Today in Labor History

Labor history is OUR history

March 16, 1948

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Refusing to accept a 9-cent wage increase, the United Packinghouse Workers of America initiates a nationwide strike against meatpacking companies Swift, Armour, Cudahy, Wilson, Morrell, and others. Packinghouse workers shut down 140 plants around the country.

March 13, 1906


Civil rights activist and suffragist Susan B. Anthony dies at the age of 86. “Join the union, girls, and together say Equal Pay for Equal Work.”

March 10, 1919


The U.S. Supreme Court rules on Debs v. United States, affirming the labor leader’s conviction under the Espionage Act of 1917 for an anti-war speech he gave in Canton, Ohio, in 1918. Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison and disenfranchised for life. While in prison, he ran for president in the 1920 election and received 919,799 votes (3.4 percent of the popular vote).

March 8, 1908


15,000 women workers in the needle trades take to the streets of New York City on the fifty-first anniversary of the 1857 protest by women garment workers. They demanded better working conditions, suffrage, and an end to child labor. March 8 has been celebrated as International Women’s Day since 1910.

March 7, 1942


Lucy Parsons – anarchist, feminist, labor organizer – dies. “My conception of the strike of the future is not to strike and go out and starve, but to strike and remain in and take possession of the necessary property of production.”

February 27, 1937


Just days after the autoworkers’ victory at General Motors, more than 100 women workers at one of forty Woolworth stores in Detroit, Michigan, begin a sit-down strike over wages, hours, working conditions, and union recognition. Solidarity action in support of the workers was incredible, the strike spread, and on March 5 the workers won their demands, including the union shop. The union won a uniform contract for all forty stores in Detroit, which covered 2,500 workers.

February 25, 1941


The February Strike begins. It was a general strike in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands by workers against the pogroms and deportation of Jews in Amsterdam. It was the only direct action of its kind during World War II in Europe against the Nazis’ treatment of Jews. The strike is commemorated annually on February 25 at the statue of the De Dokwerker (“The Dock Worker”) in Amsterdam.

February 24, 1919


Congress passes a federal Child Labor Tax law that imposes a 10 percent tax on companies that employ children, defined as anyone under the age of 16 working in a mine/quarry or under the age of 14 in a “mill, cannery, workshop, factory, or manufacturing establishment.” The Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in 1922.

February 23, 1940


Woody Guthrie writes “This Land Is Your Land” following a trip hitchhiking and riding the rails from California to New York. It was a musical response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America”: “We can’t just bless America, we’ve got to change it.”

February 20, 1917


Wartime inflation fuels workers’ demands for increased wages; in the first six months of 1917 alone, there were over 3,000 strikes in the United States. Food riots were also common and on this date, thousands of women took to the streets in New York City to protest exorbitant prices. Their actions precipitated a boycott campaign that eventually forced prices down.

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