Today in Labor History – August 16th

George Meany

William George Meany was born on this date. Meany was a labor leader for 57 years. He was the key figure in the creation of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and served as its first president from 1955-1979. Meany’s father was a union plumber, and George also became a plumber at an early age. He became a full-time union official twelve years later. As an officer of the American Federation of Labor, he represented the AFL on the National War Labor Board during World War II. He served as president of the AFL from 1952 to 1955. He proposed its merger with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in 1952, and led the negotiations until the merger was completed in 1955. He then served as president of the combined AFL-CIO for the next 24 years. Meany had a reputation for integrity and opposition to corruption in the labor movement, as well as uncompromising anti-communism. In his official biography, George Meany and His Times, he said he had “never walked a picket line in his life.” – 1894

Homer Martin, an early United Auto Workers leader, was born in Marion, Illinois on this day. After serving in Baptist churches in Goreville, Illinois and Kansas City, Missouri, Martin went to work in the auto plants in Kansas City. He soon became active in the union movement and was appointed as Vice-President of the UAW-AFL in 1935. In 1936 he was elected President of what came to be the UAW-CIO. – 1902

Congress passed the National Apprenticeship Act, establishing a national advisory committee to research and draft regulations establishing minimum standards for apprenticeship programs. It was later amended to permit the Labor Department to issue regulations protecting the health, safety and general welfare of apprentices, and to encourage the use of contracts in their hiring and employment. – 1937

The National Agricultural Workers Union merged into Amalgamated Meat Cutters & Butcher Workmen. – 1960

Juan De La Cruz, 60 years old, was shot to death on the vineyard picket line in Kern County during the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) 1973 grape strike. He was an early recruit into Cesar Chavez’s farm worker union during the 1960s. He was murdered by a strikebreaker driving by the picket line in a pickup truck. Juan became the UFW’s third martyr. – 1973

The International Union of Wood, Wire & Metal Lathers merged with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners. – 1979

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