Today in Labor History – August 31st

Miners manning a machine gun emplacement captured from anti-union troops

Miners manning a machine gun emplacement captured from anti-union troops

John Reed formed the Communist Labor Party in Chicago. (later to become the American Communist Party). The Party’s motto: “Workers of the world, unite!”. – 1919

Some 10,000 striking miners began a fight at Blair Mountain, West Virginia, for recognition of their union, the United Mine Workers of America. Federal troops were sent in, and miners were forced to withdraw five days later after 16 deaths. – 1921

The Trade Union Unity League was founded by 690 delegates from 18 states fleeing the conservative American Federation of Labor (AFL). The League was a wing of the Communist Party and pushed for organizing workers along industry lines rather than by craft, like the AFL, with all workers in a given industry together in one big union. At its peak, the League had 125,000 members and, in 1930, led a protest of nearly a million jobless workers in a dozen cities to demand relief and unemployment insurance. The League fell apart in the late 1930s due to competition from the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), which had launched a wave of successful organizing drives. – 1929

Italian American labor organizer, Giovanni Pippan was murdered during his campaign to organize the Italian bread wagon drivers of Chicago. – 1933

Nearly all 430 workers at the California Sanitary Canning Company participated in a massive walkout. The majority of the workers were Mexican-American women. They were demanding union recognition for their affiliation with the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, & Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA). They eventually won a union contract and wage increase. – 1939

The second Solidarity Day demonstration occurred in Washington, D.C., with over 350,000 union members demanding workplace fairness and health care reform. The first Solidarity Day took place 10 years earlier in the wake of the PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controller) firings. – 1991

Detroit teachers began what was to become a 9-day strike, winning smaller class sizes and raises of up to 4 percent. – 1999

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