Labor History

May 30
The Ford Motor Company signs a “Technical Assistance” contract to produce cars in the Soviet Union, and Ford workers were sent to the Soviet Union to train the labor force in the use of its parts. Many American workers who made the trip, including Walter Reuther, a tool and die maker who later was to become the UAW’s president,  returned home with a different view of the duties and privileges of the industrial laborer – 1929
(Bye, America: The transfer of work to other countries has escalated since Reuther’s day. In this book, young readers learn that their contemporary, Brady, is proud of his dad and wants to be just like him, working at the factory and making useful things. But that dream dies when his dad goes to work one day and is told that the factory is closing and the work is being sent to China.)

In what became known as the Memorial Day Massacre, police open fire on striking steelworkers at Republic Steel in South Chicago, killing ten and wounding more than 160 – 1937

The Ground Zero cleanup at the site of the World Trade Center is completed three months ahead of schedule due to the heroic efforts of more than 3,000 building tradesmen and women who had worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week for the previous eight months – 2002

May 31
The Johnstown Flood.  More than 2,200 die when a dam holding back a private resort lake burst upstream of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  The resort was owned by wealthy industrialists including Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick.  Neither they nor any other members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club were found guilty of fault, despite the fact the group had created the lake out of an abandoned reservoir – 1889

Some 25,000 white autoworkers walk off the job at a Detroit Packard Motor Car Co. plant, heavily involved in wartime production, when three black workers are promoted to work on a previously all-white assembly line.  The black workers were relocated and the whites returned – 1943

Rose Will Monroe, popularly known as Rosie the Riveter, dies in Clarksville, Ind.  During WWII she helped bring women into the labor force – 1997

June 01
The Ladies Federal Labor Union Number 2703, based in Illinois, was granted a charter from the American Federation of Labor. Women from a wide range of occupations were among the members, who ultimately were successful in coalescing women’s groups interested in suffrage, temperance, health, housing and child labor reform to win state legislation in these areas – 1888

Union Carpenters win a 25¢-per-day raise, bringing wages for a 9-hour day to $2.50 – 1898

Congress passes the Erdman Act, providing for voluntary mediation or arbitration of railroad disputes and prohibiting contracts that discriminate against union labor or release employers from legal liability for on-the-job injuries – 1898

Nearly 3,500 immigrant miners begin Clifton-Morenci, Ariz., copper strike – 1903

Some 12,500 longshoremen strike the Pacific coast, from San Diego to Bellingham, Wash. Demands included a closed shop and a wage increase to 55¢ an hour for handling general cargo – 1916

As many as 60,000 railroad shopmen strike to protest cuts in wages – 1922

Extinguishing the light of hope in the hearts and aspirations of workers around the world, the Mexican government abolishes siestas—a mid-afternoon nap and work break which lengthened the work day but got people through brutally hot summer days – 1944

Farm workers under the banner of the new United Farm Workers Organizing Committee strike at Texas’s La Casita Farms, demand $1.25 as a minimum hourly wage – 1966

Dakota Beef meatpackers win 7-hour sit-down strike over speed-ups, St. Paul, Minn. – 2000

General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The filing made the automaker the largest U.S. industrial company to enter bankruptcy protection. It went on to recover thanks to massive help from the UAW and the federal government – 2009

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