Today in Labor History

Labor history is OUR history

February 19, 1910

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The Philadelphia Rapid Transit trolley company fires 173 workers – all members of the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees of America – and replaces them with scabs from New York City. Street battles, demonstrations, and a general strike ensued in the city that lasted for 57 days.

February 18, 1953

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The Screen Actors Guild’s first-ever strike – which began over filmed television commercials – ends when a contract is reached that covers all work in commercials.

February 16, 2011

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Public schools in Madison close after teachers call in sick to protest Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s bill that would strip the state’s 175,000 public employees of their collective bargaining rights.

February 14, 1818

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Abolitionist Frederick Douglass is born into slavery in Talbot County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The exact date of his birth is unknown, but Douglass chose to celebrate February 14 as his birthdate. “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

February 13, 1913

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After West Virginia Governor William E. Glasscock declares martial law to put down the coal miners’ strike in in Kanawha county, 83-year old activist and organizer Mary Harris “Mother” Jones is arrested. She was tried and convicted by a military court and sentenced to twenty years in prison. “Whatever I have done in West Virginia,” she said, “I have done it all over the United States. And when I get out, I will do it again.” She was released and pardoned after serving 85 days.

February 10, 1928

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At the Hollinger Consolidated Gold Mine in Timmins, Ontario – the largest in North America – 39 miners are killed when a fire spreads carbon monoxide through the workings. There was no rescue plan in place and it took five days to put out the fire.

February 7, 2008

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A huge explosion and fire at the Imperial Sugar refinery northwest of Savannah, Georgia, kills 14 and injures 38 people. The explosion was fueled by massive accumulations of combustible sugar dust throughout the packaging building. An investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board stated that the explosion had been “entirely preventable,” noting that the sugar industry had been aware of the risk of dust explosions since 1926.

February 4, 1896

February 3

The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers is formed at a meeting in Pittsburgh with 16 delegates from local unions. Today, the union represents 120,000 ironworkers in North America.

February 3, 1941

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The U.S. Supreme Court rules unanimously in United States v. Darby to uphold the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which banned certain types of child labor, established a minimum wage, and set a maximum workweek at 44 hours.

February 2, 1977

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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.

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