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 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.
Today in labor history, August 25, 2006: In response to the company’s closure of several distribution centers and its practice of re-hiring of laid off workers at lower pay, members of the National Distribution Union in New Zealand begin a 48-hour strike of Progressive Enterprises’ grocery distribution centers for a national contract, pay parity, and wages. The company responded by locking out the workers for nearly a month before settling on September 21.
Today in labor history, August 21, 1919: In defiance of the Police Commissioner’s issuance of an order barring officers from being in a union, 800 Boston police officers meet to install the officers of their newly-formed local. After the Commissioner began firing union leaders, police officers voted 1,134 to 2 to strike and on September 9, most of the Boston police department walked off the job.
Today in labor history, August 13, 1936: 35 journalists at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer walk off the job to protest the firing of two colleagues for joining the American Newspaper Guild. The P-I was forced to suspend publication and the striking employees began publishing their own newspaper, The Guild Daily, which reached a circulation of 60,000 copies a day. The strike was one of the first significant and successful strikes by white collar workers in the U.S. ended in a victory in late November when the newspaper settled with the Guild.
Today in labor history, August 12, 1892: After several railroad companies refuse to obey a recently-enacted New York state law mandating a 10-hour workday and increases in the minimum wage, switchmen in Buffalo go out on strike. When the local police refused to intervene, sheriff’s deputies, thousands of soldiers, and scabs were all brought in quickly to crush the Switchmen’s Mutual Association strike. The strike ended later that month.
[This photograph is being sold by Lorne Bair Rare Books, specializing in the history of American social movements. Visit http://www.lornebair.com/ for more information.]
Today in labor history, August 4, 1919: Half of the police force in Liverpool, England, who had gone out on strike following the government’s ban on their union (the National Union of Police and Prison Officers), are replaced by scabs. Every single man who had gone out on strike was fired, lost their pension, and no one was reinstated.
Today in labor history, July 18, 1969: A 113-day strike by hospital workers in Charleston, South Carolina ends. In March, after two years of local organizing efforts, the workers established the first hospital union branch in the country, Local 1199B of the National Health Care Workers’ Union, and went on strike over discriminatory practices, unequal pay, institutional harassment, and widespread racism.
Today in labor history, July 17, 1981: 3,500 miners in the Cape Breton Island coal fields in Nova Scotia, Canada, go on strike over wages. It was the first strike since nationalization of the mines in 1967. The bitter strike was settled in October, with a tentative agreement that raised wages 50 percent over two years.