union of Philadelphia Journeymen Cordwainers was convicted of and bankrupted by charges of criminal conspiracy after a strike
for higher wages, 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
employed in the silk mills in Paterson, NJ went on strike
for the 11 hour day/6 day week.
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
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..."
12 February 1877
railroad workers began strikes to protest wage cuts.
21 June 1877
coal-mining activists ("Molly Maguires") were hanged in Pennsylvania.
14 July 1877
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 Chicago, federal troops (recently returned from an Indian massacre)
killed 30 workers and wounded over 100.
5 September 1882
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.
The Bayview Massacre also took place at this time (for more detailed
information visit http://www.execpc.com/~blake/rollin~1.htm), 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 Govorner 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.
The Thibodaux Massacre. The Louisiana Militia, aided by bands of "prominent citizens," shot at
least 35 unarmed black sugar workers striking to gain a dollar-per-day wage, and lynched two strike leaders.
25 July 1890
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
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.
11 July 1892
miners in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho dynamited the Frisco Mill,
leaving it in ruins.
The first of several bloody mining strikes
at Cripple Creek, Colorado.
5 July 1893
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.
The state militia was sent to Leadville, Colorado
to break a miner's strike.
10 September 1897
19 unarmed striking coal miners
and mine workers were killed and 36 wounded by a posse organized by the Luzerne County sherif 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 1898
were killed, 25 wounded in violence resulting when Virden, Illinois mine owners attempted to break a strike by importing 200
nonunion black workers.
29 April 1899
When their demand that only union men be employed was refused, members of the
Western Federation of Miners dynamited the $250,000 mill of the Bunker Hill Company at Wardner, Idaho, destroying it completely. President McKinley responded by sending in black soldiers from Brownsville, Texas with orders to round up thousands of miners and
confine them in specially built "bullpens."
1899 and 1901
Army troops occupied the Coeur d'Alene mining region in Idaho.
12 October 1902
Fourteen miners were killed and 22 wounded by scabherders at Pana, Illinois.
23 November 1903
Troops were dispatched to Cripple Creek, Colorado to control rioting by striking coal miners.
Labor organizer Mary Harris ("Mother") Jones leads child workers in demanding a 55 hour work week.
23 February 1904
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
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
Supreme Court held that a maximum hours law for New York bakery workers was
unconstitutional under the due process clause of the 14th ammendment.
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).
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."
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
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
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
and children were beaten by police during a textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
18 April 1912
National Guard was called out against striking West Virginia coal miners.
11 June 191?
shot three maritime workers (one of whom was killed) who were striking against the United Fruit Company in New
5 January 1914
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
"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. Additional web resources are catolged at www.holtlaborlibrary.org/ludlow.html#Web%20Sites.
A Western Federation of Miners strike is crushed by the militia in Butte,
19 January 1915
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
Supreme Court upholds "yellow dog" contracts, which forbid membership in labor unions. 22
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
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 jursidiction.)
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
employees win the right to receive Worker's Compensation insurance.
12 July 1917
seizing the local Western Union telegraph office in order to cut off outside 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
Supreme Court approved the Eight-Hour Act under the threat of a national railway strike.
1 August 1917
organizer Frank Little was lynched in Butte, Monatana.
5 September 1917
agents raided the IWW headquarters in 48 cities.
3 June 1918
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 15 May 1922.
27 July 1918
Mine Workers organizer Ginger Goodwin was shot by a hired private policeman outside Cumberland,
26 August 1919
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.
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.
The Centralia Massacre. Violence erupted when members of the American Legion attempted to force
their way into an IWW hall in Centralia, Washington during
an Armistice Day anniversary celebration. Four Legionnaires were shot dead by members of the IWW, after which IWW organizer
Wesley Everest was lynched by a local mob.
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
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
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 assasinated 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.
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 www.wvculture.org/history/journal_wvh/wvh50-1.html.
22 June 1922
erupted during a coal-mine strike at Herrin, Illinois.
Thirty-six were killed, 21 of them non-union miners.
2 June 1924
child labor ammendment to the U.S. Constitution was proposed; only 28 of the necessary 36 states ever ratified it.
14 June 1924
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.
Picketing miners were massacred in Columbine, Colorado.
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
100 farm workers were arrested for their unionizing activities in Imperial Valley, California.
Eight were subsequently convicted of `criminal syndicalism.'
4 May 1931
vigilantes attack striking miners in Harlan County, Kentucky.
7 March 1932
kill striking workers at Ford's Dearborn, Michigan plant.
10 October 1933
cotton workers went on strikein 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.
International Longshoremans and Warehouse
union strike of 1934. Two longshoremen, Nick Bordoise and Howard Sperry, were shot to death by the San Francisco Police. May
Police stormed striking truck drivers in Minneapolis who were attempting
to prevent truck movement in the market area.
1 September - 22
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
Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) was formed to expand industrial unionism.
11 February 1937
Motors recognizes the United Auto Workers union following a sit-down strike.
26 May 1937
of the Overpass'. Walter Reuther and a group of UAW supporters, fresh from having organized GM and Chyrsler, attempting to
distribute leaflets at Gate 4 of the Ford Motor Company's River Rouge plant, and were beaten up (together with bystanders)
by Ford Service Department guards.
30 May 1937
killed 10 and wounded 30 during the "Memorial Day Massacre" at the Republic Steel plant in Chicago.
25 June 1938
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
27 February 1939
Supreme Court rules that sit-down strikes are illegal.
20 June 1941
Ford recognizes the UAW.
The AFL pledges that there will be no strikes in defense-related industry plants for the duration of
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
1 April 1946
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
U.S. Navy seized oil refineries in order to break a 20-state post-war strike.
20 June 1947
Taft-Hartley Labor Act, curbing strikes, was vetoed by President Truman. Congress overrode the veto.
20 April 1948
leader Walter Reuther was shot and seriously wounded by would-be assassins.
27 August 1950
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
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
two largest labor organizations in the U.S. merged to form
the AFL-CIO, with a membership estimated at 15 million.
5 April 1956
Victor Riesel, a crusader against labor racketeers, was blinded in New York City
when a hired assailant threw sulfuric acid in his face.
The Landrum-Griffin Act passes, restricting union activity.
7 November 1959
Taft-Hartley Act is invoked by the Supreme Court to break a steel strike.
1 April 1963
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
passes a law mandating equal pay to women.
5 January 1970
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
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
Farm Workers forced California grape growers to sign an agreement after a five-year
3 August 1981
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.
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.
6 October 1986
female flight attendants won an 18-year lawsuit (which included $37 million in damages) against United Arilines, which had
fired them for getting married.
24 October 1987
35-member executive council of the AFL-CIO decided unanimously to readmit the 1.6-million member Teamsters Union to its ranks.
The scandal-ridden union had been expelled from the federation in 1957. President Jackie Presser was awaiting trial at the
time, and the U.S. Justice Department was considering removal of the union's leadership because of possible links to organized
17 September 1989
Ninety-eight miners and a minister
occupied the the Pittston Coal Company's Moss 3 preparation plant in Carbo, Virginia, beginning a year-long strike against
Pittston Coal. While a month-long Soviet coal strike dominated U.S.
news broadcasts, the year-long Pittston strike garnered almost no mainstream press coverage whatsoever.