The Knights of Labor – the first national industrial union in the United States – is founded in Philadelphia by Uriah Stephens and eight other Philadelphia garment cutters. By mid-1886, the Knights of Labor had nearly one million members and was the largest labor union at the time in the country.
President Bill Clinton signs the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into law, stating that it “will promote more growth, more equality, better preservation of the environment, and a greater possibility for world peace.” In reality, NAFTA has done the opposite: costing jobs and lowering wages, increasing inequality, and compromising environmental and consumer protections.
Eleven representatives from local unions meet in Chicago to form the National Union of Steam Engineers of America, the forerunner to today’s International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). Working conditions for construction and stationary workers in the late 1800s were appalling: low wages, 60-90 hour workweeks, and few benefits. Today the IUOE represents 400,000 workers in 123 local unions in the United States and Canada.
Explosions rip through the Fairmont Coal Company’s No. 6 and No. 8 mines in Monongah, West Virginia. It is estimated that 362 coal miners — men and boys as young as 8 years old — died in what remains the worst mine disaster in U.S. history, but the actual number is unknown. Over 3,200 miners were killed on the job in 1907 because mining companies persistently disregarded recognized safety practices.
Following an injunction against the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee and Cesar Chavez, specifically, around picketing lettuce grower Bud Antle during the Salinas Valley farmworkers’ strike, Chavez refuses to call off the boycott and is arrested. Chavez was jailed for two weeks until the California Supreme Court ordered his release.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passes an eight-hour ordinance covering all city employees. By early 1868, there were dozens of 8-Hour Leagues in San Francisco, and on February 22, thousands marched in San Francisco to celebrate the passage of a statewide eight-hour law.
In the largest wage and hour class action settlement in Massachusetts history, Walmart agrees to pay $40 million to over 87,000 current and former employees in the state. The lawsuit, filed in 2001, accused the retailer of denying workers rest and meal breaks, refusing to pay overtime, and manipulating time cards.