Today in labor history, March 7, 1937: The Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) signs its first contract with Carnegie-Illinois Steel, for a $5/day wage and benefits. SWOC went on to become the United Steelworkers.
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 4, 1915: Spearheaded by Senator Robert La Follette and drafted by International Seaman’s Union President Andrew Furuseth, Congress enacts the Seamen’s Act, regulating the hours, wages, and working conditions of merchant marines. [Photo: (left to right) Furuseth, La Follette, and journalist Lincoln Steffens.]
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, March 1, 1936: After five years of construction between 1931 and 1936 by 21,000 workers (96 of whom died on the job; another 46 of whom died from carbon monoxide poisoning, classified as “pneumonia” to avoid compensation claims), Hoover Dam is turned over to the federal government.
Today in labor history, February 28, 1986: South African workers at the 3M plant in Elandsfontein near Johannesburg stage a half-day walkout in solidarity with 3M workers in Freehold, New Jersey. The company announced in November 1985 that it would close its plants in Freehold, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Van Nuys, California.
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 25, 1987: Labor organizer and civil rights activist Edgar Daniel (“E.D.”) Nixon dies. While working as a Pullman porter, Nixon organized the Montgomery local of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and served as its president for many years. He was a key organizer of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and co-founder of the Montgomery Improvement Association. [Photo: Nixon’s arrest photo during the bus boycott.]
Today in labor history, February 24, 1908: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Muller v. Oregon to uphold the state’s restrictions on the working hours of women, setting a precedent to use sex differences — and in particular women’s child-bearing capacity — as a basis for separate legislation. The ruling fueled the emergence of maternalist public policy.
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.