Today in Labor History

Labor history is OUR history

Archive for the month “December, 2015”

December 30, 1936

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Autoworkers at the General Motors Fisher Body No. 1 plant in Flint, Michigan, occupy the factory and begin a sit-down strike that lasts 44 days. The strike ended in a victory for the workers on February 11, 1937, when GM signed a contract with the United Auto Workers, recognizing the union as the sole bargaining agent for the workers in all of its plants.

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December 29, 1970

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After years of intensive lobbying by organized labor, President Richard Nixon signs the Occupational Safety & Health Act, creating the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), an agency of the Department of Labor. Speaking for the bill, Representative William A. Steiger said, “In the last 25 years, more than 400,000 Americans were killed by work-related accidents and disease, and close to 50 million more suffered disabling injuries on the job.”

December 24, 1913

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At least 73 people – mostly children – die in a stampede following a false cry of “Fire!” at a Christmas Eve party held by striking mine workers for their families at the Italian Hall in Calumet, Michigan. Witnesses identified the man who stepped into the hall and shouted the alarm as a strikebreaker, but no one was held accountable for the tragedy.

December 22, 1998

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Chico Mendes – rubber tapper, trade union leader, and environmental activist – is assassinated by a rancher. Mendes fought to preserve the Amazon rainforest and advocated for the rights of Brazilian peasants and indigenous peoples. Mendes was the nineteenth rural activist murdered that year in Brazil.

December 21, 1916

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Labor organizer, community activist, and civil rights advocate Emma Tenayuca is born in San Antonio. Her advocacy for the working poor – especially Mexican American women – led her to become known as “La Pasionaria” and was an inspiration to future generations of labor and civil rights activists. “I never thought in terms of fear. I thought in terms of justice.”

December 19, 1907

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An explosion in the Darr Mine in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, kills 239 coal miners, most of whom are Hungarian immigrant laborers. Some came from the nearby Naomi Mine, which had closed after at deadly explosion several weeks earlier. Only one person is thought to have survived the Darr Mine explosion. December 1907 was the deadliest month in U.S. coal mining history.

December 16, 1951

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The New York Times reports on December 17 that the “metropolitan area was threatened with a bagel famine yesterday as thirty-two of the city’s thirty-four bagel bakeries remained closed in a dispute between 300 members of Local 338 of the Bagel Bakers of America, A.F.L., and the Bagel Bakers Association.” The union settled its dispute over health and welfare payments and workplace sanitation in late January.

December 15, 1921

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A protest by 500 women in Kansas that began earlier in the week – organized in support of striking mine workers and against new anti-labor legislation that forced unions into arbitration and outlawed strikes in the state – swells to 4,000, stretching a mile long. The women, dubbed the “Amazon Army” by The New York Times, disbanded upon hearing that the militia was on its way. Victory came a year later when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Kansas anti-labor laws unconstitutional.

December 13, 1971

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In South-West Africa (now Namibia), 6,000 indigenous Ovambos – required under the rule of South Africa’s apartheid government to live in tribal areas in the northern third of the country and required to have passes for movement within the country – begin a general strike to protest the contract labor system. They demanded the right to choose jobs, end contracts, bring families to work locations, a new pass system, and increased wages based on work type, not skin color.

December 10, 1948

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The United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, in part, that everyone has the right to good working conditions, equal pay for equal work, fair compensation, the right to form and join trade unions, and limited working hours.

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