Mobile users scroll down to find your item

"The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress.....The captains of industry did not lead this transformation; they resisted it until they were overcome." -Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights leader, a social justice activist 

Wednesday, March 22:

Mark Twain, a lifelong member of the Int’l Typographical Union (now part of CWA), speaks in Hartford, Conn., extolling the Knights of Labor’s commitment to fair treatment of all workers, regardless of race or gender. -1886

The Grand Coulee Dam on Washington state’s Columbia river begins operation after a decade of construction. 8,000 workers labored on the project; 77 died. The publicly funded and publicly owned dam is the largest electric power-producing facility in the United States, it provides irrigation for 670,000 acres with the potential for 1.1 million. -1941

Thursday, March 23:

The trial of 101 Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) members began in Chicago for opposing World War I in public; tried for violating the Espionage Act. The judge sentenced Bill Haywood and 14 others to 20 years, the rest shorter sentences. Fined a total of $2,500,000, the IWW (a democratic American labor union) was shattered on behalf of the greedy Capitalists. Haywood jumped bail and fled to revolutionary pre-communist Russia, where he remained until his death 10 years later. -1918

The Norris-La Guardia Act goes into effect. The Act restricts injunctions against unions and bans yellow dog contracts, which require newly-hired workers to declare they are not union members and will not join one. The Act was championed by U.S. Rep. La Guardia and Senator Norris, both Progressive Republicans. -1932

15 workers die, and another 170 are injured when a series of explosions rip through BP’s Texas City refinery. Investigators found BP management gave priority to cost savings over worker safety .-2005 

Friday, March 24:

Groundbreaking on the first section of the New York City subway system, from City Hall to the Bronx. The New York subway workers would go on to find the TWU in 1934. The TWU established a reputation for left-wing politics (people before profits) and was among the first Unions to join the CIO. -1900

Hawaii: 7,500 hotel workers and members of HERE, Local 5 end 21-day strike of 11 major hotels. They struck to protect their earned pension benefits that the CEOs wanted to rob. -1990

Saturday, March 25:

146 workers are killed in a fire at New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. A fire broke out at the Triangle shirtwaist factory, within minutes it engulfed 3 upper floors, burning to death, or causing to jump to their deaths, 146 workers, 123 of them women, some as young as 15 who were locked in by the owners. A year prior to the fire, 20,000 garment workers walked off the job in New York to protest the dangerous working conditions. They demanded unlocked fire escapes, a pay raise, a 52-hour work week, and overtime pay. The bosses at Triangle formed an association with the owners of the other large factories. Soon after, strike leaders were arrested. Some were fined, and others were sent to labor camps. Armed thugs were enlisted to beat up and intimidate strikers. The strike was lost, no demands were met and the fire escapes remained locked (ultimately causing the death of the 146 one year later). The two Triangle shirtwaist factory owners cashed their insurance checks and retired very rich men. -1911

An explosion at a coal mine in Centralia, Ill., kills 111 miners. Mineworkers President John L. Lewis calls a 6-day work stoppage by the nation’s 400,000 soft coal miners to demand safer working conditions. The Capitalists fight against safer conditions citing that higher costs might cut into shareholder profits.  -1947

Sunday, March 26:

San Francisco brewery workers begin a 9-month strike as local employers follow the Union-busting lead of the National Brewer’s Association and fire their Unionized workers, replacing them with scabs. 2 Unionized brewers refused to go along, kept producing beer, prospered wildly, and induced the Association to capitulate. A contract benefit since having Unionized 2 years earlier, is undoubtedly worth defending: free beer. -1868

Mine disaster at Jed, West Virginia, kills 83 workers. -1912

Monday, March 27: 

Mother Jones is ordered to leave Colorado, where state authorities accuse her of “stirring up” striking coal miners. The greedy Capitalists called Mother Jones “The Most Dangerous Woman in America” her rallying cry was famous, "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”  -1904

Start of the 8-month Northern railway strike in Canada by the IWW. Wobblies picketed employment offices in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Tacoma, and Minneapolis in order to block the hiring of scabs. -1912

Tuesday, March 28:

Martin Luther King led a march of striking Union sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. Police attacked the workers with mace and sticks. A 16-year-old boy was shot and killed. 280 workers were arrested. He was assassinated a few days later after speaking to the Union workers. King fought throughout his life to connect the labor and civil rights movements, envisioning them as twin pillars for social reform. -1968

Massey Mines was hit with 80 Citations for safety violations during special inspections in February. The Upper Big Branch mine had 50 citations in the 30 days leading up to the deadly West Virginia coal mine explosion that killed at 29 miners on this date. -2011

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