Today in Labor History: Weekend Edition

April 14
More than 100 Mexican and Filipino farm workers are arrested for union activities, Imperial Valley, Calif. Eight were convicted of “criminal syndicalism” – 1930

John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath published – 1939

The United Steelworkers and the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers unions merge to form the largest industrial union in North America – 2005

April 15
A. Philip Randolph, civil rights leader and founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, born in Crescent City, Fla. – 1889

Eight members of the Musicians union die in the sinking of the Titanic. According to survivors, they played their instruments until nearly the end. Five weeks later a concert organized by the union to benefit the musicians’ families, held in a theater donated for the evening by impresario Flo Ziegfeld, featured the talents of 500 musicians. The evening ended with a rendering of “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” the hymn being played as the ship went down. The union at the time was called the Musical Mutual Protective Union Local 310, the New York affiliate of the American Federation of Musicians – 1912

IWW union Agricultural Workers Organization formed in Kansas City, Mo. – 1915

Teacher unionists gather at the City Club on Plymouth Court in Chicago to form a new national union: the American Federation of Teachers – 1916

Start of ultimately successful six-day strike across New England by one of the earliest women-led American unions, the Telephone Operators Department of IBEW – 1919

Transport Workers Union founded – 1934

The first McDonald’s restaurant opens, in Des Plaines, Ill., setting the stage years later for sociologist Amitai Etzioni to coin the term “McJob.” As defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, a McJob is “an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, especially one created by the expansion of the service sector” – 1955

April 16
Employers lock out 25,000 New York City garment workers in a dispute over hiring practices. The Int’l Ladies’ Garment Workers Union calls a general strike; after 14 weeks, 60,000 strikers win union recognition and the contractual right to strike – 1916

Five hundred workers in Texas City, Texas die in a series of huge oil refinery and chemical plant explosions and fires – 1947

An estimated 20,000 global justice activists blockade Washington, D.C., meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund – 2000

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