This Week in Labor History 007

Sanitation Workers Strike, Memphis 1968

Sanitation Workers Strike, Memphis 1968

"The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress. The captains of industry did not lead this transformation; they resisted it until they were overcome." -Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader, social justice activist

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

Wednesday, March 27

In 1904, Mother Jones was ordered to leave Colorado, where state authorities accused her of “stirring up” striking coal miners. The capitalists called Mother Jones “The Most Dangerous Woman in America,” and her rallying cry was famous: "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

1912 marked the start of the 8-month Northern railway strike in Canada by the IWW.

Wobblies picketed employment offices in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Tacoma and Minneapolis in order to block the hiring of scabs.

Tuesday, March 28

In 1968, Martin Luther King led a march of striking union sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. Police attacked the workers with mace and sticks. A 16-year old boy was shot and killed. 280 workers were arrested. He was assassinated a few days later after speaking to the union workers. King fought throughout his life to connect the labor and civil rights movements, envisioning them as twin pillars for social reform.

In 2011, Massey Mines was hit with 80 Citations for safety violations during special inspections in February. The Upper Big Branch mine had 50 citations in the 30 days leading up to the deadly West Virginia coal mine explosion that killed at 29 miners on this date, just 8 years ago.

Friday, March 29

In 1852, Ohio outlawed 10-hour work days for women and children under 18.

In 1918, Sam Walton, founder of the huge and bitterly anti-union Walmart empire, was born in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. He once said that his priority was to “Buy American,” but Walmart is now the largest U.S. importer of foreign-made goods - often produced under sweatshop conditions. Wal-Mart, “Always!”

1948 saw the “Battle of Wall Street,” where police charged towards members of the United Financial Employees Union, striking against the New York Stock Exchange and New York Curb Exchange, now known as the American Stock Exchange. Forty-three workers were arrested in what was to be the first and only strike in the history of either exchange.

Saturday, March 30

In 1930, the New-Kanawha Power Company broke ground on the Hawks Nest Tunnel and Dam with an estimated 800 men employed. Over the next 5 years, up to 764 workers died from silicosis. Some of the dead are reportedly buried in a mass grave to hide the actual number of casualties.

In 1970, after years of struggle and a nationwide boycott, the United Farm Workers signed the first table-grape contract with two of California's largest grape growers.

Sunday, March 31

In 1883, cowboys began what was to become a 2-and-a-half-month strike for higher wages at 5 ranches in the Texas panhandle.

Cesar Chavez, American farm worker, labor leader, civil rights activist and social justice activist was born on this day in Yuma, Arizona in 1927.

In 1941, Wisconsin state troopers failed to get scabs across the picket line to break a 76-day Allis-Chalmers strike in Milwaukee, led by UAW Local 248. The plant remained closed until the government negotiated a compromise.

Monday, April 1

In 1898, United Mine Workers of America won an 8-hour day. The rest of America's workers would continue to work 12-14-hour days for years to come.

In 1907, the San Francisco laundry workers struck for wage increases and an 8-hour day.

40,000 textile workers strike in cotton and rayon mills of six southern states, seeking higher pay, sickness and accident insurance, and pensions. -1951

1963 saw the longest newspaper strike in U.S. history, which lasted for 114 days and ended in New York City. Workers at 9 different newspapers were involved.

Tuesday, April 2

In 1909, the Union Label Trades Department was chartered by the AFL. Its mission: “promote the products and services produced in America by Union members.”

In 1923, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a 1918 Washington, D.C., law establishing a minimum wage for women.

Major league baseball players ended a 232-day strike on this day in 1995, which began the prior August and led to the cancellation of the 1994 postseason and the World Series.

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

For KBMF, I’m Kevin Cook!