Today in Labor History

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Archive for the category “1970-1979”

February 2, 1977


Legal secretary Iris Rivera is fired for refusing to make coffee for her employer. A Chicago-based advocacy group, Women Employed, led a series of public actions against her firing and eventually Rivera got her job back.

January 25, 1972

January 25

18-year old Nan Freeman – a college student who responded to appeals for help by striking farm workers at the Talisman Sugar plant near Belle Glade, Florida – is struck and killed by a double trailer truck driven by a scab driver. Pickets had complained to the police about scab drivers speeding by the picket lines through stop signs at the plant gates to splash rain and mud on the striking workers. Cesar Chavez wrote of Freeman, “…she is a sister who picketed with farm workers in the middle of the night because of her love for justice…to be honored and remembered for as long as farm workers struggle for justice.”

December 29, 1970


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 13, 1971

December 13.jpg

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.

November 13, 1974

Who_killed_silkwood_christicUnion activist and whistleblower Karen Silkwood dies under “mysterious circumstances” while en route to a meeting with an Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union health and safety staffer and a New York Times investigative reporter. She was bringing them documents proving that the company she worked for – Kerr-McGee Nuclear Corporation – had falsified quality control records of nuclear fuel rods.

October 14, 1976

070119_01In response to the government’s imposition of wage controls for all Canadian workers, the Canadian Labour Congress calls for a Day of Protest. Over a million people participated in rallies and demonstrations held in every major city.

September 13, 1971

Attica_riot-1024x772A four-day revolt at the Attica Correctional Facility near Buffalo, New York, over prisoners’ demands for political rights and better living conditions ends when hundreds of state police officers storm the complex, killing 29 prisoners and 10 AFSCME-represented prison employees, and wounding 89. “We are men. We are not beasts, and we do not intend to be beaten or driven as such.” –L.D. Barkley, a 21 year-old prisoner serving time for breaching parole by driving without a license; he died in the assault, shot 15 times at point-blank range.

August 8, 1979

crowd_imagewebThe United Food and Commercial Workers union is formed from the merger of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America and the Retail Clerks International Union. Today, the UFCW represents 1.3 million workers who work primarily in grocery and retail stores, and in the food processing and meat packing industries.

July 21, 1978

POWMay78A wildcat strike begins by postal workers at the New Jersey Bulk and Foreign Mail Center in an attempt to nullify the tentative national contract agreement between the postal unions and the United States Postal Service. The conflict spread until eventually 4,750 postal workers were on strike nationwide. After the strike was broken, 125 workers were fired, 130 were temporarily suspended, 2,500 received letters of warning, the union memberships did not ratify the proposed settlement, and an arbitrated contract settlement was imposed.

June 23, 1978

June 23The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issues a cotton dust standard to protect 600,000 workers from byssinosis, also known as “brown lung.”

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