Today in Labor History – May 5th

labor history may 5

Harlan Country

The National Typographical Union was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was renamed the International Typographical Union in 1869 in acknowledgment of Canadian members. When the ITU merged into CWA in 1986 it was the oldest existing union in the U.S. – 1852

The Knights of Labor struck at Union Pacific against wage cuts and won. – 1884

On Chicago’s West Side, police attacked Jewish workers as they tried to march into the Loop to protest slum conditions. – 1886

Some 14,000 building trades workers and laborers, demanding an eight-hour work day, gathered at the Milwaukee Iron Company rolling mill in Bay View, Wisconsin. When they approached the mill they were fired on by 250 National Guardsmen under orders from the governor to shoot to kill. Seven died, including a 13-year-old boy. – 1886

Nineteen machinists working for the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad gathered in a locomotive pit to decide what to do about a wage cut. They voted to form a union, which later became the Int’l Association of Machinists. – 1888

Italian-American anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were arrested in Boston for murder and payroll robbery. Eventually, they were executed for a crime most believe they did not commit. – 1920

High School teacher John T. Scopes was arrested for teaching the theory of evolution in a Tennessee school, in a violation of state law. – 1925

The Infamous Battle of Harlan County (“Bloody Harlan”), Kentucky occurred. Also known as the Battle of Evarts, the strike began in response to wage cuts implemented in February. On May 5, a scab accosted a union worker, resulting in three deaths. Governor Flem Sampson called in the National Guard, which killed several more union miners. The Harlan County class war was the inspiration for Florence Reece‘s famous union song Which Side Are You On? The strike continued for years, with the miners finally winning in 1940. – 1931

John J. Sweeney, president of the Service Employees International Union from 1980 to 1995, then president of the AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2009, was born in The Bronx, New York. – 1934

A lumber strike began in the Pacific Northwest and would involve 40,000 workers by the time victory was achieved after 13 weeks: union recognition, a 50 cent per hour minimum wage and an eight-hour day. – 1937

The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to a 30-year low of 3.9 percent; the rate for blacks and Hispanics was the lowest ever since the government started tracking such data. – 2000

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