Today in Labor History

April 20, 1948

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While eating dinner in the kitchen of his home, gunmen open fire on UAW president Walter Reuther, who is hit by a shotgun blast to his right arm. His assailants, who were thought to be hired by gangsters trying to stop union organizing at the mob-dominated Michigan Stove Works, were never caught. Reuther eventually regained limited mobility of his severely damaged arm.

April 19, 1911

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More than 6,000 furniture workers go on strike in Grand Rapids, Michigan, over hours, wages, working conditions, and the right to bargain collectively. The strike – which affected nearly all of the 60+ furniture manufacturers in the city – lasted throughout the summer, bringing much of the city to a standstill for four months. A monument, “The Spirit of Solidarity,” was dedicated in 2007 to the striking workers.

April 18, 2005

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Members of Columbia’s Graduate Student Employees United and Yale’s Graduate Student Employees and Students Organization begin a five-day strike for union recognition. It was the first multi-university strike by Ivy League graduate students.

April 14, 1913

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Belgian workers begin a general strike, calling for universal suffrage. 400,000 people participated in the strike, which lasted until April 25. Their demand wasn’t met until after the First World War.

April 12, 1937

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The United States Supreme Court rules on National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, affirming the constitutionality of the National Labor Relations Act (the “Wagner Act”) of 1935. The NLRB had ruled against the company for firing ten workers who were attempting to unionize; the company refused, arguing that the NLRA was unconstitutional.

April 11, 1980

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The New York City transit strike ends. 34,000 Transport Workers Union Local 100 members walked off the job on April 1 when contract negotiations failed. In the end, the workers won a contract calling for a 9% raise in the first year and 8% in the second year, along with a cost of living adjustment.

April 10, 1917

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133 workers, mostly women and girls, are killed in an explosion at the Eddystone Ammunition Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania. A monument in the Chester Rural Cemetery marks the final resting place for the remains of the 55 unidentified victims.

April 9, 1917

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The United States Supreme Court rules in Bunting v. Oregon, upholding Oregon’s 1913 state law that prescribed a ten-hour workday for both men and women and the state’s requirement that businesses in the state pay time-and-a-half for overtime up to three hours a day. The case was one of the first that upheld wage regulations in addition to hours regulations.

April 7, 1947

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Nearly 350,000 telephone operators, almost all of them women, walk off their jobs across the country on strike against AT&T. After the strike ended, the National Federation of Telephone Workers reformed itself into the Communications Workers of America, which converted the former autonomous organizations of the NFTW into a three-level union: the national union, 39 divisions, and locals.

April 6, 1905

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Teamsters in Chicago begin a sympathy strike in support of locked out Montgomery Ward & Co. workers who were on strike to protest the company’s use of nonunion subcontractors. When other businesses rallied to the company’s defense, the dispute spread quickly. Workers battled strikebreakers, police, and scabs for 105 days; 21 people died.

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