This Week in Labor History

December 23
AFL officers are found in contempt of court for urging a labor boycott of Buck’s Stove and Range Co. in St Louis, where the Metal Polishers were striking for a 9-hour day – 1908

Construction workers top out the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 1,368 feet, making it the tallest building in the world – 1970
(Bigger Labor: A Crash Course for Construction Union Organizers is a comprehensive guide to construction organizing best practices. It covers everything from what to do on a picket line to tips on visiting job sites, from effective handbilling to dealing with police, from building a banner to salting. It offers building trades organizers extensive communication tips for every situation, from following up with potential recruits to effectively getting your point across at public hearings.)

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest employer, with 1.4 million “associates,” agrees to settle 63 wage and hour suits across the U.S., for a grand total of between $352 million and $640 million. It was accused of failure to pay overtime, requiring off-the-clock work, and failure to provide required meal and rest breaks – 2008

December 24
Seventy-two copper miners’ children die in panic caused by a company stooge at Calumet, Mich., who shouted “fire” up the stairs into a crowded hall where the children had gathered. They were crushed against closed doors when they tried to flee – 1913

December 25
A dynamite bomb destroys a portion of the Llewellyn Ironworks in Los Angeles, where a bitter strike was in progress – 1910

December 26
Knights of Labor founded. Constitution bars from membership “parasites,” including stockbrokers and lawyers – 1869

Workingmen’s Party is reorganized as the Socialist Labor Party – 1877

December 27
President Roosevelt seizes the railroads to avert a nationwide strike. His decision to temporarily place the railroads under the “supervision” of the War Department prompts the five railroad brotherhoods to agree to his offer to arbitrate the wage dispute – 1943
(Understanding the Railway Labor Act: The title of this book says it all. Author Frank N. Wilner is the ultimate authority on labor-management relations in the railroad industry. His latest book is incredibly helpful to those seeking to learn more about rail labor history, the mechanics of rail labor law, and how railroads and their multiple unions bargain collectively under the RLA’s provisions. It is hugely helpful as well to those familiar with the RLA but seeking a reference work providing greater detail on the law’s provisions and how they impact negotiations at the national and local levels.)

December 28
The coffee percolator is patented by James H. Mason of Franklin, Mass., placing himself forever in the debt of millions of caffeine-dependent working people – 1865

Auto workers begin sit-down strike for union recognition at GM’s Fisher Body plant in Cleveland – 1936

Country music legend Hank Williams attends what is to be his last musicians’ union meeting, at the Elite (pronounced E-light) café in Montgomery, Ala. He died of apparent heart failure three days later in the back seat of a car driving north. He was 29 – 1952

December 29
After years of intensive lobbying by the labor movement, a comprehensive national safety law is enacted as President Nixon signs the Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970, creating the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) – 1970

More than 15,000 United Steel Workers members at 16 Goodyear Tire & Rubber plants end an 86-day strike, ratify 3-year contract – 2006
—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

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