed, 30 seriously wounded by police in Duluth, Minn. The workers, mostly immigrants building the city’s streets and sewers, struck after contractors reneged on a promise to pay $1.75 a day - 1889
Two barges, loaded with Pinkerton thugs hired by the Carnegie Steel Co., landed on the south bank of the Monongahela River in Homestead, Penn. seeking to occupy Carnegie Steel Works and put down a strike by members of the Amalgamated Association of Iron & Steel Workers - 1892

Rail union leader Eugene V. Debs is arrested during the Pullman strike, described by the New York Times as "a
struggle between the greatest and most important labor organization and the entire railroad capital" that involved some 250,000 workers in 27 states at its peak - 1894
Transit workers in New York begin what is to be an unsuccessful 3-week strike against the then-privately owned IRT subway. Most transit workers labored seven days a week, up to 11.5 hours a day - 1926
July 07
Striking New York longshoremen meet to discuss ways to keep new immigrants from scabbing. They were successful, at least for a time. On July 14, 500 newly arrived Jews marched straight from their ship to the union hall. On July 15, 250 Italian immigrants stopped scabbing on the railroad and joined the union - 1882

Mary Harris "Mother" Jones begins "The March of the Mill Children", when, accompanied part of the way by children, she walked from Philadelphia to President Theodore Roosevelt's home on Long Island to protest the plight of child laborers. One of her demands: reduce the childrens' work week to 55 hours – 1903
(For more on this working class hero, check out Mother Jones Speaks: Speeches and Writings, a comprehensive collection of her speeches, letters, articles, interviews and testimony before Congressional committees. In her own words, Mother Jones explains her life, her mission, her passion on behalf of working people. Here are her fiery speeches to crowds of striking miners, textile workers, railroad workers and others; her correspondence with political and union leaders of her era -- even newspaper accounts of her activities that include confrontations with police and militia. Available now in the UCS bookstore.)
Cloakmakers begin what is to be a two-month strike against New York City sweatshops - 1910
Some 500,000 people participate when a two-day general strike is called in Puerto Rico by more than 60 trade unions and many other organizations. They are protesting privatization of the island's telephone company - 1998
July 08
First anthracite coal strike in U.S. - 1842
Labor organizer Ella Reeve "Mother" Bloor born on Staten Island, NY. Among her activities: investigating child labor in glass factories and mines, and working undercover in meat packing plants to verify for federal investigators the nightmarish working conditions that author Upton Sinclair had revealed in "The Jungle" - 1862
The Pacific Mail Steamship Co. fires all employees who had been working an eight hour day, then joins with other owners to form the "Ten-Hour League Society" for the purpose of uniting all mechanics "willing to work at the old rates, neither unjust to the laborers nor ruinous to the capital and enterprise of the city and state." The effort failed - 1867
Founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W., or Wobblies) concludes in Chicago. Charles O. Sherman, a former American Federation of Labor organizer, is elected president – 1905
(Solidarity Forever: An Oral History of the IWW is a wonderful collection of IWW members’ oral histories interspersed with the authors’ comments about this fascinating and vitally important piece of American and labor history. Includes more than 50 photos and cartoons. Originally published in 1985, now in its fourth printing and available now in the UCS bookstore.)
July 09
The worst rail accident in U.S. history occurred when two trains pulled by 80-ton locomotives collided head-on at Dutchman’s curve in west Nashville, Tenn. 101 people died, another 171 were injured - 1918
New England Telephone "girls" strike for seven-hour workday, $27 weekly pay after four years' service - 1923
New York City subway system managers in the Bronx attempt to make cleaning crews on the IRT line work faster by forcing the use of a 14-inch squeegee instead of the customary 10-inch tool. Six workers are fired for insubordination; a two-day walkout by the Transport Workers Union wins reversal of the directive and the workers’ reinstatement - 1935
United Packinghouse, Food & Allied Workers merge with Amalgamated Meat Cutters & Butcher Workmen - 1968
Five thousand demonstrators rally at the state capitol in Columbia, S.C. in support of the "Charleston Five," labor activists charged with felony rioting during a police attack on a 2000 longshoremen's picket of a non-union crew unloading a ship - 2001
July 10
Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and civil rights activist, born - 1875
14,000 federal and state troops finally succeed in putting down the strike against the Pullman Palace Car Co., which had been peaceful until July 5, when federal troops intervened in Chicago, against the repeated protests of the Governor and Chicago’s mayor. Some 34 American Raily Union members were killed by troops over the course of the strike - 1894
A powerful explosion rips through the Rolling Mill coal mine in Johnstown, Pa., killing 112 miners, 83 of whom were immigrants from Poland and Slovakia - 1902
The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce holds a mass meeting of more than 2,000 merchants to organize what was to become a frontal assault on union strength and the closed shop. The failure of wages to keep up with inflation after the 1906 earthquake had spurred multiple strikes in the city - 1916
Sidney Hillman dies at age 59. He led the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, was a key figure in the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations and was a close advisor to Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt - 1946

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