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The Violent History of American Unions

Videos on labor and union history

Berkley University:
Labor and Labor History Videography. THIRTY SIX pages of videos on the labor movement.

Merrimack Films: Producer and Distributor of Videos on Labor Relations

American Labor Studies: Finding media on unions and the history of unions

(Military union busting was very common for much of the late 19th and early 20th century, read Zinn's book: A People's History of the United States for more on this subject. Zinn, in his book recommends Philip Foner's History of the Labor Movement in the U.S.)

Another book which describes ten labor struggles before the 1930's: American Labor Struggles by Samuel Yellen, recommended by Zinn in Declarations of Independence: Cross Examining American Ideology

Labor History Timeline for 1806-1986

Labor History Timeline for 1806-1986

Most citizens of the United States take for granted labor laws which protect them, unaware that over the course of this country's history, workers have fought and often died for these protections.

Employers found the courts to be an effective weapon to protect their interests. In 1806, eight Philadelphia shoemakers were brought to trial after leading an unsuccessful strike for higher wages. The union of Philadelphia Journeymen Shoemakers were convicted of and bankrupted by charges of criminal conspiracy. The court ruled that any organizing of workers to raise wages was an illegal act. Unions were "conspiracies" against employers and the community. In later cases, courts ruled that almost any action taken by unions to increase wages might be criminal. These decisions setting a precedent by which the U.S. government would combat unions for years to come.

27 April 1825
The first strike for the 10-hour work-day occurred by carpenters in Boston.

3 July 1835
Children employed in the silk mills in Paterson, NJ went on strike for the 11 hour day/6 day week.

July 1851
Two railroad strikers were shot dead and others injured by the state militia in Portgage, New York.

800 women operatives and 4,000 workmen marched during a shoemaker's strike in Lynn, Massachusetts.

13 January 1874

The original Tompkins Square Riot. As unemployed workers demonstrated in New York's Tompkins Square Park, a detachment of mounted police charged into the crowd, beating men, women and children indiscriminately with billy clubs and leaving hundreds of casualties in their wake.

Commented Abram Duryee, the Commissioner of Police: "It was the most glorious sight I ever saw..."

New York Times, August 27, 1988:
Jan. 13, 1874, a time of national financial distress. A group of unemployed workers had obtained a police permit for a mass rally in Tompkins Square to demand public aid for the jobless, and the Mayor had promised to speak. However, when the authorities learned that ''radical agitators'' were prominent in the sponsoring committee, the permit was canceled with no notice.

A huge throng of working people and their families gathered, only to find themselves the target of sudden attack by a club-swinging squad of mounted police. Men, women and children were ridden down as they fled in terror; dozens of bystanders also suffered injuries.

One youthful worker, who saved himself from a cracked skull by ducking into a cellarway, took the lesson of the Tompkins Square riot very much to heart. He was
Samuel Gompers, a fledgling member of the Cigarmakers Union. Later, in his autobiography, Gompers showed how profoundly that experience influenced his decision to make an abhorrence of ideological entanglements a bedrock principle of the American Federation of Labor.

"I saw," he said, "how professions of radicalism and sensationalism concentrated all the forces of society against a labor movement and nullified in advance normal, necessary activity. I saw that leadership of the labor movement could be safely entrusted only to those into whose hearts and minds had been woven the experience of earning their bread by daily labor. I saw that betterment for workingmen must come primarily through workingmen."

...After the 1874 "Blood or Bread" melee in Tompkins Square Park, the city closed down the square as a site of protest for many decades. (NYT August 29, 2004)

12 February 1877
U.S. railroad workers began strikes to protest wage cuts.

One of ten labor struggles written about in: American Labor Struggles by Samuel Yellen

21 June 1877
Ten coal-mining activists ("Molly Maguires") were hanged in Pennsylvania.

Sean Connery's Movie on the Molly Maguires: The Molly Maguires (1970) (According to reviewer's not historically accurate)

Wikipedia: Molly Maguires

14 July 1877
A general strike halted the movement of U.S. railroads. In the following days, strike riots spread across the United States. The next week, federal troops were called out to force an end to the nationwide strike. At the "Battle of the Viaduct" in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, between protesting members of the Chicago German Furniture Workers Union, now Local 1784 of the Carpenters Union, and federal troops (recently returned from an Indian massacre) killed 30 workers and wounded over 100.

5 September 1882
Thirty thousand workers marched in the first Labor Day parade in New York City.

The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, forerunner of the AFL, passed a resolution stating that "8 hours shall constitute a legal day's work from and after May 1, 1886." Though the Federation did not intend to stimulate a mass insurgency, its resolution had precisely that effect.

Late 1885/Early 1886
Hundreds of thousands of American workers, increasingly determined to resist subjugation to capitalist power, poured into a fledgling labor organization, the Knights of Labor. Beginning on May 1, 1886, they took to the streets to demand the universal adoption of the eight hour day.

Chicago was the center of the movement. Workers there had been agitating for an eight hour day for months, and on the eve of May 1, 50,000 workers were already on strike. 30,000 more swelled their ranks the next day, bringing most of Chicago manufacturing to a standstill. Fears of violent class conflict gripped the city. No violence occurred on May 1 -- a Saturday -- or May 2. But on Monday, May 3, a fight involving hundreds broke out at McCormick Reaper between locked-out unionists and the non-unionist workers McCormick hired to replace them. The Chicago police, swollen in number and heavily armed, quickly moved in with clubs and guns to restore order. They left four unionists dead and many others wounded.

Angered by the deadly force of the police, a group of anarchists, led by August Spies and Albert Parsons, called on workers to arm themselves and participate in a massive protest demonstration in Haymarket Square on Tuesday evening, May 4. The demonstration appeared to be a complete bust, with only 3,000 assembling. But near the end of the evening, an individual, whose identity is still in dispute, threw a bomb that killed seven policemen and injured 67 others. Hysterical city and state government officials rounded up eight anarchists, tried them for murder, and sentenced them to death.

On 11 November 1887, four of them, including Parsons and Spies, were executed. All of the executed advocated armed struggle and violence as revolutionary methods, but their prosecutors found no evidence that any had actually thrown the Haymarket bomb. They died for their words, not their deeds. A quarter of a million people lined Chicago's street during Parson's funeral procession to express their outrage at this gross mis-carriage of justice.

For radicals and trade unionists everywhere, Haymarket became a symbol of the stark inequality and injustice of capitalist society. The May 1886 Chicago events figured prominently in the decision of the founding congress of the Second International (Paris, 1889) to make May 1, 1890 a demonstration of the solidarity and power of the international working class movement. May Day has been a celebration of international socialism and (after 1917) international communism ever since.

Chicago Historical Society and Northwestern University:
Haymarket Riot

Wikipedia: Haymarket Riot

One of ten labor struggles written about in: American Labor Struggles by Samuel Yellen

The Bayview Massacre also took place at this time (for more detailed information visit, where seven people, including one child, were killed by state militia.

On 1 May 1886 about 2,000 Polish workers walked off their jobs and gathered at Saint Stanislaus Church in Milwaukee, angrily denouncing the ten hour workday. They then marched through the city, calling on other workers to join them; as a result, all but one factory was closed down as sixteen thousand protesters gathered at Rolling Mills, prompting Wisconsin Governor Jeremiah Rusk to call the state militia. The militia camped out at the mill while workers slept in nearby fields, and on the morning of May 5th, as protesters chanted for the eight hour workday, General Treaumer ordered his men to shoot into the crowd, some of whom were carrying sticks, bricks, and scythes, leaving seven dead at the scene.

The Milwaukee Journal reported that eight more would die within twenty four hours, and without hesitation added that Governor Rusk was to be commended for his quick action in the matter.

4 October 1887
The Louisiana Militia, aided by bands of "prominent citizens," shot 35 unarmed black sugar workers striking to gain a dollar-per-day wage, and lynched two strike leaders.

25 July 1890
New York garment workers won the right to unionize after a seven-month strike. They secured agreements for a closed shop, and firing of all scabs.

6 July 1892
The Homestead Strike. Pinkerton Guards, trying to pave the way for the introduction of scabs, opened fire on striking Carnegie mill steel- workers in Homestead, Pennsylvania. In the ensuing battle, three Pinkertons surrendered; then, unarmed, they were set upon and beaten by a mob of townspeople, most of them women. Seven guards and eleven strikers and spectators were shot to death.

Lockout : the story of the Homestead strike of 1892: A study of violence, unionism, and the Carnegie steel empire

Washington Monthly: Pinkertons at the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) (Wikipedia: Definition and origin of the word Pinkertons)

One of ten labor struggles written about in: American Labor Struggles by Samuel Yellen

11 July 1892
Striking miners in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho dynamited the Frisco Mill, leaving it in ruins.

More about the Idaho strike:

Prior to 1892, organized labor in the Coeur d’Alene mines had successfully resisted wage cuts. But declining prices of lead and silver and rising freight rates induced the mine owners to shut down their mines, January 16, 1892. By acting together, they forced the railroads to rescind the rate increase after two months of closure. Then they decided they could reopen if the miners would accept lower wages to match the declining metal prices. When the miners refused, the mine owners arranged to import enough non-union workers, May 14, to allow partial resumption of production.

Almost two months later, during the national commotion over the fight between the Pinkertons and the steel workers near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on July 6, the Coeur d’Alene miners found out that the secretary of their union was a Pinkerton agent employed by the mine owners. The agent managed to escape, but during the excitement the Gem mill was blown up, and the non-union crew of an adjacent mine was captured. The unions occupied the other mills around the area, and soon Burke Canyon was entirely cleared of non-union men.

On July 12, the mine owners had to agree to discharge all their non-union workers. That same day, President Harrison agreed to send in federal troops, and martial law continued in effect until November 18, 1892. During that time many of the union miners were arrested and held in the bull pen; the only convictions obtained against them, though, were in federal court on charges that were dismissed on appeal.

With the support of federal troops, the mine owners managed to bring their non-union workers back, and to reopen their properties. Some of the union leaders, while imprisoned by mistake on federal charges in Boise, concluded that the local mining unions over the west would have to federate into a regional union; the result was the formation of the Western Federation of Miners the next year in a convention at Butte, Montana.

Although the panic of 1893 proved to be particularly hard on lead silver mining, the Coeur d’Alene unions gradually regained control over all the mines in the region, except for the largest--the Bunker Hill and Sullivan at Wardner.

Another dynamiting incident, reminiscent of the blow-up in 1892, led to another siege of martial law. A large force of men took over a train, loaded it with explosives, and demolished the Bunker Hill and Sullivan concentrator, April 29, 1899. After that, the state, backed by the United States Army, refused to allow any of the union men to work in the entire area. Several hundred again were confined in a new, enlarged bull pen, and the incident provoked a bitter national discussion of the battle between the Coeur d’Alene miners and the mine owners.

In spite of all this trouble, though, the Coeur d’Alene mines developed into the major lead silver area of the United States, making Idaho the leading silver state. One of the mines by itself (and not the largest, either) produced more silver than did the entire Comstock lode of Nevada, and total production (mostly, lead, silver, and zinc) exceeded two billion dollars in value.

A Working-Class Legend

5 July 1893
During a strike against the Pullman Palace Car Company, which had drastically reduced wages, the 1892 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago's Jackson Park was set ablaze, and seven buildings were reduced to ashes. The mobs raged on, burning and looting railroad cars and fighting police in the streets, until 10 July, when 14,000 federal and state troops finally succeeded in putting down the strike.

Federal troops killed 34 American Railway Union members in the Chicago area attempting to break a strike, led by
Eugene Debs, against the Pullman Company. Debs and several others were imprisoned for violating injunctions, causing disintegration of the union.

One of ten labor struggles written about in: American Labor Struggles by Samuel Yellen

Wikipedia: The Pullman strike

21 September 1896
The state militia was sent to Leadville, Colorado to break a miner's strike.

"Leadville Strike"
As a result of the 1893 depression and the abandonment of the silver standard, there was an agreement between the Western Federation of Miners and the mine managers that wages would be reduced in order to keep the mines open. This delicate labor pact began t o disintegrate in 1896 when a few mine owners began to raise wages while others continued to rely on the 1893 pact to increase their profit margin.

The miners' union, fresh from a victory against Cripple Creek mine owners in Teller County, demanded that they be offered a uniform wage of three dollars. The owners chose not to honor this request which resulted in the workers going on strike, the mines closing, and a total of 2,300 men put out of work.

The out-going Governor McIntire sent in the National Guard to stop the violence that had erupted and to set up non-union miners to open up the mines again. As soon as Adams took over his new gubernatorial post he met immediately with the union leaders, local residents, miners, and mine owners in an attempt to hammer out some type of compromise. While discussions, special commissions, investigations, and conferences were utilized, nobody seemed to be able to find anything the two sides wouldn't reject.

Although Governor Adams ordered the withdrawal of the troops, the miners lost their battle for increased wages. Adams continued to support the idea of arbitration which was, in his view, more effective than military intervention. He sponsored the creation of the State Board of Arbitration in 1897 which successfully ended numerous labor conflicts.
The Governor Alva Adams Collection

10 September 1897
19 unarmed striking coal miners and mine workers were killed and 36 wounded by a posse organized by the Luzerne County sheriff for refusing to disperse near Lattimer, Pennsylvania. The strikers, most of whom were shot in the back, were originally brought in as strike-breakers, but later organized themselves.

A portion of the Erdman Act, which would have made it a criminal offense for railroads to dismiss employees or discriminate against prospective employees based on their union activities, was declared invalid by the United States Supreme Court.

12 October 1902
Fourteen miners were killed and 22 wounded by scabherders at Pana, Illinois.

One of ten labor struggles written about in: American Labor Struggles by Samuel Yellen

23 November 1903
"Cripple Creek Strike"
Troops were dispatched to Cripple Creek, Colorado to control rioting by striking coal miners.

July 1903
Labor organizer Mary Harris ("Mother") Jones leads child workers in demanding a 55 hour work week.

23 February 1904
William Randolph Hearst's San Francisco Chronicle began publishing articles on the menace of Japanese laborers, leading to a resolution of the California Legislature that action be taken against their immigration.

8 June 1904
A battle between the Colorado Militia and striking miners at Dunnville ended with six union members dead and 15 taken prisoner. Seventy-nine of the strikers were deported to Kansas two days later.

17 April 1905
The Supreme Court held that a maximum hours law for New York bakery workers was unconstitutional under the due process clause of the 14th amendment.

The Erdman Act was further weakened when Section 10 was declared unconstitutional. This section had made it illegal for railroad employers to fire employees for being involved in union activities (see 1898).

22 November 1909
The "Uprising of the 20,000." Female garment workers went on strike in New York; many were arrested. A judge told those arrested: "You are on strike against God."

25 December 1910
A dynamite bomb destroyed a portion of the Llewellyn Ironworks in Los Angeles, where a bitter strike was in progress.

The Supreme Court ordered the AFL to cease its promotion of a boycott against the Bucks Stove and Range Company. A contempt charge against union leaders (including AFL President Samuel Gompers) was dismissed on technical grounds.

25 March 1911
The Triangle Shirtwaist Company, occupying the top three floors of a ten-story building in New York City, was consumed by fire. One hundred and forty-seven people, mostly women and young girls working in sweatshop conditions, lost their lives. Approximately 50 died as they leapt from windows to the street; the others were burned or trampled to death as they desperately attempted to escape through stairway exits locked as a precaution against "the interruption of work". On 11 April the company's owners were indicted for manslaughter.

2 December 1911
A Chicago "slugger," paid $50 by labor unions for every scab he "discouraged," described his job in an interview:

"Oh, there ain't nothin' to it. I gets my fifty, then I goes out and finds the guy they wanna have slugged. I goes up to `im and I says to `im, `My friend, by way of meaning no harm,' and then I gives it to `im -- biff! in the mug. Nothin' to it."

24 February 1912
Women and children were beaten by police during a textile strike against American Woolen Company in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

One of ten labor struggles written about in: American Labor Struggles by Samuel Yellen

18 April 1912
The National Guard was called out against striking West Virginia coal miners.

11 June 1913
Police shot three maritime workers (one of whom was killed) who were striking against the United Fruit Company in New Orleans.

5 January 1914
The Ford Motor Company raised its basic wage from $2.40 for a nine hour day to $5 for an eight hour day.

20 April 1914
The "Ludlow Massacre." In an attempt to persuade strikers at Colorado's Ludlow Mine Field to return to work, company "guards," engaged by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and other mine operators and sworn into the State Militia just for the occasion, attacked a union tent camp with machine guns, then set it afire. Five men, two women and 12 children died as a result.

An excellent web site, by historian Howard Zinn, appears at

Also see:
The Ludlow Massacre

One of ten labor struggles written about in: American Labor Struggles by Samuel Yellen

Ludlow Massacre videos

BULLET BARGAINING AT LUDLOW. YEAR: 1964. 20 MIN. VH 3157. Recounts an infamous chapter in Colorado history when in 1914 militia and striking coal miners clashed on the plains of south Colorado at Ludlow.

Ivy Lee (the paid liar), Rockefeller, and the Ludlow Massacre

You can't mine coal without machine guns.
--Richard B. Mellon, Congressional testimony quoted in Time, June 14, 1937

Discovering the Ludlow Massacre by Zinn, Also an Eyewitness Account and the Tesimony of John D. Rockefeller

Members of the Colorado National Guard, called in to suppress the UMW strike
against CF&I, including Sergeant John Davis, pose near an automatic rifle on a tripod on Water Tank Hill near Ludlow.

Reporter John Reed, his life and his account of the Ludlow massacre

International Socialism Journal: Review of the book Shaking the World: John Reed's Revolutionary Journalism

Third World Traveler: Howard Zinn's tribute to John Reed The John Reed Internet archive

"Reds" a long movie on the life of John Reed (No mention is made of Ludlow massacre in the movie):
Rotten Tomatoes, Reviews of Reds

Roger Ebert's review of Reds

13 November 1914
A Western Federation of Miners strike is crushed by the militia in Butte, Montana.

19 January 1915
World famous labor leader Joe Hill was arrested in Salt Lake City. He was convicted on trumped up murder charges, and was executed 21 months later despite worldwide protests and two attempts to intervene by President Woodrow Wilson. In a letter to Bill Haywood shortly before his death he penned the famous words, "Don't mourn - organize!"

On this same day, twenty rioting strikers were shot by factory guards at Roosevelt, New Jersey.

25 January 1915
The Supreme Court upholds "yellow dog" contracts, which forbid membership in labor unions.

22 July 1916
A bomb was set off during a "Preparedness Day" parade in San Francisco, killing 10 and injuring 40 more. Thomas J. Mooney, a labor organizer and Warren K. Billings, a shoe worker, were convicted, but were both pardoned in 1939.

19 August 1916
Strikebreakers hired by the Everett Mills owner Neil Jamison attacked and beat picketing strikers in Everett, Washington. Local police watched and refused to intervene, claiming that the waterfront where the incident took place was Federal land and therefore outside their jurisdiction. (When the picketers retaliated against the strikebreakers that evening, the local police intervened, claiming that they had crossed the line of jurisdiction.)

Three days later, twenty-two union men attempted to speak out at a local crossroads, but each was arrested; arrests and beatings of strikebreakers became common throughout the following months, and on 30 October vigilantes forced IWW speakers to run the gauntlet, subjecting them to whipping, tripping kicking, and impalement against a spiked cattle guard at the end of the gauntlet. In response, the IWW called for a meeting on 5 November. When the union men arrived, they were fired on; seven people were killed, 50 were wounded, and an indeterminate number wound up missing.

7 September 1916
Federal employees win the right to receive Worker's Compensation insurance.

12 July 1917
After seizing the local Western Union telegraph office in order to cut off outisde communication, several thousand armed vigilantes forced 1,185 men in Bisbee, Arizona into manure-laden boxcars and "deported" them to the New Mexico desert. The action was precipitated by a strike when workers' demands (including improvements to safety and working conditions at the local copper mines, an end to discrimination against labor organizations and unequal treatment of foreign and minority workers, and the institution of a fair wage system) went unmet. The "deportation" was organized by Sheriff Harry Wheeler. The incident was investigated months later by a Federal Mediation Commission set up by President Woodrow Wilson; the Commission found that no federal law applied, and referred the case to the State of Arizona, which failed to take any action, citing patriotism and support for the war as justification for the vigilantes' action.

15 March 1917
The Supreme Court approved the Eight-Hour Act under the threat of a national railway strike.

1 August 1917
IWW organizer Frank Little was lynched in Butte, Monatana.

5 September 1917
Federal agents raided the IWW headquarters in 48 cities.

From the book Declarations of Independence: Cross Examining American Ideology, by Howard Zinn (page 228):

In the decade before World War I, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a radical trade union, was organizing all workers- skilled and unskilled, men and women, native born and foreign-into "One Big Union." IWW organizers, going to speak in cities in the far west to miners and lumberjacks and mill workers, were arrested again and again. They refused to stop. They engaged in what they called "Free Speech Fights": when one of them was put in jail, hundreds of others would come into that town and speak and be arrested until the jails could not hold them and they were released. But they refused to be silent.

Part of the book, where this quote is from can be found at
Third World Traveler.

3 June 1918
A Federal child labor law, enacted two years earlier, was declared unconstitutional. A new law was enacted 24 February 1919, but this one too was declared unconstitutional (on 2 June 1924).

27 July 1918
United Mine Workers organizer Ginger Goodwin was shot by a hired private policeman outside Cumberland, British Columbia.

26 August 1919
United Mine Worker organizer Fannie Sellins was gunned down by company guards in Brackenridge, Pennsylvania.

19 September 1919
Looting, rioting and sporadic violence broke out in downtown Boston and South Boston for days after 1,117 Boston policemen declared a work stoppage due to their thwarted attempts to affiliate with the American Federation of Labor. Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge put down the strike by calling out the entire state militia.

22 September 1919
The "Great Steel Strike" began. Ultimately, 350,000 steel workers walked off their jobs to demand union recognition. The AFL Iron and Steel Organizing Committee called off the strike on 8 January 1920, their goals unmet.

One of ten labor struggles written about in: American Labor Struggles by Samuel Yellen

11 November 1919
IWW organizer Wesley Everest was lynched after a Centralia, Washington IWW hall was attacked by Legionnaires.

22 December 1919
Amid a strike for union recognition by 395,000 steelworkers (ultimately unsuccessful), approximately 250 "anarchists," "communists," and "labor agitators" were deported to Russia, marking the beginning of the so-called "Red Scare."

2 January 1920
The U.S. Bureau of Investigation began carrying out the nationwide Palmer Raids. Federal agents seized labor leaders and literature in the hopes of discouraging labor activity. A number of citizens were turned over to state officials for prosecution under various anti-anarchy statutes.

19 May 1920
The Battle of Matewan. Despite efforts by police chief (and former miner) Sid Hatfield and Mayor C. Testerman to protect miners from interference in their union drive in Matewan, West Virginia, Baldwin-Felts detectives hired by the local mining company and thirteen of the company's managers arrived to evict miners and their families from the Stone Mountain Mine camp. A gun battle ensued, resulting in the deaths of 7 detectives, Mayor Testerman, and 2 miners. Baldwin-Felts detectives assassinated Sid Hatfield 15 months later, sparking off an armed rebellion of 10,000 West Virginia coal miners at "The Battle of Blair Mountain," dubbed "the largest insurrection this country has had since the Civil War" by
The Battle of Matewan Home Page.

1987 movie about the battle of Matewan:

1920 and 1921
Army troops were used to intervene against striking mineworkers in West Virginia.

Details of these events can be found in the extensive and excellent article at

22 June 1922
Violence erupted during a coal-mine strike at Herrin, Illinois. Thirty-six were killed, 21 of them non-union miners.

2 June 1924
A child labor amendment to the U.S. Constitution was proposed; only 28 of the necessary 36 states ever ratified it.

14 June 1924
A San Pedro, California IWW hall was raided; a number of children were scalded when the hall was demolished.

25 May 1925
Two company houses occupied by nonunion coal miners were blown up and destroyed by labor "racketeers" during a strike against the Glendale Gas and Coal Company in Wheeling, West Virginia.

Textile workers fought with police in Passaic, New Jersey. A year-long strike ensued.

21 November 1927
Picketing miners were massacred in Columbine, Colorado.

The Southern textile strikes of 1929 as the prelude to the wider and more significant strike of the 1930's

One of ten labor struggles written about in: American Labor Struggles by Samuel Yellen

3 February 1930
"Chicagorillas" -- labor racketeers -- shot and killed contractor William Healy, with whom the Chicago Marble Setters Union had been having difficulties.

14 April 1930
Over 100 farm workers were arrested for their unionizing activities in Imperial Valley, California. Eight were subsequently convicted of `criminal syndicalism.'

4 May 1931
Gun-toting vigilantes attack striking miners in Harlan County, Kentucky.

7 March 1932
Police kill striking workers at Ford's Dearborn, Michigan plant.

10 October 1933
18,000 cotton workers went on strike in Pixley, California. Four were killed before a pay-hike was finally won.

The Electric Auto-Lite Strike. In Toledo, OH, two strikers were killed and over two hundred wounded by National Guardsmen. Some 1300 National Guard troops, including included eight rifle companies and three machine gun companies, were called in to disperse the protestors.

May 1934
Police stormed striking truck drivers in Minneapolis who were attempting to prevent truck movement in the market area.

1 September - 22 September 1934
A strike in Woonsocket, RI, part of a national movement to obtain a minimum wage for textile workers, resulted in the deaths of three workers. Over 420,000 workers ultimately went on strike.

9 November 1935
The Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) was formed to expand industrial unionism.

11 February 1937
General Motors recognizes the United Auto Workers union following a sit-down strike.

Two months later, company guards beat up UAW leaders at the River Rouge, Michigan plant.

30 May 1937
Police killed 10 and wounded 30 during the "Memorial Day Massacre" at the Republic Steel plant in Chicago.

25 June 1938
The Wages and Hours (later Fair Labor Standards) Act is passed, banning child labor and setting the 40-hour work week. The Act went into effect in October 1940, and was upheld in the Supreme Court on 3 February 1941.

27 February 1939
The Supreme Court rules that sit-down strikes are illegal.

20 June 1941
Henry Ford recognizes the UAW.

15 December 1941
The AFL pledges that there will be no strikes in defense-related industry plants for the duration of the war.

28 December 1944
President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Army to seize the executive offices of Montgomery Ward and Company after the corporation failed to comply with a National War Labor Board directive regarding union shops.

Workers in packinghouses nation-wide went on strike.

1 April 1946
A strike by 400,000 mine workers in the U.S. began. U.S. troops seized railroads and coal mines the following month.

4 October 1946
The U.S. Navy seized oil refineries in order to break a 20-state post-war strike.

20 June 1947
The Taft-Hartley Labor Act, curbing strikes, was vetoed by President Truman. Congress overrode the veto.

20 April 1948
Labor leader Walter Reuther was shot and seriously wounded by would-be assassins.

27 August 1950
President Truman ordered the U.S. Army to seize all the nation's railroads to prevent a general strike. The railroads were not returned to their owners until two years later.

8 April 1952
President Truman ordered the U.S. Army to seize the nation's steel mills to avert a strike. The act was ruled to be illegal by the Supreme Court on 2 June.

5 December 1955
The two largest labor organizations in the U.S. merged to form the AFL-CIO, with a membership estimated at 15 million.

5 April 1956
Columnist Victor Riesel, a crusader against labor racketeers, was blinded in New York City when a hired assailant threw sulfuric acid in his face.

14 September 1959
The Landrum-Griffin Act passes, restricting union activity.

7 November 1959
The Taft-Hartley Act is invoked by the Supreme Court to break a steel strike.

1 April 1963
The longest newspaper strike in U.S. history ended. The 9 major newspapers in New York City had ceased publication over 100 days before.

10 June 1963
Congress passes a law mandating equal pay to women.

5 January 1970
Joseph A. Yablonski, unsuccessful reform candidate to unseat "Tough Tony" Boyle as President of the United Mine Workers, was murdered, along with his wife and daughter, in their Clarksville, Pennsylvania home by assassins acting on Boyle's orders. Boyle was later convicted of the killing.

West Virginia miners went on strike the following day in protest.

18 March 1970
The first mass work stoppage in the 195-year history of the Post Office Department began with a walkout of letter carriers in Brooklyn and Manhattan, soon involving 210,000 of the nation's 750,000 postal employees. With mail service virtually paralzyed in New York, Detroit, and Philadelphia, President Nixon declared a state of national emergency and assigned military units to New York City post offices. The stand-off culminated two weeks later.

29 July 1970
United Farm Workers
forced California grape growers to sign an agreement after a five-year strike.

1979 Movie:
Norma Rae
Based on a real life character trying to unionize a textile mill, the movie wins an Academy Award for best actress.

3 August 1981
Federal air traffic controllers began a nationwide strike after their union rejected the government's final offer for a new contract. Most of the 13,000 striking controllers defied the back-to-work order, and were dismissed by President Reagan on 5 August.

October 1982
A boycott was initiated by the Industrial Association of Machinists against Brown & Sharpe, a machine, precision, measuring and cutting tool manufacturer, headquartered in Rhode Island. The boycott was called after the firm refused to bargain in good faith (withdrawing previously negotiated clauses in the contract), and forced the union into an unwanted and bitter strike during which police sprayed pepper gas on some 800 IAM pickets at the company's North Kingston plant in early 1982. Three weeks later, a machinist narrowly escaped serious injury when a shot fired into the picket line hit his belt buckle. The National Labor Relations Board subsequently charged Brown & Sharpe with regressive bargaining, and of entering into negotiations with the express purpose of not reaching an agreement with the union.

Hormel meat strike

Movie: American Dream

Barbara Kopple's disturbing account of the protracted strike of the employees of the Hormel meat-packing plant in Austin, Minnesota, in 1984 is set against the backdrop of the Reagan administration's demolition of the nation's air traffic controllers union, a move that would help create the worst climate for organized labor since the 19th century. Doubtless emboldened by this decision, Hormel management announced a wage cut from $10.69 to $8.50 an hour, along with a 30% cut in benefits, despite a banner year in which the company posted a $29 million profit.

6 October 1986
1,700 female flight attendants won an 18-year lawsuit (which included $37 million in damages) against United Airlines, which had fired them for getting married.

Neo-Conservatives supression of unions in Iraq / History of Iraq labor unions

See: Articles on the Iraq war

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