Today in labor history, April 19, 1911: More than 6,000 furniture workers go on strike in Grand Rapids, Michigan, over hours, wages, working conditions, and the right to bargain collectively. The strike – which affected nearly all of the 60+ furniture manufacturers in the city – lasted throughout the summer, bringing much of the city to a standstill for four months. A monument, “The Spirit of Solidarity,” was dedicated in 2007 to the striking workers.
Today in labor history, April 18, 2005: Members of Columbia’s Graduate Student Employees United and Yale’s Graduate Student Employees and Students Organization begin a five-day strike for union recognition. It was the first multi-university strike by Ivy League graduate students.
Today in labor history, April 11, 1980: The New York City transit strike ends. 34,000 Transport Workers Union Local 100 members walked off the job on April 1 when contract negotiations failed. In the end, the workers won a contract calling for a 9% raise in the first year and 8% in the second year, along with a cost of living adjustment.
Today in labor history, April 7, 1947: Nearly 350,000 telephone operators, almost all of them women, walk off their jobs across the country on strike against AT&T. After the strike ended, the National Federation of Telephone Workers reformed itself into the Communications Workers of America, which converted the former autonomous organizations of the NFTW into a three-level union: the national union, 39 divisions, and locals.
Today in labor history, April 6, 1905: Teamsters in Chicago begin a sympathy strike in support of locked out Montgomery Ward & Co. workers who were on strike to protest the company’s use of nonunion subcontractors. When other businesses rallied to the company’s defense, the dispute spread quickly. Workers battled strikebreakers, police, and scabs for 105 days; 21 people died.
Today in labor history, April 5, 1979: When the Board of Trustees at Boston University refused to approve the faculty’s negotiated contract, the faculty union call a strike. Professors were joined on the picket line by clerical staff and librarians – themselves demanding union recognition. After several weeks, the strike ended when the workers’ central demands were met.
Today in labor history, April 4, 1935: 1,600 unemployed men living and working in Canadian federal relief camps – constructing roads and other public works at the rate of twenty cents per day – go on strike. Public support was enormous and the men decided to take their grievances to the federal government. On June 3, hundreds boarded boxcars headed east in what became known as the “On-to-Ottawa Trek.”
Today in labor history, April 2, 1937: More than 600 members of the United Chocolate Workers (CIO) union stage a sit-down strike at the Hershey Chocolate Company in Hershey, Pennsylvania. On April 7, an antiunion crowd of 3,000 stormed the plant and 25 workers were badly beaten in the ensuring battle. In 1939, the workers affiliated with the Bakery and Confectionary Workers Union (AFL).
Today in labor history, April 1, 1913: More than 1,000 workers in Hopedale, Massachusetts, employed at the Draper Corporation – which produced automated cotton textile looms – go out on strike over wages and working conditions. Striking workers staged protest marches, rallies, and mass meeting, and were met with concerted and relentless legal action, police violence, and scabs.
Today in labor history, March 17, 1948: Striking railway workers in Queensland, Australia, march on St. Patrick’s Day from the Trades Hall in Brisbane and are brutally attacked by hundreds of uniformed and plainclothes police. Two days later, 20,000 workers from other unions rallied in solidarity in King George Square. The strike ended on April 1 with backdated wage increases.