Today in Labor History: Weekend Edition

March 31
President Martin Van Buren issues a broadly-applicable executive order granting the 10-hour day to all government employees engaged in manual labor – 1840 
(Your Rights in the Workplace, 10th edition: The most substantial “employee rights” reference we’ve found. This book covers concerns of every worker in every state, in plain language and with what-to-do-about-it advice. Unions remain the best protection on the job, but this guide gives solid explanations on the full range of issues and options, and then some. Topics covered include privacy rights, family leave, discrimination and harassment, wages and hours, hiring and firing, safety on the job.)

Cowboys earning $40 per month begin what is to become an unsuccessful two-and-a-half-month strike for higher wages at five ranches in the Texas Panhandle – 1883

Cesar Chavez born in Yuma, Ariz.- 1927

Construction begins on the three-mile Hawk’s Nest Tunnel through Gauley Mountain, W. Va., as part of a hydroelectric project.  A congressional hearing years later was to report that 476 laborers in the mostly black, migrant workforce of 3,000 were exposed to silica rock dust in the course of their 10-hour-a-day, six-days-a-week shifts and died of silicosis.  Some researchers say that more than 1,000 died – 1930

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs legislation establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps to help alleviate suffering during the Depression. By the time the program ended after the start of World War II it had provided jobs for more than six million men and boys. The average enrollee gained 11 pounds in his first three months – 1933

Wisconsin state troopers fail to get scabs across the picket line to break a 76-day Allis-Chalmers strike in Milwaukee led by UAW Local 248. The plant remained closed until the government negotiated a compromise – 1941 

Federal judge Sonia Sotomayor, later to become a Supreme Court justice, issues an injunction against baseball team owners to end a 232-day work stoppage – 1995

April 01
Many believe that Cincinnati on this day became the first U.S. city to pay fire fighters a regular salary. Others say no, it was Boston, back in 1678, exact date unknown – 1853

United Mine Workers of America win 8-hour day – 1898

San Francisco laundry workers strike for wage increases and an 8-hour day – 1907

What was to become a 13-week strike begins today in Hopedale, Mass., when hundreds of workers seeking higher pay and a 9-hour day gathered in the street near the Draper Corp. loom-making plant.  The president of the company declared:  “We will spend $1 million to break this strike,” and, in fact, did, aided by hundreds of sworn “special policemen” with clubs.  Police were drawn from a three-state area as well – 1913
(Strike! Revised, Expanded, and Updated Edition: In this latest edition of Strike! you can read about labor-management conflicts that have occurred over the past 140 years. Here you’ll learn much about workers’ struggle to win a degree of justice, from the workers’ point of view. Brecher also examines the ever-shifting roles and configurations of unions, from the Knights of Labor of the 1800s to the AFL-CIO of the 1990s.)

Unionized miners at West Virginia’s Coal River Colliery Co. (CRC) strike for union scale. CRC was an investment venture of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE), with shares owned by BLE members – 1924 (Source: Conflict at Coal River Collieries: The UMWA Versus the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, by Thomas J. Robertson & Ronald L. Lewis) 

Strike of cotton mill workers begins in Gastonia, N.C. During the strike, police raided the strikers’ tent colony; the chief of police was killed. The strike leaders were framed for murder and convicted, but later freed – 1929 

Some 400,000 members of the United Mine Workers strike for higher wages and employer contributions to the union’s health and welfare fund. President Truman seizes the mines – 1946

Forty thousand textile workers strike in cotton and rayon mills of six southern states, seeking higher pay, sickness and accident insurance, and pensions – 1951

Longest newspaper strike in U.S. history, 114 days, ends in New York City. Workers at nine newspapers were involved – 1963

Major league baseball players begin what is to become a 13-day strike, ending when owners agree to increase pension fund payments and to add salary arbitration to the collective bargaining agreement – 1972

Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters merges with Brotherhood of Railway, Airline & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees – 1978

Eleven-day strike by 34,000 New York City transit workers begins, halts bus and subway service in all five boroughs before strikers return to work with a 17 percent raise over two years plus a cost-of-living adjustment – 1980

United Cement, Lime & Gypsum Workers Int’l Union merges with Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers & Helpers – 1984

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers granted a charter by the AFL-CIO – 1989

The U.S. minimum wage increases to $3.80 per hour – 1990 

The United Mine Workers of America dedicates the John L. Lewis Mining and Labor Museum at Lewis’ boyhood home in Lucas, Iowa – 1990

The U.S. minimum wage increases to $4.25 per hour – 1991

Players begin the first strike in the 75-year history of the National Hockey League. They win major improvements in the free agency system and other areas of conflict, and end the walkout after 10 days – 1992

April 02
The Union Label Trades Department is chartered by the American Federation of Labor.  Its mission: promote the products and services produced in America by union members, especially those products identified by a union label, shop card, store card, and service button – 1909

The Supreme Court declares unconstitutional a 1918 Washington, D.C., law establishing a minimum wage for women – 1923

Major league baseball players end a 232-day strike, which began the prior August 12 and led to the cancellation of the 1994 postseason and the World Series – 1995