Today in Labor History

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Archive for the month “July, 2012”

July 31, 1999


The Great Shipyard Strike of 1999 ends after steelworkers at Newport News Shipbuilding Inc. ratify a breakthrough agreement which nearly doubles pensions, increases security, ends inequality, and provides the highest wage increases in company and industry history to nearly 10,000 workers.  The strike lasted over 16 weeks.

July 29, 1970


After five years of strikes and boycotts, table grape growers in California sign their first collective bargaining agreement with the United Farm Workers.  The contract—which covered over 10,000 workers—ended labor contracting and established seniority and hiring rights; included an immediate wage increase; and provided for fresh water and toilets in the fields, and a medical plan.

July 28, 1869


Women shoemakers in Lynn, Massachusetts, form the Daughters of St. Crispin, demanding pay equal to that of men.  It was modeled on and supported by the Knights of St. Crispin, the national shoe workers union, which went on record supporting equal pay for equal work.  The Daughters of St. Crispin is recognized as the first national union of women.

July 27, 1918


Coal miner and labor leader Albert “Ginger” Goodwin is shot and killed by Canadian police.  Although he had been ruled unfit for military service during World War I because he had lung disease, the conscription board reversed its decision just days after Goodwin led a smelter workers’ strike for the eight-hour day.  Opposed to the war, Goodwin fled and for months avoided capture by the authorities.  His death inspired Canada’s first general strike on August 2 in Vancouver.

July 26, 1877


The nationwide railroad strike intensifies in Chicago, which is on the verge of a general strike.  Workers battled police officers, federal troops, and state militia sent in to crush the strike in what would become known as the Battle of the Halsted Street Viaduct.  At least 30 workers were killed and 100 wounded.

July 25, 1907


Trotskyist and labor union leader Farrell Dobbs is born.  Dobbs was one of the principal leaders – along with the Dunne brothers and Carl Skoglund – of the Minneapolis Teamsters strike of 1934 and authored four books on the strike and the subsequent efforts that organized 250,000 truckers in the Midwest.  Dobbs went on to lead the Socialist Workers Party and serve as editor of its publication, The Militant.  (Photo:  Dobbs with Trotsky in Mexico.)

July 24, 1877


The first general strike in U.S. history is underway in St. Louis.  Led by members of the Workingmen’s Party, it began as an outgrowth of the railroad strike sweeping the country.  Workers – skilled and unskilled, black and white – shut down the city for a week until thousands of federal troops and special deputized police arrived, killing at least eighteen people and arresting the strike leaders.

July 23, 1892


Anarchist Alexander Berkman, armed with a gun and a sharpened steel file, attempts to kill steel magnate Henry Clay Frick to avenge the Homestead massacre days earlier in which nine workers were killed.  He shot Frick three times before he was subdued and beaten unconscious.  Berkman was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 22 years in prison, of which he served 14 years.

July 22, 1887


Brewers and brewery workers in San Francisco sign their first collective bargaining agreement, bringing to a close a strike and successful boycott which had lasted several months.  The agreement included a closed shop, sick leave, a 10-hour day, minimum wages, overtime pay, and “free beer in moderation while at work.”

July 21, 1877

ImageThe Great Railway Strike of 1877 is underway across several states.  In Pittsburgh, militia bayoneted and fired on rock-throwing strikers, killing 20 people and wounding 29 others.  The workers responded by forcing the militia to take refuge in a railroad roundhouse, and then set fires that razed 39 buildings and destroyed 104 locomotives and 1,245 freight and passenger cars.

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