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City Desk

This Week in Labor History March 13 – 19


"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



Wednesday, March 13:
A 4-month UAW strike at General Motors ends 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 rightfully demanded a bigger slice of the American pie. -1946

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

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


Thursday, March 14: (Pi Day 3.1415926535897932384626433…mmmm pie)
Albert Einstein, War Refugee, Nobel Prize winning physicist, charter member American Federation of Teachers Union (AFT) Local 552, born on this date. -1879

10,000 IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) gather and vote, “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 by a city owned by big business to protect profits; workers were arrested, some sent to jail for years, John Ramy, was bayoneted to death, pregnant women were beaten so badly by police that they gave birth to dead babies, the strike dragged on 10 weeks. When the raises were won, the strikers insisted that the largest increases go to the lowest-paid. -1912

First American postal strike starts as a illegal strike (Wild Cat Strike). The strike grew and spread across the country over the next 8 days to become the largest Wild Cat Strike in U.S. History. The strike ended in victory for the workers and Union. -1970


Friday, March 15:
Supreme Court approves 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. -1917

Bituminous coal miners begin nationwide strike, demanding adoption of a pension plan for the Union workers. -1948


Saturday, March 16:

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


The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) is formed in New York to represent New York City public school teachers and, later, other education workers in the city. -1960


Sunday, March 17:

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

Boeing Co. and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) come 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. -2000


Monday, March 18:
Police evict retail clerks occupying New York Woolworth’s during a fight for the 40-hour week/ 8-hour day. -1937

The Post Office’s first mass work stoppage in 195 years spreads to 210,000 of the nation’s 750,000 postal employees. President Nixon tried to bust the strike 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 is that workers can organize and mobilize an effective Wild Cat action, in spite of wimpy Union leadership, anti-Union laws and even military action. -1970


Tuesday, March 19:

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. Big Business fought the Act because longer hours for workers meant higher profits for the wealthy capitalists.  -1917


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


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

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