Today in Labor History

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Archive for the month “November, 2012”

November 30, 1854


Social reformer and activist Mary Eliza McDowell is born in Cincinnati, Ohio.   McDowell – who was referred to as the “Angel of the Stockyards” – established a settlement house in the back of the stockyards in Chicago, where she lived and worked to improve the working conditions of the stockyard workers and the living conditions of their families.   Her passion for social justice and equality continued throughout her life.

November 28, 1953


400 photo engravers employed by New York City newspapers go on strike over wages and improved working conditions.  20,000 other newspaper workers represented by other unions refused to cross the photo engravers’ picket lines.  The strike ended eleven days later with the workers receiving a $3/week wage increase.

November 27, 1937


The musical revue, “Pins & Needles,” opens on Broadway with a cast of International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union members.  The show — a “lighthearted look at young workers in a changing society in the middle of America’s most politically engaged city” — ran on Friday and Saturday nights only, because of the casts’ regular jobs.  It ran for 1,108 performances before closing.

November 26, 1910


Four months before the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, a sweatshop in Newark, New Jersey, catches fire, killing more than two dozen women and girls.  The fire made national news and more than 100,000 people flocked to the scene the next day. A coroner’s jury a month later deemed the fire the result of human error:  “They died from misadventure and accident.”

November 25, 1946


Teachers strike in St. Paul, Minnesota, the first organized walkout by teachers in the country.  The month-long “strike for better schools” involving some 1,100 teachers — and principals — led to a number of reforms in the way schools were administered and operated.

November 24, 1875


The United Cigar Makers of New York affiliates with the Cigar Makers’ International Union (CMIU) to form CMIU Local 144.  Samuel Gompers was elected first president of the local and served several terms before going on to serve as the international’s vice president.  “[W]e are powerless in an isolated condition,” Gompers said, “while the capitalists are united; therefore it is the duty of every Cigar Maker to join the organization.”

November 23, 2012


Workers employed at Walmart — the nation’s largest private-sector employer — strike nationwide for better wages and working conditions.  Walmart, whose net sales in 2011 were $443.9 billion, pays its 1.4 million workers in the U.S. an average of $8.81/hour.  A third of Walmart’s employees work less than 28 hours a week and don’t qualify for benefits.

November 22, 1909


Striking garment worker and International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union organizer Clara Lemlich delivers an impassioned speech for a general strike to support her co-workers who had gone out on strike in early November for better wages, working conditions, and hours.  The next day, 20,000 shirtwaist workers took to the streets of New York.  An estimated 30,000 workers participated in the 11-week long strike.

November 21, 2009


The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 goes into effect.  The law prohibits the use of genetic information in making employment decisions and restricts employers from requesting, requiring, or purchasing genetic information about their employees.  It also prohibits discrimination in health coverage based on genetic information.

November 20, 1896


Rose Pesotta — union organizer, anarchist, and vice president of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union — is born.  Pesotta began working in a shirtwaist factory in New York in 1913 and there became involved with ILGWU Local 25.  She went on to organize tirelessly for the union around the country and in 1934 was elected vice president of the ILGWU, the first woman to hold that position.  [Photo:  Pesotta with bread for striking workers in Los Angeles, 1941.]

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