Today in Labor History – February 27th

Eugene V Debs

Eugene V Debs

Legendary labor leader and socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs became a charter member and secretary of the Vigo Lodge, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen. Five years later he was leading the national union and in 1893 helped found the nation’s first industrial union, the American Railway Union. – 1875

John Steinbeck was born on this date in Salinas, California. Steinbeck, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1962, wrote numerous novels from the perspective of farmers and the working class, including The Grapes of Wrath (1939), Tortilla Flats, Of Mice and MenCannery Row & East of Eden – 1902

Thirty-eight miners died in a coal mine explosion in Boissevain, Virginia. – 1932

Just days after the autoworkers’ victory at General Motors, more than 100 women workers at one of forty Woolworth stores in Detroit, Michigan, began a sit-down strike over wages, hours, working conditions, and union recognition. Solidarity action in support of the workers was incredible. The strike spread, and on March 5th the workers won their demands, including the union shop. The union won a uniform contract for all forty stores in Detroit, which covered 2,500 workers. – 1937

Following a decade of sit-down strikes, the Supreme Court ruled that sit-down strikes, a major organizing tool for industrial unions, were illegal. – 1939

A mine disaster killed 75 at Red Lodge, Montana. – 1943

Seattle ACORN workers went on strike. Their office was shut down after their employer refused to recognize Public Interest Workers IU 670 union of the IWW. – 2001

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