Today in Labor History: September 3; Labor Humor

Today in Labor History: September 32015.08.31-history-cotton.harvesters
African-American cotton pickers organize and strike in Lee County, Texas, against miserably low wages and other injustices, including a growers’ arrangement with local law enforcement to round up blacks on vagrancy charges, then force them to work off their fines on select plantations.  Over the course of September a white mob put down the strike, killing 15 strikers in the process – 1891

Labor Humor: Careful What You Wish For
Labor and management negotiators are working very late one night, struggling with a new 2015.08.31-humor-geniecontract. Suddenly, a genie appears before them and offers each one wish.
+++Management’s union-busting consultant shyly admits, “I’ve always dreamed of writing the great American novel and having my work studied in schools across the land. I’d like to go to a tropical island where I can concentrate and write my masterpiece.”
+++The genie says, “No problem!” and poof! The union-buster vanishes.
+++The company’s HR director says, “Well, I’ve always wanted to create a painting so beautiful that it would hang in the Louvre Museum in Paris for all the world to admire. I want to go to the French countryside to work on my painting.”
+++The genie says, “Your wish is granted!” and poof! The HR director vanishes.
+++The genie then turns to the union negotiator and says, “And what is your wish?”
+++The union negotiator says, “Those last two wishes took care of it, thanks.”
—From Workplace Jokes: Only SOME of Them Will Get You Fired!

Today in Labor History: September 2; Member Tip

Today in Labor History: September 22015.08.31-history-rock
White and Chinese immigrants battle in Rock Springs, Wyo., fueled by racial tensions and the practice of Union Pacific Railroad of hiring lower-paid Chinese over whites. At least 25 Chinese died and 15 more were injured. Rioters burned 75 Chinese homes – 1885

Member Tip: The Family and Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) went into effect in 1993, intended to provide a means for employees to balance their work and family responsibilities. It does this by saying that workers are legally entitled to take unpaid leave because of any of the following: the birth, care, or adoption or foster care of a child; the care of an immediate family member with a serious health condition; or the employee’s own serious health condition. This law also gives returning employees the right to go back to their old jobs, or to equivalent positions, without being penalized. The Department of Labor can investigate FMLA claims and enforce the terms of the law. Because the FMLA doesn’t cover all workplaces and requires an employer to grant only unpaid leave (and then only under certain circumstances), your union contract will likely contain better provisions. And if this is the case, the rights in your union contract will have priority over those in this federal law.
—Adapted from The Union Member’s Complete Guide, by Michael Mauer

Today in Labor History: September 1

The Int’l Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers is founded at a meeting in Chicago, the product of two separate brotherhoods created over the previous 13 years – 1893

2015.08.31-history-weekendCongress declares Labor Day a national holiday – 1894
(From the Folks Who Brought You The Weekend is a sweeping, highly readable history of U.S. labor that will be welcomed by anyone interested in learning more about the struggle of American working people to better their lives through collective action.)

Some 30,000 women from 26 trades marched in Chicago’s Labor Day parade – 1903

Walter Reuther is born. He went on to become a founder of the United Auto Workers and was president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations when it merged with the AFL in 1955 – 1907

A 3-week strike in Woonsocket, R.I., part of a national movement to obtain a minimum wage for textile workers, resulted in the deaths of three workers. Ultimately more than 420,000 workers struck nationally – 1934
In Hawaii, some 26,000 sugar workers represented by the Longshoremen’s union begin what is to become a successful 79-day strike that shuts down 33 of the 34 sugar plantations on the islands. The strike brought an end to Hawaii’s paternalistic labor relations and impacted political and social institutions throughout the then-territory – 1946

Today in Labor History: August 31; Cool Labor Site

Today in Labor History: August
Some 10,000 striking miners began a fight at Blair Mountain, W.Va., for recognition of their union, the United Mine Workers of America. Federal troops were sent in and miners were forced to withdraw five days later, after 16 deaths – 1921

Cool Labor Site: Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
Is it possible that you or someone you know may be owed a pension benefit without knowing it? If you worked for a company in the past that went out of business or ended its defined benefit pension plan, you may be entitled to pension money.

Today in Labor History: Weekend Edition; Labor Video

Today in Labor History: Weekend Edition
August 28—The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—the Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have A Dream” speech march—is held in Washington, D.C., with 250,000 participating. The AFL-CIO did not endorse the march, but several affiliated unions did – 19632015.08.24-history-mlk.march
(Martin Luther King, Jr., and the March on Washington: Written for 5 to 8 year-olds, this is a very nice introduction to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, that watershed event in the fight for civil rights. It uses the March as a point of reference as it talks about segregation in America and the battle for equal rights.)
August 29—Sixty letter carriers from 18 states meet in a room above Schaefer’s Saloon on Plankinton Avenue in Milwaukee. They unanimously adopt a resolution to form a National Association of Letter Carriers – 1889
August 30—OSHA publishes scaffold safety standard, designed to protect 2.3 million construction workers and prevent 50 deaths and 4,500 injuries annually – 1996

2015.08.24-video-levittLabor Video: Union Busting 101
Former professional union-buster Martin J. Levitt (1944-2004) talks about how employers use fear to kill unions. Click here to watch the video.

Today in Labor History: August 27; Labor Humor

Today in Labor History: August 27
Some 14,000 Chicago teachers who have gone without pay for several months finally collect about $1,400 each – 1934

Labor Humor: The Business Agent’s Dream
A man knocked at the heavenly gate, his face was scarred and old;
He stood before the man of fate, for admission to the fold.
“What have you done,” St. Peter asked. “To gain admission here?”
“I’ve been a union business agent, sire,” he said. “For many and many a year.”
The pearly gates swung open wide; St. Peter touched the bell.
“Come in and choose your harp,” St. Peter said. “You’ve had your share of hell!”
—From Workplace Jokes: Only SOME of Them Will Get You Fired!

Today in Labor History: August 26; Member Tip

Today in Labor History: August 262015.08.24-history-womens.strike.equality
The Women’s Strike for Equality is staged in cities across the U.S., marking the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, under which women won the right to vote. A key focus of the strike—in fact, more accurately a series of marches and demonstrations—was equality in the workplace. An estimated 20,000 women participated, some carrying signs with the iconic slogan, “Don’t Iron While the Strike is Hot.” Another sign: “Hardhats for Soft Broads” – 1970

Member Tip: Unwritten “Past Practice” Laws
Depending on what your collective bargaining agreement says, it may be that the way things are in your workplace—established “past practices”—are actually enforceable 2015.08.24-membertip-pastunder the contract or in another legal forum. Arbitrators resolving contract disputes will sometimes rule that employees have the right to do something the way it’s always been done, even if there’s no explicit language saying so in the contract. For example, at night you may park in a close-by customer lot because that’s where everyone always parks, even though the contract doesn’t say anything about parking. Suppose one day your employer puts up a sign prohibiting parking there. The union may well have a grievance it can win that the “past practice” of parking in that lot can’t be changed unilaterally.
—Adapted from The Union Member’s Complete Guide, by Michael Mauer