Today in Labor History

April 18, 1872

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATwo days after leaders of the Toronto Typographical Union – whose members are on strike for a nine-hour workday – are arrested for common conspiracy, Canada’s Prime Minister Sir John Macdonald introduces the Trade Union Act to legalize unions in the country.

April 17, 1912

After_Lena_MassacreThe military arrives to crush a strike by more than 6,000 gold miners – on strike over long hours, appalling working conditions, and starvation wages – along the Lena River in southeast Siberia, Russia. The entire strike committee was quickly arrested and when 2,500 workers marched to demand their release, soldiers opened fire on them, killing and wounding over 500 people. Anger over the mass murder fueled a subsequent wave of strikes across the country.

April 16, 1947

1947 TEXAS CITY DISASTER EXACT DATE UNKNOWN.2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate on board a ship docked in the port of Texas City detonate, setting off a chain reaction of explosions and fires on other ships and nearby oil storage facilities. At least 581 people were killed and thousands more were seriously injured in the deadliest industrial disaster in U.S. history. As a result, changes in chemical manufacturing and new regulations for the bagging, handling, and shipping of chemicals were enacted.

April 15, 1916

5th-grade-1915The American Federation of Teachers is founded in Chicago. In its first four years, the union chartered 174 locals. Today, the AFT has more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide and more than 1.6 million members.

April 2, 2011

002_RBI-image-JOC043821I02Canadian and American trade unionists rally at the international border between British Columbia and Washington to show their solidarity with public sector workers in Wisconsin facing attacks by that state’s government. The action was organized in conjunction with hundreds of other We Are One rallies that took place throughout North America.

March 31, 2004

Westray-Mine-Memorial-pictureCanada Bill C-45 goes into force, amending the Criminal Code to impose penalties on corporations, managers, and executives for violations causing workplace injuries and deaths. The Westray Bill, as it is known, was named after a methane explosion in the Westray coal mine near Plymouth, Nova Scotia, which killed all 26 miners working there at the time.

March 20, 1905

1576595_origThe R.B. Grover shoe factory in Brockton, Massachusetts, collapses and bursts into flames after its old boiler explodes and shoots up through three floors and the roof. 58 people were killed and 150 injured. The incident led to passage of a national boiler safety code.

March 18, 1937

woolworth-workers-go-on-strike-in-new-everettNew York City police evict and arrest striking Woolworth clerks occupying stores and demanding a 40-hour workweek. Police were met with huge protests at the stores and the precinct where the workers had been taken. Once freed, the clerks returned to the stores and re-occupied them and, in the end, they won a one-year union contract, an eight-hour day, six-day workweek, and a 32.5 cent per hour minimum wage.

March 17, 1960

March 17Five Italian immigrant workers die in an underground tunnel at a water main construction project in suburban Toronto, Canada. The Hoggs Hollow Disaster drew public attention to the unsafe conditions in construction and the exploitation of immigrant workers, and led to the strengthening of Ontario’s labor laws.

March 13, 1919

la21j4Delegates from most union locals in western Canada decide to hold a referendum on forming an independent revolutionary industrial union. The vote showed overwhelming support and in early June, the One Big Union was launched. Thousands of workers joined, including large parts of the mine, transportation, and logging labor force. At its peak in 1920, the OBU had close to 50,000 members.

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