Today in labor history, November 3, 2009: Nearly 5,000 transit workers represented by Transport Workers Union Local 234 begin a strike in Philadelphia over wages, pensions, and benefits. The strike shut down the city’s bus, subway, and trolley service and after six days, a five-year contract deal was reached that provided pay and benefit increases.
Today in labor history, September 21, 1991: 550 workers at the Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas go on strike over wages and benefits. The longest hotel strike in U.S. history lasted 6 years, 4 months, and 10 days and when it was over, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals awarded the workers $3.5 million in back pay and pension credits.
Today in labor history, September 14, 1929: During the Loray Mill strike in Gastonia, North Carolina, National Textile Workers Union members driving back from a meeting are ambushed by a group of armed men. Organizer Ella Mae Wiggins was shot in the chest and died; five mill employees were arrested, but acquitted of her murder, despite there being 50 witnesses who saw it all in broad daylight. [Photo: Wiggins’ children stand beside their mother’s grave on the day of her funeral.]
Today in labor history, September 10, 1897: Striking immigrant anthracite coal miners raise an American flag and march on the still-open mine in Lattimer, Pennsylvania. They were met by the local sheriff and Coal and Iron Police deputies. The sheriff ordered the workers to disperse and the deputies opened fire, killing 19 and wounding as many as 49 others. All those killed in the Lattimer Massacre were shot in the back; the sheriff and 73 deputies were arrested, tried, and acquitted.
Today in labor history, September 9, 1919: 1,100 Boston Police Department officers go out on strike over union recognition, wages, and working conditions. Governor Calvin Coolidge called out the entire state militia and used his authority to fire everyone on strike, replacing almost the entire department with soldiers recently returned from World War I – at higher wages and with better working conditions.
Today in labor history, September 4, 1894: The New York Times reports that the “contract tailors of New York and Brooklyn celebrated Labor Day yesterday by going on strike.” 10,000 workers went on strike for shorter working hours and demanded to be paid wages instead of being paid for piecework. Unemployed tailors pledged not to replace their striking brothers. “Reports,” said the Times, “show that the tailors…are united and will not give in.”
Today in labor history, August 23, 1966: Gurindji tribal leader Vincent Lingiari leads 200 Aboriginal workers off their jobs at the Wave Hill cattle station, south of Darwin, Australia, where they worked for the British pastoral company Vestey. It was a strike over workers’ rights and land rights that would last seven years and was instrumental in the passage of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act of 1976.
Today in labor history, August 19, 1916: Strikebreakers, hired by mill owner Neil Jamison, attack and beat picketing shingle mill workers in Everett, Washington. Local police did nothing, on the grounds that the location of the mill was outside their jurisdiction; they did, however, intervene when the striking workers retaliated later that evening.
Today in labor history, August 2, 1918: The first general strike in Canadian history is held in Vancouver, B.C. The 24-hour strike, called for by the Vancouver Trades and Labor Council, was in response to the police shooting of labor leader Albert “Ginger” Goodwin.
Today in labor history, July 31, 1999: The Great Shipyard Strike of 1999 ends after steelworkers at Newport News Shipbuilding Inc. ratify a breakthrough agreement which nearly doubles pensions, increases security, ends inequality, and provides the highest wage increases in company and industry history to nearly 10,000 workers. The strike lasted over 16 weeks.