IBEW Local 131 Information Center

This Week In Labor History

Today in labor history for the week of October 18, 2010 

October 18 
The "Shoemakers of Boston" - the first labor organization in what would later become the United States - was authorized by the Massachusetts Bay Colony - 1648

New York City agrees to pay women school teachers a rate equal to that of men - 1911

IWW Colorado Mine strike; first time all coal fields are out - 1927

58,000 Chrysler Corp. workers strike for wage increases - 1939

The United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) was formed as a self-governing union, an outgrowth of the CIO's Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee. UPWA merged with the Meatcutters union in 1968, which merged with the Retail Clerks in 1979 to form the United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) - 1943

October 19
The J.P. Stevens textile company is forced to sign its first union contract after a 17-year struggle in North Carolina and other southern states - 1980

October 20
Eugene V. Debs, U.S. labor leader and socialist, dies in Elmhurst, Ill. Among his radical ideas: an eight-hour workday, pensions, workman's compensation, sick leave and social security. He ran for president from a jail cell in 1920 and got a million votes - 1926

Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan writes to PATCO President Robert Poli with this promise: if the union endorses Reagan "I will take whatever steps are necessary to provide our air traffic controllers with the most modern equipment available and to adjust staff levels and work days so that they are commensurate with achieving a maximum degree of public safety." He got the endorsement. Nine months after the election, he fires the air traffic controllers for engaging in an illegal walkout over staffing levels and working conditions - 1980

Death of Merle Travis, songwriter and performer who wrote "Sixteen Tons" & "Dark as a Dungeon" - 1983

October 22
Bank robber Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd is killed by FBI agents near East Liverpool, Ohio. He was a hero to the people of Oklahoma who saw him as a "Sagebrush Robin Hood," stealing from banks and sharing some of the proceeds with the poor - 1934

October 23
Explosion and fire at Phillips Petroleum refinery in Pasadena, Texas, kills 23 and injures 314 - 1989

Postal workers Joseph Cursseen and Thomas Morris die after inhaling anthrax at the Brentwood mail sorting center in Washington, D.C. Other postal workers are made ill. Letters containing the deadly spores had been addressed to U.S. Senate offices and media outlets - 2001

October 24
Strike of Teamsters, Scalesmen and Packers in New Orleans. City trade is paralyzed; in two weeks the walkout becomes a general strike, involving more than 20,000 whites and blacks together, in support of demands for union recognition and a 10-hour work day - 1892

The first U.S. federal minimum wage – 25 cents an hour – takes effect, thanks to enactment of the Depression-era Fair Labor Standards Act. The law required an increase to 30 cents an hour one year from this date, and to 40 cents an hour on this date in 1945.  The FLSA also established the 40-hour work week and forbade child labor in factories - 1938

AFL-CIO readmits Teamsters union to the labor federation, ending a 30-year expulsion for corruption. In 2005 the Teamsters again parted company with the AFL-CIO – along with a half-dozen other unions – over differences of approach on organizing and politics - 1987.

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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