Today in Labor History

Labor history is OUR history

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

November 19, 1915

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) organizer and songwriter Joe Hill is executed in Utah after having been framed on a murder charge.  While in prison, Hill sent a telegram to IWW leader Big Bill Haywood:  “Goodbye Bill.  I die like a true blue rebel.  Don’t waste any time in mourning.  Organize!”  In a later telegram, he added, “Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried?  I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”

November 18, 1993

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Flight attendants at American Airlines go on strike over staffing, scheduling and work rules, and health benefits.  The strike was quickly settled through binding arbitration, in the workers’ favor.

November 17, 1993

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The U.S. House of Representatives approves the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), 234 for, 200 against.  It passed in the U.S. Senate by 61 for, 38 against.  President Bill Clinton signed the agreement into law on December 8, 1993, stating that “NAFTA means jobs.  American jobs, and good-paying American jobs.”

November 15, 1881

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The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada was founded in Pittsburgh.  FOTLU was the predecessor organization to what became the American Federation of Labor in 1886.  Its goal was to “organize a systematic agitation to propagate trades union principles…to elevate trades unionism, and to obtain for the working classes, that respect for their rights, and that reward for their services, to which they are justly entitled.”

November 14, 1903

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The National Women’s Trade Union League is formed in Boston.  It was organized as a coalition of working-class women, professional reformers, and women from wealthy and prominent families.  Its purpose was to “assist in the organization of women wage workers into trade unions and thereby to help them secure conditions necessary for healthful and efficient work and to obtain a just reward for such work.”

November 13, 1909

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259 coal miners die in the underground Cherry Mine fire in Cherry, Illinois.  The following year, as a result, the state legislature established stronger mine safety regulations and, in 1911, Illinois passed a separate law, which would later develop into the Illinois Workmen’s Compensation Act.

November 11, 1887

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Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel, and Adolph Fischer, framed for the Haymarket bombing in Chicago, are executed.  Spies’ last words — “The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today” — are engraved on the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument in Chicago’s Forest Home Cemetery.

November 10, 1933

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Workers at the Austin, Minnesota, Hormel plant begin a sit-down strike when owner Jay Hormel refuses to negotiate with their union, the Independent Union of All Workers.  Unable to open his blockaded plant, Hormel accepted binding arbitration and the workers received a ten percent wage increase a month later.

November 9, 1935

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The Committee for Industrial Organization is formed to promote industrial unionism within the American Federation of Labor and to organize – on an industry-wide basis – unorganized and often unskilled workers.  Three years and significant successes later, the CIO held its first convention, changed its name to the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and elected John L. Lewis its first president.

November 8, 1892

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Approximately 25,000 workers in New Orleans – half the city’s workforce – begin what will be a three day general strike in support of a strike by three other unions over hours, wages, and job security.

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