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City Desk

This Week in Labor History - Sept 12 – 18


“The great corporation which employed you lied to you, and lied to the whole country—from top to bottom it was nothing but one gigantic lie.” -Upton Sinclair, The Jungle


Wednesday, Sept 12:

Butte Montana: Citing a slump in the copper prices the Amalgamated Copper Mining Company reduces its workforce by half. Almost all of the mines on the Hill shut down by December. -1907

National Guardsmen fire on unarmed strikers at the Woonsocket (Rhode Island) Rayon plant, murdering one and injuring three others. Word spread, 6,000 more workers arrived at the scene and the city was put under military rule. Deliberately red-baiting the public, the Governor falsely declared that “there is a Communist uprising and not a textile strike” in the state. -1934


Thursday, Sept 13:

Butte Montana: A crackdown by local authorities and federal troops prevents a call for a general strike to protest the conviction of I.W.W. Union leaders. Omar Bradley leads federal troops to shut down The Daily Bulletin. I.W.W. Union members in Butte and Anaconda are arrested, without cause including William F. Dunne, editor of The Daily Bulletin. -1918


3 more unarmed striking workers are murdered in Woonsocket (Rhode Island) while fighting for a minimum wage for textile workers. Over the course of September, more than 420,000 workers join the strike. -1934


Friday, Sept 14:

Legendary Labor leader and IWW co-founder Eugene Debs is sentenced to 10 years in prison for speaking out publicly against entry into WWI. He ran for the U.S. presidency as a Socialist in 1920 from his prison cell and won over one million votes. -1918


An unarmed striker is shot by a bog owner (and town-elected official) during a peaceful walkout by 1,500 cranberry pickers, members of the newly-formed Cape Cod Cranberry Pickers Union Local 1. State police were called to protect profits and low wages, more strikers were shot and 64 were arrested. The strike was lost. -1933


Saturday, Sept 15:

Over 5,000 female cotton workers, in and around Pittsburgh, strike for a 10-hour day. The male trade Unionists become the first male auxiliary when they gather to protect the women from police attacks. The strike ultimately failed. -1845


Calvin Coolidge, then governor of Massachusetts, called out the Massachusetts National Guard to break a strike of Boston police officers who were striking for Union recognition, vacation time and better pay. Invoking the "American Plan" (an agreement between the Government and Business to suppress all Unions) and fired all striking Police. His action won him acclaim and swept him onto the Republican ticket as the vice presidential nominee. -1919


Sunday, Sept 16:

43,000 oil workers went on strike in 20 states, immediately after World War II ended. The end of the war saw a wave of strikes across the country, as workers who had patriotically sacrificed all resistance to workplace injustices during the war no longer had any excuses not to fight for decent pay and benefits. Soon after the oil workers walked off the job, 200,000 coal miners, 4,000 NW lumber workers, 70,000 Midwest truck drivers, and 40,000 machinists in San Francisco and Oakland joined them. East coast longshoremen and New England textile workers also struck. -1945


The Farm Labor Organizing Committee wins a signed contract with the Mount Olive Pickle Co. and growers, ending a 5-year boycott. The agreement marked the first time an American labor Union represented guest workers. -2004


Monday, Sept 17:

Butte Montana: The Great Strike of 1934 ends after 4 months in a major Union victory. The Anaconda Company grants the striking Union miners a wage increase, a 40 hour work week and full Union recognition. -1934


United Mine Workers of America members and a minister occupy the Pittston Coal Company's plant in Carbon, Va., beginning a year-long strike. Among other issues: management demands for drastic limitations in health and pension benefits for retired and disabled miners and their dependents and beneficiaries. -1989


Tuesday, Sept 18:

A 20-month illegal lockout of 2,900 Steelworkers members at Kaiser Aluminum plants in three states ends when an arbitrator orders a new contract. Kaiser was forced to fire scabs and fork over tens of millions of dollars in back pay to Union members. -1999


One week after the September 11, 2001, attacks, anthrax spores are mailed by an unknown party. 5 people exposed to the spores died, including 2 workers at Washington, D.C.’s USPS facility: APWU Union members Thomas Morris Jr. and Joseph Curseen, died within the month. -2001


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



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