Today in Labor History – March 18th


Police evict retail clerks occupying N.Y. Woolworth’s in fight for 40-hour week – 1937

The beginning of the Great Postal Strike in New York City. Postal workers hadn’t seen a rise since 1967. They were banned from collective bargaining and from striking. Nevertheless, in spite of the law and their own union’s attempt to quell the unrest, the postal workers voted to strike, marking the first time in the nearly 200-year history of the Postal Service that postal workers went on strike.

President Nixon tried to bust the strike, first by threatening to arrest striking workers and then by sending in federal troops to sort the mail. However, the soldiers were so incompetent at the work, that they failed to get the mail moving, compelling Congress to give them an 8% raise and the right to collectively bargain.

The biggest lesson of the strike is that workers can organize and mobilize an effective wild cat action, in spite of wimpy union leadership, laws and even military action. This lesson is particularly salient now, as growing numbers of workers in the Midwest are calling for a general strike, while their union leaders are conceding wage and benefit cuts, Gov. Walker is threatening to call out the National Guard, and Taft-Hartley ban general strikes. 1970

The Los Angeles City Council passes the first living wage ordinance in California. The ordinance required almost all city contractors to pay a minimum wage of $8.50 an hour, or $7.25 if the employer was contributing at least $1.25 toward health benefits, with annual adjustments for inflation – 1997

Wal-Mart agrees to pay a record $11 million to settle a civil immigration case for using illegal immigrants to do overnight cleaning at stores in 21 states – 2005

As the Great Recession continues, Pres. Obama signs a $17.6 billion job-creation measure a day after it is passed by Congress – 2010

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