Today in Labor History – March 4th

Frances Perkins

Frances Perkins

In his inaugural address, President Thomas Jefferson declared: “Take not from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” – 1801

Union Stockyards opened in Chicago, establishing the Windy City as the world’s largest meatpacking center by the end of the decade. Thousands of workers migrated to Chicago to work in the yards, leading to the organizing of numerous unions and the establishment of Chicago as one of the nation’s union strongholds. – 1865

Lakeview School, in Collinwood, Ohio caught fire, with 174 children and two teachers dying as a result. – 1908

The Industrial Workers of the World won their free speech fight in Spokane, Washington, when the licenses of 18 “employment” agencies were revoked. The campaign was intended to dissuade workers from “buying” jobs in the streets from the job sharks (“employment” agencies) that routinely swindled workers. The fight began in late 1908 and continued through 1909  – 1910

President William Howard Taft signed legislation creating the Department of Labor. Former United Mine Workers Secretary-Treasurer William B. Wilson was named to lead the new department. – 1913

Congress approved the Seamen’s Act, providing the merchant marine with rights similar to those gained by factory workers. Action on the law was prompted by the sinking of the Titanic three years earlier. Among other gains: working hours were limited to 56 per week and guaranteed minimum standards of cleanliness and safety were put in place. – 1915

Frances Perkins was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as Secretary of Labor. Legislation brought about under her administration included the National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Social Security Act. Perkins was the first woman Cabinet member and worked in that position for twelve years. – 1933

The UAW won their sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan. The strike at the Fisher Body Plant Number One lasted 40 days and was the longest sit-down strike in history. 5,000 armed workers circled the plant to protect the workers inside. Following police attacks with tear-gas, workers fought back with fire hoses. 13 workers were injured by police gunfire. By the time the National Guard arrived, sympathy strikes had spread to GM plants across the country. – 1937

The International Association of Machinists struck Eastern Airlines, with 8,500 ramp service workers, mechanics, aircraft cleaners and stock clerks joined by 6,000 flight attendants and 3,400 pilots in the nationwide strike. Owner Frank Lorenzo refused to consider the union’s’ demands; Eastern ultimately went out of business. – 1989

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