Today in Labor History – June 2nd

Printers in Philadelphia began what was to be a successful strike to protest a reduction in their wages from 45 shillings to 35 shillings a week.  According to Henry Rosemont, the International Typographical Union’s unofficial historian, “these were the first American workers who deliberately voted to stand out for a specific wage and to provide mutual assistance in maintaining it.” – 1786

The IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) began in Minnesota. The Western Federation of Miners (WFM), which organized the 1907 Mesabi Range Strike, was uninterested in organizing miners in 1916. This left a vacuum that the much more radical IWW gladly filled. The Wobblies sent many of their top organizers to help and succeeded in recruiting many of the people who served as strikebreakers in 1907 to join the current strike. Carlos Tresca, an IWW leader, was arrested for murder in conjunction with the strike but was released without trial. Tresca went on to oppose Mussolini and the fascists, as well as the Stalinists in the USSR. He was assassinated in 1943. The Mesabi Strike was suppressed violently by police and vigilantes, with numerous strikers being jailed. The struggle was a precursor to the infamous labor deportations in Bisbee, Arizona in July 1917, in which 1,300 Wobblies, their supporters, and even innocent bystanders, were rounded up, forced into cattle cars, and dumped in the desert after 16 hours without food or water. – 1916

Anarchists carried out a series of coordinated bombings across the Eastern United States, damaging the homes of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, who had launched the first Red Hunt against unionists, commies, and anarchists, as well as then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt. – 1919

A constitutional amendment declaring that “Congress shall have the power to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under eighteen years of age” was approved by the Senate on this day, following the lead of the House five weeks earlier. But only 28 state legislatures ever ratified the amendment, the last three in 1937, so it has never taken effect. – 1924

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that President Harry Truman had no authority when he seized control of the nation’s steel mills on April 8, the day before a nationwide steelworkers’ strike was set to begin in order to keep them in production for the Korean War effort. 600,000 steelworkers went on strike on June 3, effectively ending production for the next six weeks. – 1952

The Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and the Textile Workers Union of America merged to form the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. – 1976

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