Today in Labor History – March 23rd

labor history march 23

New York Postal Strike

101 Wobblies (members of the Industrial Workers of the World, IWW) went on trial in Chicago for opposing World War I. They were tried for violating the Espionage Act. In September 1917, 165 IWW leaders were arrested for conspiring to subvert the draft and encourage desertion. Their trial lasted five months, the longest criminal trial in American history up to that time. The jury found them all guilty. The judge sentenced Big Bill Haywood and 14 others to 20 years in prison. 33 others were given 10 years each. They were also fined a total of $2,500,000. The trial virtually destroyed the IWW. Haywood jumped bail and fled to the USSR, where he remained until his death 10 years later. – 1918

The Norris-La Guardia Act was passed, restricting injunctions against unions and banning yellow dog contracts, which require newly-hired workers to declare they are not union members and will not join one. – 1932

President Nixon declared a national emergency and ordered 30,000 troops to New York City to break the postal workers strike. The troops didn’t have a clue how to sort and deliver mail; a settlement came a few days later. – 1970

The Coalition of Labor Union Women was founded in Chicago by some 3,000 delegates from 58 unions and other organizations. – 1974

Fifteen workers died and another 170 were injured when a series of explosions ripped through BP’s Texas City refinery. Investigators blamed a poor safety culture at the plant and found BP management gave priority to cost savings over worker safety. – 2005

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