Labor History

February 28
U.S. Supreme Court finds that a Utah state law limiting mine and smelter workers to an 8-hour workday is constitutional – 1898

(Actually Leap Year Feb. 29) The minimum age allowed by law for workers in mills, factories, and mines in South Carolina is raised from 12 to 14 – 1915
2015.02.23history kids.at.work(Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor: Your heart will be broken by this exceptional book’s photographs of children at backbreaking, often life-threatening work, and the accompanying commentary by author Russell Freedman. Photographer Lewis Hine—who himself died in poverty in 1940—did as much, and perhaps more, than any social critic in the early part of the 20th century to expose the abuse of children, as young as three and four, by American capitalism.)

Members of the Chinese Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union in San Francisco’s Chinatown begin what is to be a2015.02.23history garment.strikers successful four-month strike for better wages and conditions at the National Dollar Stores factory and three retail outlets – 1938

(Actually leap year Feb. 29) Screen Actors Guild member Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American to win an Academy Award, honored for her portrayal of “Mammy” in “Gone with the Wind” – 1940

In response to the layoff of 450 union members at a 3M factory in New Jersey, every worker at a 3M factory in Elandsfontein, South Africa, walks off the job in sympathy – 1986

March 01
The Granite Cutters National Union begins what is to be a successful nationwide strike for the 8-hour day. Also won: union recognition, wage increases, a grievance procedure and a minimum wage scale – 1900

2015.02.23history curranJoseph Curran is born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. At age 16 he joined the Merchant Marines and in 1937 went on to lead the formation of the National Maritime Union. He was the union’s founding president and held the post until 1973, when he resigned amidst corruption charges. He died in 1981 – 1906

IWW strikes Portland, Ore., sawmills – 1907

An article in the March 1936 edition of the magazine Popular Science lists what it terms “the world’s craziest jobs,” all of them in Hollywood. Included: Horse-tail painter (to make the tails stand out better in the movies); bone-bleacher (for animal skeletons in Westerns); and chorus-girl weigher, whose function the article did not make terribly clear – 1936

Sailors aboard the S.S. California, docked in San Pedro, Calif., refuse to cast off the lines and allow the ship to sail until their wages are increased and overtime paid. The job action lasts three days before the secretary of labor intervenes and an agreement is reached. The leaders were fined two days’ pay, fired and blacklisted, although charges of mutiny were dropped. The action marked the beginnings of the National Maritime Union – 19362015.02.23history taylor lewis

CIO president John L. Lewis and U.S. Steel President Myron Taylor sign a landmark contract in which the bitterly anti-union company officially recognized the CIO as sole negotiator for the company’s unionized workers. Included: the adoption of overtime pay, the 40-hour work week, and a big pay hike – 1937

After five years of labor by 21,000 workers, 112 of whom were killed on the job, the Hoover Dam (Boulder Dam) is completed and turned over to the government. Citizens were so mad at President Herbert Hoover, for whom the dam had been named, that it was later changed to Boulder Dam, being located near Boulder City, Nev. – 1936

The federal minimum wage increases to $1 per hour – 1956

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