Today in Labor History: April 12

A group of “puddlers”—craftsmen who manipulated pig iron to create steel—met in a Pittsburgh bar and formed The Iron City Forge of the Sons of Vulcan. It was the strongest union in the U.S. in the 1870s, later merging with two other unions to form what was to be the forerunner of the United Steel Workers – 1858

Birth of Florence Reece, active in Harlan County, Ky., coal strikes and author of famed labor song “Which Side Are You On?” – 1900

The Union Label and Service Trades Department is founded by the American Federation of Labor. Its mission: promote the products and services of union members – 1909

Twenty “girl millworkers,” attempting to relieve striking pickets at the Garfield, New Jersey, mill of Forstmann and Huffmann, were beaten “when they did not move fast enough to suit” 30 special deputies who ordered them off the site, according to a news report – 1912

Chris Turner is born in Floyd, Va.  He went on to become a NASCAR driver and attempted, along with Fireball Roberts and Tim Flock, to organize the other drivers into a union in 1961 in the hope of better purses, a share in broadcasting rights and retirement benefits for the drivers. He was banned by NASCAR and was unsuccessful when he sued for reinstatement. The court said he was an individual contractor, not an employee of NASCAR or any track – 1924

The Toledo (Ohio) Auto-Lite strike begins today with 6,000 workers demanding union recognition and higher pay.  The strike is notable for a 5-day running battle in late May between the strikers and 1,300 members of the Ohio National Guard.  Known as the “Battle of Toledo,” the clash left two strikers dead and more than 200 injured.  The 2-month strike, a win for the workers’ union, is regarded by many labor historians as one of the nation’s three most important strikes – 1934

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