Today in Labor History – February 28th (and 29th)

Sue Cowan Williams

Sue Cowan Williams

The U.S. Supreme Court found that a Utah state law limiting mine and smelter workers to an eight-hour workday was constitutional. – 1898

Faced with 84 hour workweeks, 24 hour shifts and pay of 29 cents an hour, firefighters formed the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). Some individual locals had affiliated with the AFL beginning in 1903. – 1918    

Members of the Chinese Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union in San Francisco’s Chinatown began what is to be a successful four-month strike for better wages and conditions at the National Dollar Stores factory and three retail outlets. – 1938

Sue Cowan Williams represented African- American teachers in the Little Rock School District as the plaintiff in a class action lawsuit challenging the disparity between black and white teachers’ salaries in the segregated South. The case was lost, but won in a 1943 appeal. – 1942

The entire workforce of the 3M factory in Elandsfontein, South Africa, went on strike in support of the 450 members of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union being laid off at a 3M plant in New Jersey. The South African worker, all of whom were black, were among the hundreds of thousands of union members whose militancy helped bring down the apartheid system. – 1986.

Earning as little as 6 dollars and forty cents an hour, janitors working for contractor UNICCO at the University of Miami go on strike over wages and benefits, working conditions, and union recognition. Students and faculty at the university joined in demonstrations, sit-ins, and hunger strikes, and by the fall, the janitors ratified a contract that increased wages and included health care benefits and paid vacation time. – 2006

February 29th

The minimum age allowed by law for workers in mills, factories, and mines in South Carolina is raised from twelve to fourteen. – 1915

Screen Actors Guild member Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American to win an Academy Award, honored for her portrayal of “Mammy” in “Gone with the Wind” – 1940

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