This Week in Labor History 004

UAW Strike 1972

UAW Strike 1972

I’m Kevin Cook, and This Week in Labor History:

Wednesday, March 6:

In 1970, the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act was enacted. This government regulation would go on to save the lives of countless miners.

In 1972, predominantly young workers at a Lordstown, Ohio GM assembly plant staged a wildcat strike, largely in objection to the grueling work pace: at over 101 cars per hour, their assembly line was believed to be the fastest in the world.

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the nation’s unemployment rate soared to 8.1 percent in February 2009, the highest since late 1983 (the Reagan years), as big business slashed 651,000 jobs to protect and increase short term profits amid the deepening Great Recession. By 2016, President Obama had slashed the unemployment rate to 4.6 percent.

Thursday, March 7:

In 1988, Hollywood writers represented by the Writers Guild of America strike against 200 television and movie studios over residual payments and creative rights. The successful strike lasted 150 days, one of the longest in industry history.

In 2003, Broadway musicals and shows went dark when actors and stagehands honored Union picket lines. The strike was resolved after 4 days.

Friday, March 8:

In 1908, thousands of workers in the New York needle trades (mostly women) demonstrated and launched a strike for higher wages, shorter workdays and an end to child labor. Their struggle became the basis for International Women's Day.

In 1926, members of the Fur and Leather Workers Union, mostly women, went on strike in New York. Despite beatings by police, the strikers fought on, winning a 10 percent raise and 5-day work week.

Saturday, March 9:

In 1879, IWW organizer Carlo Tresca was born. Tresca was an outspoken opponent of both Fascism and Communism. He was one of the main organizers of the Patterson Silk Strike. Tresca was later assassinated by pro-business Fascists.

In 1911, Frank Little and other IWW free-speech fighters were released from jail in Fresno, California. The IWW “Free Speech Fights” forced the Government to honor everyone's right to free speech across the west, including Montana. 6 years later, Little was tortured and murdered by mine owners in Butte, Montana while organizing Union miners. His headstone reads; "Slain by Capitalist Interests for Organizing and Inspiring His Fellow Men."

Sunday, March 10:

In 1919, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of labor leader Eugene V. Debs. Debs was jailed for speaking out against World War I in public. Campaigning for president as a Socialist from his Atlanta jail cell, he won 6 percent of the popular vote.

In 1941, New York City bus drivers, members of the Transport Workers Union, went on strike. After 12 days of no buses, and a large show of force by Irish-American strikers at the St. Patrick’s Day parade, Progressive Republican Mayor La Guardia ordered arbitration.

Monday, March 11:

In 1937, the Macbeth mine exploded for a second time, killing 18 workers at the Hutchinson Coal Company mine in Logan County, West Virginia.

In 1950, the Transport Workers Union at American Airlines won an 11-day national strike, gaining what the members said was the first severance pay clause in the industry.

Tuesday, March 12:

In 1912, The Industrial Workers of the World won the textile strike in Lawrence, MA. The strike was known as the “Bread and Roses Strike” because the women were demanding not only a living wage so they could feed their families, but a better quality of life too. This strike was the first known strike to implement the moving picket line, so as to avoid arrests for loitering. The strike was also unique in that the workers spoke 22 different languages, prompting the IWW to give each language group a delegate on the strike committee and complete autonomy.

In 2004, Steelworkers approved a settlement with Oregon Steel Mills, ending the longest labor dispute in the USWA’s history and resulting in more than $100 million in back pay for Union workers.

This Week in Labor History is compiled by Kevin D. Curtis.

For KBMF, I’m Kevin Cook