Today in Labor History: Weekend Edition

March 24
Groundbreaking on the first section of the New York City subway system, from City Hall to the Bronx. According to the New York Times, this was a worker’s review of the digging style of the well-dressed Subway Commissioners: “I wouldn’t give th’ Commish’ners foive cents a day fer a digging job. They’re too shtiff” – 1900

March 25
Toronto printers strike for the 9-hour day in what is believed to be Canada’s first major strike – 1872

First “Poor People’s March” on Washington, in which jobless workers demanded creation of a public works program.  Led by populist Jacob Coxey, the 500 to 1,000 unemployed protesters became known as “Coxey’s Army” – 1894

A total of 146 workers are killed in a fire at New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, a disaster that would launch a national movement for safer working conditions – 1911

An explosion at a coal mine in Centralia, Ill., kills 111 miners. Mineworkers President John L. Lewis calls a 6-day work stoppage by the nation’s 400,000 soft coal miners to demand safer working conditions – 1947

March 26
San Francisco brewery workers begin a 9-month strike as local employers follow the union-busting lead of the National Brewer’s Association. and fire their unionized workers, replacing them with scabs. Two unionized brewers refused to go along, kept producing beer, prospered wildly and induced the Association to capitulate. A contract benefit since having unionized two years earlier, certainly worth defending: free beer – 1868

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