Today in Labor History – July 15th

50,000 lumberjacks strike for an eight-hour day. – 1917

Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, and other radicals were indicted under the new Espionage Act for their anti-draft activities. Goldman and Berkman got two-year prison sentences and $10,000 fines. – 1917

After leading a fierce battle on behalf of sharecroppers and tenant farmers in Alabama, Ralph Gray, a leader on the Croppers’ and Farm Workers Union in Tallapoosa County, was brutally murdered by a heavily armed white mob organized by the county’s sheriff. – 1931

Half-million steelworkers began what is to become a 116-day strike that shutters nearly every steel mill in the country. The strike occurred over management’s demand that the union give up a contract clause which limited management’s ability to change the number of workers assigned to a task or to introduce new work rules or machinery which would result in reduced hours or numbers of employees. The strike’s effects persuaded President Eisenhower to invoke the back-to-work provision of the Taft-Hartley Act. The union sued to have the Act declared unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court upheld the law.  The union eventually retained the contract clause and won minimal wage increases. The strike led to significant importation of foreign steel for the first time in U.S. history, which replaced the domestic steel industry in the long run. – 1959

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