Today in Labor History

Labor history is OUR history

February 13, 1913

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After West Virginia Governor William E. Glasscock declares martial law to put down the coal miners’ strike in in Kanawha county, 83-year old activist and organizer Mary Harris “Mother” Jones is arrested. She was tried and convicted by a military court and sentenced to twenty years in prison. “Whatever I have done in West Virginia,” she said, “I have done it all over the United States. And when I get out, I will do it again.” She was released and pardoned after serving 85 days.

February 10, 1928

February 10

At the Hollinger Consolidated Gold Mine in Timmins, Ontario – the largest in North America – 39 miners are killed when a fire spreads carbon monoxide through the workings. There was no rescue plan in place and it took five days to put out the fire.

February 7, 2008

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A huge explosion and fire at the Imperial Sugar refinery northwest of Savannah, Georgia, kills 14 and injures 38 people. The explosion was fueled by massive accumulations of combustible sugar dust throughout the packaging building. An investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board stated that the explosion had been “entirely preventable,” noting that the sugar industry had been aware of the risk of dust explosions since 1926.

February 4, 1896

February 3

The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers is formed at a meeting in Pittsburgh with 16 delegates from local unions. Today, the union represents 120,000 ironworkers in North America.

February 3, 1941

Feb 3

The U.S. Supreme Court rules unanimously in United States v. Darby to uphold the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which banned certain types of child labor, established a minimum wage, and set a maximum workweek at 44 hours.

February 2, 1977

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Legal secretary Iris Rivera is fired for refusing to make coffee for her employer. A Chicago-based advocacy group, Women Employed, led a series of public actions against her firing and eventually Rivera got her job back.

January 31, 1938

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12,000 pecan shellers in San Antonio, Texas, walk off their jobs at 400 factories in what would become a three-month strike against wage cuts. The pecan-shelling industry was among the lowest paid in the country; workers made between $2-$3 a week.

January 29, 2009

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The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 is the first bill signed into law by President Barack Obama, restoring the protection against pay discrimination that was stripped away by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. The wage gap continues.

January 26, 1897

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The Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America is chartered by the American Federation of Labor with seven locals, five of them composed of mostly skilled retail workers. In most meatpacking plants, unskilled workers were the majority. Of this majority, 60 percent earned less than $6 a week. Skilled workers were paid better, with their wages ranging from $3-$3.50 a day.

January 25, 1972

January 25

18-year old Nan Freeman – a college student who responded to appeals for help by striking farm workers at the Talisman Sugar plant near Belle Glade, Florida – is struck and killed by a double trailer truck driven by a scab driver. Pickets had complained to the police about scab drivers speeding by the picket lines through stop signs at the plant gates to splash rain and mud on the striking workers. Cesar Chavez wrote of Freeman, “…she is a sister who picketed with farm workers in the middle of the night because of her love for justice…to be honored and remembered for as long as farm workers struggle for justice.”

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