This Week in Labor History 002

Former Education Secretary Paige

Former Education Secretary Paige

For KBMF, I’m Kevin Cook, with This Week in Labor History:

Wednesday, Feb 20:

In 1942, the Norway Teacher’s Union begins successful nonviolent strike against Nazification of schools.

In 1990, the UMWA wins the Pittston miner's strike. 98 Union miners and a minister occupied a Pittston Coal plant in Carbo, Virginia, beginning a year-long strike. The company had terminated earned healthcare benefits for over 1,500 retirees, widows and disabled miners, ended contributions to a retirement trust established in 1950 and refused to bargain in good faith. While a month-long Soviet coal strike dominated US news broadcasts, the year-long Pittston strike garnered almost no mainstream press coverage whatsoever.

Thursday, Feb 21:

In 1868, a state law was enacted in California providing the 8-hour day for most workers, but it was not enforced. Companies capitalized on the lack of enforcement and workers had no choices but to work 12-18 hour days.

In 1972, the United Farm Workers of America were granted a charter by the AFL-CIO. UFWA is a labor Union created from the merging of two groups, the AWOC, and the NFWA led by César Chávez. The group was originally a workers' rights organization that helped workers get unemployment insurance but rapidly became a Union of farmworkers.

Friday, Feb 22:

In 1892, representatives of the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers meet in St. Louis with 20 other organizations to plan the founding convention of the People’s Party. Objectives: end political corruption, spread the wealth, and combat the oppression of the rights of workers and farmers.

In 2004, Education Secretary Paige calls the nation’s largest teachers Union, National Education Association (NEA), a “terrorist organization” during a White House meeting with state governors. At the same time the Bush administration asserted the right to imprison citizens indefinitely without trial or access to lawyers, family members or journalists, if they were accused of being terrorists.

Saturday, Feb 23:

In 1887, the Journeyman Bakers National Union receives its charter from the American Federation of Labor.

In 1984, the Association of Flight Attendants were granted a charter by the AFL-CIO.

In 2004, following voter approval for the measure in 2003, San Francisco’s minimum wage rises to $8.50, up from $6.75. Their whole economy improves as a result.

Sunday, Feb 24:

In 1912, IWW organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn takes the lead in the Lawrence Textile Strike of 20,000 women in Lawrence, Massachusetts, also known as the "Bread & Roses" strike. Police attack 150 children and women at the town railroad station. The women and girls were fighting to lower their work hours to 54 hours a week and were protesting low wages and work speedups. Women who worked in the mills had a life expectancy of less than 30 years, most dying of respiratory ailments caused by the hazardous working conditions.

In 1919, Congress passed a federal child labor tax law that imposed a 10 percent tax on companies that employed children under the age of 16 working in a mine or under the age of 14 in a “mill, cannery, workshop, factory, or manufacturing establishment.” The Supreme Court ruled the tax was unconstitutional 3 years later making child labor profitable for the capitalists again.

Monday, Feb 25:

In 1913, The Paterson, New Jersey silk strike began, with 25,000 textile workers walking out when mill owners doubled the size of the looms without increasing staffing or wages. The strike was organized by the Industrial Workers of the World, but collapsed when mill owners exploited divisions between skilled and unskilled workers, successfully getting the skilled workforce to agree to return to work. 5 strikers were killed on behalf of the mill owners in order to protect low wages and profits during the 208-day walkout.

In 2011, a crowd 100,000 strong rallied at the Wisconsin state capitol in protest of what was to become a successful push by the Koch-backed Gov. Walker and the Republican majority to cripple public employee bargaining rights and crush the union. The Republican’s pro-business “Free Market” solution put Wisconsin in a race to the bottom, turned a budget surplus into a $2.2 billion deficit and cut all public services and spending on education. Wisconsin, a “right to Work” state, is now last in the nation for growth.

Tuesday, Feb 26:

In 1972, a coal slag heap doubling as a dam (to save costs) in West Virginia’s Buffalo Creek Valley collapsed, flooding the 17-mile long valley. 118 died, 5,000 were left homeless. The Pittston Coal Co. said it was "an act of God" and claimed no responsibility.

In 2004, a 20-week strike by 70,000 Southern California supermarket workers ended, with the Union claiming victory.

This Week in Labor History is compiled by Kevin D. Curtis and is published in the Butte Weekly. For KBMF, I’m Kevin Cook.