Today in Labor History – April 5th

labor history april 5

A memorial to the victims of the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine

The longest strike in U.S. history began as workers at the Kohler Company in Sheboygen, Wisconsin went out on strike when the company failed to negotiate in good faith with their union, the United Auto Workers. More than six years later, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in the workers’ favor. It wasn’t until 1964 that Kohler agreed to pay 4.5 million dollars in back wages and pension contributions. – 1954

Columnist Victor Riesel, a crusader against mob infiltration of unions, was blinded in New York City when an assailant threw sulfuric acid in his face. He was also an FBI informer for decades, a proponent of the McCarthy era blacklisting that weakened unions for over a generation, and a crusader against unions connecting with anti-war student activism in the 1960’s and 70’s. – 1956

When the Board of Trustees at Boston University refused to approve the faculty’s negotiated contract, the faculty union called a strike. Professors were joined on the picket line by clerical staff and librarians who also demanded union recognition. After several weeks, the strike ended when the workers’ central demands were met. – 1979

The United Mine Workers launched their strike against the Pittston Coal Company, eventually winning concessions by Pittston on February 20, 1990. The strike started in response to Pittston’s termination of health care for widows, retirees and disabled veteran miners. During the strike, there were 2,000 miners camped out daily at Camp Solidarity, and up to 40,000 total engaging in wildcat strikes, civil disobedience, picketing, occupations and sabotage. The strike reduced Pittston’s production by two-thirds, while over 4,000 strikers were arrested during the strike. – 1989

14,000 teachers went on strike at Hawaii schools and colleges. – 2001

A huge underground explosion occurred at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia killing 29 miners.  It was the worst U.S. mine disaster in 40 years. The Massey Energy Company mine had been cited for two safety infractions the day before the blast, 57 the month before, and 1,342 in the previous five years. – 2010

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