Today in Labor History – June 19th

Slaves were declared free in Texas, a date now celebrated each year as the holiday “Juneteenth.” – 1865

The kangaroo trial of eight anarchists for the Haymarket bombing began in Chicago on this date. – 1886

Silk workers struck in Paterson, New Jersey. The event escalated into a riot. Silk workers had struck several times in the 19th century and again in 1913, led by the IWW. – 1902

An eight-hour work day was adopted for federal employees. – 1912

AFL President Samuel Gompers and Secretary of War Newton Baker signed an agreement establishing a three-member board of adjustment to control wages, hours and working conditions for construction workers employed on government projects. The agreement protected union wage and hour standards for the duration of World War I. – 1917

The first important sit-down strike in American history was conducted by workers at a General Tire Company factory in Akron, Ohio.  The United Rubber Workers union was founded a year later. – 1934

The Women’s Day Massacre: during the Great Ohio Steel Strike of 1937, there were numerous street battles between workers and police, including the Youngstown Riots and Poland Avenue Riot on June 21st. On June 19th, there were smaller battles that some believe were initiated by the cops to test the likely extent of union resistance in a real fight. When the cops in Youngstown couldn’t find any union leaders to beat up, they went after women picketers who were sitting in chairs to support the strike. One union organizer later recalled, “When I got there I thought the Great War had started over again. Gas was flying all over the place and shots flying and flares going up and it was the first time I had ever seen anything like it in my life…” – 1937

The ILWU organized a four-day strike of  sugar, pineapple, and allied workers to protest convictions under the anti-communist Smith Act of seven activists, “the Hawai’i Seven.” The convictions were later overturned by a federal appeals court. – 1953

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