Today in Labor History – March 31st

U.S. President Martin Van Buren issued an Executive Order, “finding that different rules prevail at different places as well in respect to the hours of labor by persons employed on the public works under the immediate authority of himself and the Departments as also in relation to the different classes of workmen…hereby directs that all such persons, whether laborers or mechanics, be required to work only the number of hours prescribed by the ten-hour system.” – 1840

300+ cowboys went on strike at five large ranches in Texas.  The new closed-range cattle ranching industry that became dominant after the Civil War denied cowboys the right to be paid in cattle, start their own herds, or have access to open land.  Ranchers insisted that cowboys work exclusively for wages (which averaged only $40/month), and the cowboys responded by going on strike. – 1883

Cesar Chavez was born on this day in Yuma, Arizona.- 1927

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps to help alleviate suffering during the Depression. By the time the program ended after the start of World War II, it had provided jobs for more than six million men and boys. The average enrollee gained 11 pounds in his first three months. – 1933

Wisconsin state troopers failed to get scabs across the picket line to break a 76-day Allis-Chalmers strike in Milwaukee led by UAW Local 248. The plant remained closed until the government negotiated a compromise. – 1941

Federal judge Sonia Sotomayor, later to become a Supreme Court justice, issued an injunction against baseball team owners to end a 232-day work stoppage. – 1995

Today Cesar Chavez Day was celebrated as an official state holiday in California, Colorado, Oregon and Texas and unofficially throughout the United States. The day honors the life and work of farm workers’ advocate, union activist, and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. – 2013

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