This Week in Labor History 005

1970 USPS Strike

1970 USPS Strike

"The end of Democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of the lending institutions and moneyed incorporations." - Thomas Jefferson

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

Wednesday, March 13

In 1946, a 4-month UAW strike at General Motors ended with a new contract. The strikers were trying to make up for the lack of wage hikes during World War II. The industry had kept wages low by exploiting the workers’ patriotism even while profits were historically high. Soldiers and sailors returning from the war joined unions in record numbers and demanded a bigger slice of the American pie.

In 1963, Labor Local 260 in Houston negotiated its first contract with Pioneer Bus, ending dual pay scales for black and white drivers.

In 1967, the United Farm Workers (UFW) won a contract with the Christian Brothers Winery.

Thursday, March 14

In 1879, Albert Einstein, War Refugee, Nobel Prize winning physicist, charter member American Federation of Teachers Union Local 552, was born.

In 1912, 10,000 IWW members gathered and voted, “officially” ending the successful "Bread & Roses" Lawrence Textile Strike. The strike was precipitated by wage cuts and horrendous working conditions. Martial law had been declared and workers were arrested, with some sent to jail for years. During the strike, John Ramy was bayoneted to death and pregnant women were beaten so badly by police that they gave birth to dead babies. The strike dragged on for 10 weeks. When the raises were won, the strikers insisted that the largest increases go to the lowest-paid.

In 1970, the first American postal strike started as an illegal strike, or Wildcat strike. The strike grew and spread across the country, and over the next 8 days became the largest Wild Cat Strike in U.S. History. The strike ended in victory for the workers and union.

Friday, March 15

In 1917, the Supreme Court approved the 8-Hour Act under threat of a national railway strike by the union. The capitalists would successfully continue their fight to make people work longer hours while ignoring the Act for the next 30 years. During that time the majority of workers were still forced to work 12-16 hours a day until the unions ultimately put a stop to it.

In 1948, bituminous coal miners began nationwide strike, demanding adoption of a pension plan for the union workers.

Saturday, March 16

In 1911, Wobbly Big Bill Haywood delivered a speech on "The General Strike" at a meeting held for the benefit of the Buccafori Defense Fund at the Progress Assembly Rooms, in New York. Buccafori was a jailed union member held in filthy conditions and he had been arrested for his public support of the labor movement.

In 1960, the United Federation of Teachers was formed in New York to represent New York City public school teachers and other education workers in the city.

Sunday, March 17

In 1966, César Chávez & the National Farm Workers Association marched from Delano to Sacramento, California, from March 17 to April 11, arriving on Easter Sunday.

In 2000, Boeing and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace came to terms on a new contract, settling the largest white-collar walkout in U.S. history. SPEEA represented 22,000 workers, of whom 19,000 honored union picket lines for 40 days.

Monday, March 18

In 1937, police evicted retail clerks occupying New York Woolworth’s during a fight for the 40-hour week/ 8-hour day.

In 1970, the Post Office’s first mass work stoppage in 195 years spread to 210,000 of the nation’s 750,000 postal employees. President Nixon tried to bust the strike by threatening to arrest striking workers and by sending federal troops to sort the mail. The soldiers failed to get the mail moving, compelling Congress to give an 8% raise and the right to collectively bargain. The biggest lesson of the strike was that workers can organize and mobilize an effective Wild Cat action, in spite of anti-union laws and even military action.

Tuesday, March 19

In 1917, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the Adamson Act, a federal law that established an 8-hour workday with overtime pay for interstate railway workers. Congress passed the law a year earlier to avert a nationwide rail strike.

In 1962, in an effort to block massive layoffs and end a strike, New York City moved to condemn and seize Fifth Avenue Coach, the largest privately-owned bus company in the world.

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

For KBMF, I’m Kevin Cook!