Today in Labor History – June 20


Eugene Debs formed the American Railway Union (ARU), one of the earliest unions to organize by industry and regardless of race or ethnicity (see Knights of Labor and IWW) . Within a few months the union was leading an 18-day strike against the Great Northern Railroad, successfully forcing management to reverse three wage cuts, despite the fact that the nation was in the midst of a terrible depression. The victory set the union on a remarkable course in which it averaged 2,000 new members a day – 1893

Police shot 14 Wobblies (members of the Industrial Workers of the World) during a labor clash in Butte, Montana. In April, company guards at the Anaconda mine fired on striking Wobblies, killing one. Vigilantes or company goons lynched IWW organizer Frank Little in Butte in 1917 – 1920

Henry Ford recognizes the United Auto Workers, signs contract for workers at River Rouge plant – 1941

Striking African American auto workers are attacked by KKK, National Workers League, and armed white workers at Belle Isle amusement park in Detroit. Two days of riots follow, 34 people are killed, more than 1,300 arrested – 1943

The Taft-Hartley Labor Management Relations Act, curbing strikes, is vetoed by President Harry S Truman. The veto was overridden three days later by aRepublican-controlled Congress – 1947

Oil began traveling through the Alaska pipline. Seventy thousand people worked on building the pipeline, history’s largest privately-financed construction project – 1977

Evelyn Dubrow, described by the New York Times as organized labor’s most prominent lobbyist at the time of its greatest power, dies at age 95. The International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union lobbyist once told the Times that “she trudged so many miles around Capitol Hill that she wore out 24 pairs of her Size 4 shoes each year.” She retired at age 86 – 2006


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