Today in Labor History – February 22nd

Albert Shanker

Albert Shanker

3,000 union shoemakers on strike in Lynn, Massachusetts met to form committees and appoint guards to prevent violence and keep scabs from coming into the city. Within a week, the strike spread throughout New England to include 20,000 workers in 25 towns. President Abraham Lincoln told a reporter that he was “glad to see that a system of labor prevails in New England under which laborers can strike when they want to”. – 1860

The founding convention of the People’s Party met in St. Louis with the support of the Knights of Labor, United Mine Workers and 20 other organizations. The party criticized political corruption, increasing concentration of wealth, and attacks on the rights of workers and farmers. – 1892

Responding to the mayor’s injunction against picketing, deploying the police, and hiring scabs, striking AFSCME Local 1733 sanitation workers held a mass meeting and crashed the Memphis City Council meeting to demand that a resolution on the strike be formulated. When the Council’s promise to do so proved empty, the workers took to the streets and were subsequently attacked by the police, galvanizing widespread support for the strike. – 1968

Albert Shanker died on this date at age 68. He served as president of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers from 1964 to 1984 and of the American Federation of Teachers from 1974 to 1997. – 1997

Education Secretary Rod Paige called the nation’s largest teachers union, National Education Association (NEA), a “terrorist organization” during a White House meeting with state governors. Meanwhile the Bush administration asserted the right to imprison citizens or non-citizens indefinitely without trial or access to lawyers, family members or journalists, as long as they were accused of being terrorists. – 2004

Teachers and classified school employees began a wildcat strike in West Virginia. The strike was called over low pay and high healthcare costs and involved 20,000 employees shutting down schools in all 55 West Virginia counties. It lasted until March 7 when the State Legislature agreed to a 5% pay raise but did not provide guarantees to control rising healthcare costs. This was the first of a strike wave by education employees in 2018. – 2018

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