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“The few own the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all…The country is governed for the richest, for the Corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of Labor.” -Helen Keller, American icon, Social Justice Activist, IWW member

This Week in Labor History February 1 – 7

 Wednesday, Feb 1:

Led by 23-year-old Kate Mullaney the Collar Laundry Union forms in Troy, N.Y. and raises earnings for female laundry workers from $2 to $4 a week.  -1864

Over 25,000 Paterson, N.J., silk workers strike for 8-hour workday and less deadly working conditions. Eighteen hundred were arrested and many were beaten over the course of the six-month walkout. They returned to work on their employers’ terms. -1913

Thursday, Feb 2:

16,000 silk workers in Paterson, NJ and 32,000 in Lawrence, Mass. strike for shorter work weeks with no cuts in pay. -1919

The 170-day lockout (although management called it a strike) of 22,000 steelworkers by USX Corp. ends with a pay cut but greater job security. It was the longest work stoppage in the history of the U.S. steel industry. -1987

Friday, Feb 3:

32,000 textile mill workers were actively involved in the “Bread & Roses” strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The IWW led strike began last month and continued for over nine weeks. Strikers were killed by cops and company goons. Many, including Annie Welzenbach and her two teenage sisters, were dragged from their beds and beaten in the middle of the night. Over 200 police, protecting corporate profits, deadly working conditions and low wages attacked thousands of peaceful unarmed striking women with clubs. -1912

U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Wages and Hours (later Fair Labor Standards) Act banning child labor and establishing the 40-hour work week. -1941

Saturday, Feb 4:

The legendary American labor leader "Big Bill" Haywood born in Salt Lake City, Utah: Leader of the Western Federation of Miners - Butte MT and co-founder of the IWW. -1869

Thirty-seven thousand maritime workers on the West Coast strike for wage increases. -1937

Senator Joseph McCarthy (R, WI) begins a speaking tour denouncing the Democratic Party's “20 years of treason”. McCarthy was the key figure in the hysteria known as the "Red Scare" that engulfed the U.S. and needlessly destroyed thousands of lives using “McCarthyism.” By December the self-serving McCarthy was condemned by the Senate for bringing the Senate into “dishonor and disrepute, for obstructing the constitutional processes of the Senate, and impairing its dignity”. McCarthy will forever be known as the embarrassment and shame of the country; he died of alcoholism at the age of 48. -1954

Sunday, Feb 5:

First daily U.S. Labor newspaper, N.Y. Daily Sentinel, begins publication. -1830.

President Bill Clinton signs the Family and Medical Leave Act. The law requires most employers of 50 or more workers to grant up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a family or medical emergency. -1993

Circuit City fires 3,900 experienced salespeople because they're “making too much in commissions”. Sales instantly plummeted. Six years later it declares bankruptcy. -2003

Monday, Feb 6:

Philadelphia shirtwaist makers vote to accept arbitration offer and end walkout as the Triangle Shirtwaist strike winds down. The Boss’s won and the workers' demands for adequate unlocked fire escapes and unlocked exits to the street were lost. One year later 146 workers, mostly young girls aged 13 to 23, were to die in a devastating fire at Triangle's New York City sweatshop (they were locked in and had no fire escapes). -1910

Seattle General Strike begins. The city was run by a General Strike Committee for six days as tens of thousands of union members stopped work in support of 32,000 striking Longshoremen. -1919

Butte miners’ strike over cuts in wages. The governor breaks the strike by calling in the U.S. Infantry, who on February 10th bayonet nine peaceful striking workers in order to protect massive company profits, low pay and deadly working conditions. -1919

Tuesday, Feb 7:

Union miners in Cripple Creek, Colo., begin what is to become a five-month strike that started when mine owners cut wages to $2.50 a day, from $3. The state militia was called out in support of the strikers - the only time in U.S. history that a militia was directed to side with the workers. The strike ended in victory for the union. -1894

13 workers are killed, 42 injured in a dust explosion at an Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia. Investigators found that the company had been aware of dangers for years but had not acted on them in order to maximize shareholder profits. -2008

This Week in Labor History is compiled by Kevin D. Curtis