"Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice." -Dwight D. Eisenhower, Progressive Republican President
I’m Kevin Cook, and This Week in Labor History:
Wednesday, May 8
On this day in 1916, the American Federation of Teachers was founded.
In 1934 in Butte, Montana, the Butte Miners Union won a closed shop in their fourth longest strike. It was the first time they had a closed shop since 1914.
In 1925, Philip Randolph and Milton P. Webster founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. The Brotherhood was the first African-American labor union to sign a collective bargaining agreement with a major U.S. corporation.
12,000 steelworker-represented workers at Good Year Tire & Rubber won an 18-day strike for improved wages and job security on this day in 1997.
Thursday, May 9
In 1934, the Longshoremen’s union strike lead to a 4-day general strike in San Francisco. Longshoremen walked off the job at ports up and down the West Coast, soon to be followed by sailors. Many strikers were shot and killed by the bosses’ goons. The IWW spent the 1920's attempting to organize the dockworkers. Although their efforts were crushed by the government, syndicalist thinking and militant unionism remained extremely popular on the docks as part of their legacy. The strike lasted until July 30th.
In 1971, United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther and his wife May died in a suspicious plane crash as they traveled to oversee construction of the union’s education and training facility. Reuther had survived several earlier assassination attempts.
Friday, May 10
In 1993, The United Mine Workers called a selective strike against US coal mines.
A federal bankruptcy judge permitted United Airlines to legally abandon all responsibility for worker's pensions in 2005, and 120,000 employees lost their earned benefits. Executives kept their benefits and got huge bonuses.
Saturday, May 11
1894 on this day marked the beginning of the Pullman Railroad Strike to protest wage cuts in Chicago, Illinois. The largest industrial strike to this date in U.S. history was eventually broken by federal government troops. At least 24 strikers were murdered in order to protect profits.
Puget Sound Grocery Workers went on strike on this day in 1989 in Seattle.
Sunday, May 12
Bob Dylan walked out of TV dress rehearsals for The Ed Sullivan Show on this day in 1963. When CBS censors told Dylan he could not perform his "Talkin John Birch Society Blues,” a satirical song skewering McCarthyism and wacky right-wing paranoia, he refused to appear on the show.
In 1970, in an unprecedented show of respect and solidarity, on the day of Walter and May Reuther’s funeral, UAW International union members at over 300 plants across the U.S. and Canada turned off their machines and halted assembly lines for 3 minutes to honor their fallen leader.
On this day in 1920 in Butte, Montana, the Anaconda Company banned I.W.W. Union members from the mines. Posted signs read "No member of I.W.W. will be employed at this property." The ban had limited effect, and some say it even increased membership in the union. The IWW had a long history fighting for Montana’s working class, including winning the right of Free Speech for all Montanans during Missoula’s IWW Free Speech Fights. The Wobblies played a significant role in Butte's labor movement and are part of Butte's radical history that included the Western Federation of Miners.
Monday, May 13
In 1893, the Western Federation of Miners formed in Butte, Montana. They organized the hard rock miners of the Rocky Mountain states into a labor union deemed “radical” by mine owners and investors, who would prefer the miners die in the mines more quietly. The Butte Miner’s Union became “Local Number One”. The WFM would be instrumental in the creation of another “radical” union 12 years later, the IWW.
On this day in 2014, the Brody Mine in West Virginia collapsed, killing 2. The mine, owned by Patriot Coal, was deemed a “pattern violator” and received 253 violations during a 12-month review. A Mine Safety and Health Administration report said the violations show the mine had a disregard for the health and safety of its miners.
Tuesday, May 14
"We Want Beer!!" marches were held in cities all over America on this day in 1932, with 15,000 Unionized workers demonstrating in Detroit. Prohibition was repealed the following year.
Milwaukee brewery workers began a 10-week strike on this day in 1953, demanding contracts comparable to East and West Coast workers. The strike was won because Blatz Brewery accepted their demands. Blatz was later ousted from the Brewers Association for “unethical” business methods.
This Week in Labor History is compiled by Kevin D. Curtis.
For KBMF, I’m Kevin Cook.