Today in labor history, September 27, 1945: One month after V-J Day, the Oil Workers International Union calls a national strike against sixteen major oil companies with the demand to retain wartime wages (52 hours’ pay for 40 hours’ work). President Harry Truman broke the strike by seizing the oil properties under the provisions of the Smith-Connally Act.
Today in labor history, September 26, 2001: Graduate student employees at Temple University in Philadelphia win union recognition. The Temple University Graduate Students Association ratified its first contract in May 2002, significantly improving graduate employment in terms of healthcare and wages, and marking the first time that graduate students in the state bargained a contract with their employer.
Today in labor history, September 7, 1893: Starving coal miners in the small West Yorkshire, England, pit town of Featherstone – locked out for refusing to accept a wage cut – assemble to stop the movement of coal. As their numbers grew, the military was called in and opened fire, injuring eight people, two of whom died from their wounds.
Today in labor history, September 6, 1941: The CIO’s Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee and Armour & Co. sign a master contract, the first ever in the meatpacking industry. Within two years, the other three major meatpackers also signed master agreements with the union. By 1943, the union – renamed the United Packinghouse Workers of America – represented more than 60 percent of the country’s packinghouse workers.
Today in labor history, September 5, 1964: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn dies at age 74. Flynn was an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and an activist for women’s rights, birth control, and women’s suffrage.
Today in labor history, September 3, 1928: Being pushed into obsolescence by owners intent on replacing live music with recorded sound, 700 movie theater musicians in Chicago go on strike. The action was part of a nationwide wave of protest by the American Federation of Musicians, but by the end of the year, nearly 2,600 theater musicians were unemployed across the country.
Today in labor history, September 1, 2014: Today is Labor Day. In 1894, after sending in the Army and U.S. Marshals to break the Pullman strike, President Grover Cleveland’s popularity was in the toilet. In the immediate wake of the strike, legislation designating a federal Labor Day holiday was rushed unanimously through Congress and arrived on Cleveland’s desk for his signature.
Today in labor history, August 31, 1991: More than 325,000 trade unionists and allies from around the country hold a demonstration in Washington, D.C., to call for national healthcare reform, a ban on striker replacements, and full freedom of association for workers around the world. The marchers also demanded civil rights, fair trade, workplace safety, and attention to the nation’s decaying cities and infrastructure.
Today in labor history, August 27, 1950: In anticipation of a nationwide strike by railroad workers just weeks after the start of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman issues an executive order putting the country’s railroads under the control of the U.S. Army. The strike lasted for 21 months. In May 1952, Truman approved the return of the railroads to private ownership.
Today in labor history, August 26, 1970: Women in more than ninety cities across the U.S. participate in the Women’s Strike for Equality, organized by the National Organization for Women. Among other things, the action called for women to stop working for a day to draw attention to the issue of unequal pay for women’s work.