Today in labor history, March 6, 1886: The Great Southwestern Strike that shuts down industrialist Jay Gould’s railway monopoly in five states is underway. The strike — led by the Knights of Labor — was ultimately unsuccessful. Strikebreakers, company security intimidation and violence, and military intervention all contributed to the collapse of the strike by September.
Today in labor history, March 2, 1990: 6,000 Greyhound bus drivers go on strike over wages and job security. The company hired 3,000 scabs to permanently replace the striking workers, declared the strike over two months later, and filed for bankruptcy in June. In 1993, Greyhound agreed to rehire 550 striking drivers, paying them $22 million in back pay.
Today in labor history, February 26, 2004: UFCW and employers reach an agreement to end the nearly five-month-long grocery strike and lockout of 59,000 workers in Southern California, fueled by management’s demand to strip workers of their healthcare benefits. The new two-tier contract required employees to pay for healthcare benefits for the first time, included no raises, and paid new hires less and put them in a different healthcare plan.
Today in labor history, February 23, 1864: 19-year-old Irish immigrant Kate Mullany leads members of the Collar Laundry Union – the first all-female union in the United States – in a successful strike in Troy, New York, for increased wages and improved working conditions. Women working in commercial laundries spent 12 to 14 hours a day ironing and washing detachable collars with harsh chemicals and boiling water and were paid about $3-$4/week.
Today in labor history, February 13, 2008: Hollywood writers return to work after their 100-day strike that shut down more than 60 television shows ends. The new contract gave Writers Guild of America members residual payments for programs streamed online and formalized union jurisdiction over programming created for the Web.
Today in labor history, February 11, 1913: “You don’t have to die to get to hell. Just come to Akron, Ohio, and get a pass to enter any one of the many rubber shops.” Workers at the Firestone factory walk off the job over the imposition of a new piece-rate scale. Four days later, nearly 15,000 workers were on strike in the city.
Today in labor history, February 6, 1910: A strike by shirtwaist workers – primarily immigrant women and girls – in Philadelphia’s garment sweatshops ends. Despite mass arrests, intimidation, scabs, and media blasts against them, the workers refused to back down until their demands for improved working conditions, reduce working hours, increased wages, and union recognition were met. [Photo: unidentified shirtwaist workers, probably in New York, ca. 1909.]
Today in labor history, February 2, 1929: 3,000 timber workers are locked out of nearly 70 timber mills in New South Wales, Australia, when they refuse to accept a judge’s order for a longer work week and reduced wages. The workers remained out for eight and a half months, with the support of other unions and the community.
Today in labor history, January 29, 1936: After Firestone Tire & Rubber in Akron, Ohio, arbitrarily fires a worker, workers stage a fifty-five-hour sit-down occupation of the plant. It was one of three occupations that happened in January of the largest tire companies that refused to recognize the United Rubber Workers of America union and ignored demands for fair work rules.