Today in Labor History

September 7, 1893

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Starving coal miners in the small West Yorkshire, England, pit town of Featherstone – locked out for refusing to accept a wage cut – assemble to stop the movement of coal. As their numbers grew, the military was called in and opened fire, injuring eight people, two of whom died from their wounds.

September 6, 1941

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The CIO’s Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee and Armour & Co. sign a master contract, the first ever in the meatpacking industry. Within two years, the other three major meatpackers also signed master agreements with the union. By 1943, the union – renamed the United Packinghouse Workers of America – represented more than 60 percent of the country’s packinghouse workers.

September 5, 1964

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Elizabeth Gurley Flynn dies at age 74. Flynn was an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and an activist for women’s rights, birth control, and women’s suffrage.

September 3, 1928

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Being pushed into obsolescence by owners intent on replacing live music with recorded sound, 700 movie theater musicians in Chicago go on strike. The action was part of a nationwide wave of protest by the American Federation of Musicians, but by the end of the year, nearly 2,600 theater musicians were unemployed across the country.

September 1, 2014

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Today is Labor Day. In 1894, after sending in the Army and U.S. Marshals to break the Pullman strike, President Grover Cleveland’s popularity was in the toilet. In the immediate wake of the strike, legislation designating a federal Labor Day holiday was rushed unanimously through Congress and arrived on Cleveland’s desk for his signature.

August 31, 1991

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More than 325,000 trade unionists and allies from around the country hold a demonstration in Washington, D.C., to call for national healthcare reform, a ban on striker replacements, and full freedom of association for workers around the world. The marchers also demanded civil rights, fair trade, workplace safety, and attention to the nation’s decaying cities and infrastructure.

August 27, 1950

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In anticipation of a nationwide strike by railroad workers just weeks after the start of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman issues an executive order putting the country’s railroads under the control of the U.S. Army. The strike lasted for 21 months. In May 1952, Truman approved the return of the railroads to private ownership.

August 26, 1970

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Women in more than ninety cities across the U.S. participate in the Women’s Strike for Equality, organized by the National Organization for Women. Among other things, the action called for women to stop working for a day to draw attention to the issue of unequal pay for women’s work.

August 25, 2006

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 In response to the company’s closure of several distribution centers and its practice of re-hiring of laid off workers at lower pay, members of the National Distribution Union in New Zealand begin a 48-hour strike of Progressive Enterprises’ grocery distribution centers for a national contract, pay parity, and wages. The company responded by locking out the workers for nearly a month before settling on September 21.

August 23, 1932

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Following cuts in funding during the Great Depression, the Seattle Public Library Board of Trustees votes not to employ married women. Nine women were fired because their husbands had jobs. Ten years later, the Board allowed newly-married female employees to retain their jobs, but they were placed on one-year probation like new hires.

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