Today in Labor History

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Archive for the category “1940-1949”

October 15, 1943

October 15At the Tule Lake Segregation Center internment camp – which held over 18,000 Japanese Americans during World War II – a truck carrying agricultural workers tips over, resulting in the death of an internee. Ten days later, the agricultural workers went on strike; the internment camp director fired all of the workers and brought in strikebreakers from other internment camps. After several outbreaks of violence, martial law was declared and 250 internees were arrested and incarcerated in a newly constructed prison within the prison.


October 1, 1940

Pennsylvania-TurnpikeThe Pennsylvania Turnpike – the nation’s first long-distance controlled-access highway – opens nearly two years after construction began along the original path of an abandoned South Pennsylvania Railroad project of the 1880s. The project was financed by a loan from the New Deal’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation and grants from the Works Progress Administration, employing more than 15,000 workers from 18 states.

August 1, 1944

Motormen.Trolley.gsAfter the Philadelphia Transit Company promotes eight black transit workers to the position of trolley car driver, a sickout begins by white transit workers in defiance of their newly elected bargaining agent, the Transport Workers Union, which urged the company to integrate its workforce. Federal troops intervened, taking control of the transit system and providing protection for black motormen. In the end, it was a milestone in the battle against race discrimination in the workplace and a victory not just for black workers, but for the white workers who stood with them.

July 24, 1941

wpid-0321ov_WWII_Work_Production_PosterWhen their pay was shorted, 700 workers at Canada’s largest aluminum plant in Arvida, Quebec, walk off the job in an illegal (because the industry had been classified as essential to the war effort) strike. The next day, the strike spread to 4,500 workers, who occupied the plant. Work resumed several days later and negotiations began, with the union as intermediary, assisted by federal conciliators.

April 16, 1947

1947 TEXAS CITY DISASTER EXACT DATE UNKNOWN.2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate on board a ship docked in the port of Texas City detonate, setting off a chain reaction of explosions and fires on other ships and nearby oil storage facilities. At least 581 people were killed and thousands more were seriously injured in the deadliest industrial disaster in U.S. history. As a result, changes in chemical manufacturing and new regulations for the bagging, handling, and shipping of chemicals were enacted.

February 28, 1942

9e4698e5bb1bdd1aadb215cccbe7ddb4Sue Cowan Williams represents African-American teachers in the Little Rock School District as the plaintiff in a class action lawsuit challenging the disparity between black and white teachers’ salaries in the segregated South. The case was lost, but won in a 1943 appeal.

February 15, 1947

14174606262_c43f381eb6_bBaldemar Velasquez – union activist and co-founder and president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) – is born. His experiences with miserable housing, bad working conditions, low wages, and wage theft as a child migrant farm worker propelled him to organize migrant farm workers in northwest Ohio in 1967. Velasquez continues as the president of FLOC and is active in the immigrant rights movement.

February 14, 1949

LaborUnionsCanadaStrike1949Asbestos miners in Asbestos, Quebec, go on strike for better wages and working conditions – in particular, health and safety measures to stop the lung-choking silicosis caused by exposure to asbestos in the mines, which were owned primarily by American companies. The four month-long strike pitted workers and their supporters in the community against the government, which was determined to break the strike.

January 21, 1946

cartoon750,000 steelworkers walk off the job, joining what would become known as the Great Strike Wave of 1946. The post-World War II strike wave was not limited to industrial workers; there were more strikes in transportation, communication, and public utilities than in any previous year. By the end of 1946, 4.6 million workers had been involved in strikes.

January 16, 1948

8c19711rThe meatpacking industry in the United States effectively shuts down when both the United Packinghouse Workers of America and the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America go on strike over wages. Just ten days into the strike, using the War Labor Disputes Act, President Harry Truman seized control of the plants and ordered the workers back to work with the greatest single wage increase ever in the industry.

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