Today in Labor History – March 6th , 1886 – The Knights of Labor picket to protest the practices of the Southwestern Railroad system, and the company’s chief, high-flying Wall Street financier Jay Gould. Some 9,000 workers walked off the job, halting service on 5,000 miles of track. The workers held out for two months, many suffering from hunger, before they finally returned to work.
1913 – Joe Hill’s song “There Is Power In A Union” appears in “Little Red Song Book”.
1930 – 100,000 people demonstrated for jobs in New York City. Demonstrations by unemployed workers demanding unemployment insurance were occurring in virtually every major U.S. city. In New York, police attacked a crowd of 35,000. In Cleveland, 10,000 people battled police. In Detroit, a Communist Party organized unemployment demonstration brought out more than 50,000. Thousands took to the streets in Toledo, Flint and Pontiac. These demonstrations led to the creation of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), sponsored by Republican congressman Hamilton Fish, with the support of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), to investigate and quash radical activities. A National Trade-Union Unity League council in Madison, Wisconsin, marching around Capitol Square, was attacked by UW students. Council leader Lottie Blumenthal was thrown to the ground, while students attacked other marchers and destroyed their banners and pamphlets. One of the athletes who was arrested said: “We are getting so damned many radical Jews here that something must be done. Police killed four workers in Detroit who were demanding jobs.
1942 – Tom Mooney died on this date. Mooney was an Irish-American IWW organizer and 22-year political prisoner, locked up on trumped up charges for the San Francisco Preparedness Day bombing in 1916.
1957 – International Brotherhood of Paper Makers merges with United Paperworkers of America to become United Papermakers & Paperworkers.
1970 – The federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act is enacted.
1972 – Predominantly young workers at a Lordstown, Ohio GM assembly plant stage a wildcat strike, largely in objection to the grueling workpace: at 101.6 cars per hour, their assembly line was believed to be the fastest in the world.
1978 – President Jimmy Carter invoked the Taft-Hartley law to quash the 1977-78 national contract strike by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). The UMWA had been striking since December 1977, but rejected a tentative contract agreement in early March 1978. Carter invoked the national emergency provision of Taft-Hartley and strikers were ordered back to work, but they ignored the order and the government did little to enforce it. Eventually a settlement was reached and ratified in late March.
2009 – The U.S. Dept. Of Labor reports that the nation’s unemployment rate soared to 8.1 percent in February, the highest since late 1983, as cost-cutting employers slashed 651,000 jobs amid a deepening recession.