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This Week in Labor History Dec 27 – Jan 2


“The superior person understands rightness; the inferior person understands profit.” -Confucius


Wednesday, Dec 27:

Steelworkers strike in Ohio demanding the 8-hour day and an increase in wages. The strike ends in the New Year in their favor; the US government needs steel for armaments. -1916

President Franklin Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9412. “Railroad strikes by 3 Brotherhoods have been ordered for next Thursday,” Roosevelt said, “If any employees of the railroads now strike, they will be striking against the Government of the United States.” -1943


Thursday, Dec 28:

Auto workers begin a sit-down strike for Union recognition at GM’s Fisher Body plant in Cleveland. 2 days later "The Great Sit-Down Strike" against General Motors in Flint, Michigan began. The IWW inspired sit-down strikes would change the United Automobile Workers (UAW) from a collection of isolated locals on the fringes of the industry into a major labor Union and lead to the Unionization of the domestic United States automobile industry. -1936

President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Army to seize the executive offices of Montgomery Ward and Company after the “patriotic corporation” failed to comply with a National War Labor Board directive regarding Union shops. The president of Montgomery Ward had put profits before the well-being of the country and refused to comply with a War Labor Board order to recognize the Unions and institute the terms of a collective bargaining agreement. -1944


Friday, Dec 29:

After years of intensive lobbying by the labor movement, a comprehensive national safety law is enacted as President Nixon (R) signs the Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970, creating the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and saving untold numbers of workers lives. -1970

More than 15,000 United Steel Workers members at 16 Goodyear Tire and Rubber plants end an 86-day strike, they win and ratify 3-year contract. -2006


Saturday, Dec 30:

Governor Frank Steunenberg of Idaho was assassinated by a bomb during a period of bitter labor disputes in the state. Prosperous businessman, Steunenberg had become governor of Idaho on a Populist Party "defend the working man" ticket, but then called on federal troops to crush the 1899 miners’ strike and brutally suppress workers. Members of the WFM were implicated by the actual assassin, Harry Orchard, who was a paid informant of Mine Owners’ Association. -1905

GM sit-down strike spreads to Flint, Mich., will last 44 days before ending in Union victory. -1936


Sunday, Dec 31:

60,000 unemployed workers rally at a Pittsburgh stadium. -1931

OSHA adopts a grain handling facilities standard to protect 155,000 workers at nearly 24,000-grain elevators from the risk of fire and explosion of highly combustible grain dust. -1987


Monday, Jan 1:

John L. Lewis is elected president of the United Mine Workers. 15 years later he is to be a leader in the formation of what was to become the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). -1920

Canada: IWW Lumber Workers IU120 strikes the British Columbia lumber owners, calling for an 8 hour day with blankets supplied, a minimum wage of $4 per day, release of all "class war prisoners", no discrimination against IWW members and no censoring of IWW literature. -1924


Tuesday, Jan 2:

Conference of 23 industrial Unionists in Chicago leads to the formation of IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, fondly known as the Wobblies. From its beginning, the IWW has been dedicated to Democracy, Free Speech, and the working class. -1905

An underground explosion at Sago Mine in Tallmansville, W. Va., traps 12 miners and cuts power to the mine. 11 men die, mostly by asphyxiation. The mine had been cited 273 times for safety violations over the prior 23 months but shareholder profits outweighed all safety concerns and the workers paid the price. -2006


This Week in Labor is compiled by Kevin D. Curtis



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