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"At the moment, we have leaders in this country who care more about the short-term profits of big corporations than they do about the long-term well-being of the average working man and woman." - R.T. Buffenbarger, IAMAW President, AFL-CIO/CLC

Wednesday, Feb 21:

A state law was enacted in California providing the 8-hour day for most workers, but it was not enforced. Companies capitalized on the lack of enforcement and workers had no choice but to work 12–18-hour days to maximize corporate profits. -1868

United Farm Workers of America was granted a charter by the AFL-CIO. UFWA is a labor union created from the merging of two groups, the AWOC, and the NFWA led by César Chávez. The group was originally a workers' rights organization that helped workers get unemployment insurance but rapidly became a union of farm workers. -1972

Thursday, Feb 22:

Representatives of the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers meet in St. Louis with 20 other organizations to plan the founding convention of the People’s Party. Objectives: end political corruption, spread the wealth, and combat the oppression of the rights of workers and farmers. -1892

Education Secretary Paige calls the nation’s largest teachers Union, National Education Association (NEA), a “terrorist organization” during a White House meeting with state governors. At the same time, the Bush administration asserted the right to imprison citizens indefinitely without trial or access to lawyers, family members, or journalists, if they are accused of being terrorists. -2004

Friday, Feb 23:

The Journeyman Bakers’ National Union receives its charter from the American Federation of Labor. -1887

The Association of Flight Attendants was granted a charter by the AFL-CIO. -1984

Following voter approval for the measure in 2003, San Francisco’s minimum wage rose to $8.50, up from $6.75. Their whole economy improves as a result. -2004

Saturday, Feb 24:

IWW organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn takes the lead in the "Bread & Roses" Lawrence Textile Strike of 20,000 women in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Police attacked 150 children and women at the town railroad station to protect company profits. The women and girls were fighting to lower their work hours to 54 hours a week and were protesting low wages and work speedups. Women who worked in the mills had a life expectancy of fewer than 30 years, and most died of respiratory ailments caused by the hazardous working conditions. -1912

Congress passed a federal child labor tax law that imposed a 10 percent tax on companies that employ children under the age of 16 working in a mine or under the age of 14 in a “mill, cannery, workshop, factory, or manufacturing establishment.” The Supreme Court ruled the tax was unconstitutional 3 years later making child labor profitable for the capitalists again. -1919

Sunday, Feb 25:

The Paterson, New Jersey silk strike began, with 25,000 textile workers walking out when mill owners doubled the size of the looms without increasing staffing or wages. The strike was organized by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) but collapsed when mill owners exploited divisions between skilled and unskilled workers, successfully getting the skilled workforce to agree to return to work. 5 strikers were killed on behalf of the mill owners in order to protect low wages and profits during the 208-day walkout. -1913

A crowd of 100,000 strong rallied at the Wisconsin state Capitol in protest of what ultimately was to become a successful push by the Koch-backed Gov. Walker and the Republican majority to cripple public employee bargaining rights in order to crush the union. The Republican’s anti-worker/pro-business “Free Market” solution put Wisconsin in a race to the bottom, turned a budget surplus into a $2.2 Billion deficit, and cut all public services and spending on education. Wisconsin, a “right to work” state, became last in the nation for growth. -2011

Monday, Feb 26:

A coal slag heap doubling as a dam (to save costs) in West Virginia’s Buffalo Creek Valley collapsed, flooding the 17-mile-long valley. 118 died, and 5,000 were left homeless. The Pittston Coal Co. said it was "an act of God" and claimed no responsibility.  -1972

A 20-week strike by 70,000 Southern California supermarket workers ended, with the union claiming victory. -2004

Tuesday, Feb 27:

Legendary Labor leader Eugene V. Debs became a charter member and secretary of the Vigo Lodge, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen. 5 years later he led the union and in 1893 helped found the nation’s first industrial union, the American Railway Union. He was known as “brilliant, sincere, compassionate, and scrupulously honest”. He helped launch the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). A man of firm beliefs and dedication, he ran for President of the United States 5 times under the banner of the Socialist Party. -1875

Mine disaster kills 75 at Red Lodge, Montana. Company profits came before worker safety and the miners died by fire. -1943

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