This Week in Labor History
December 18
General Motors announces it is closing 21 North American plants over the following four years and slashing tens of thousands of jobs - 1991


December 19
An explosion in the Darr Mine in Westmoreland Co., Pa., kills 239 coal miners. Seventy-one of the dead share a common grave in Olive Branch Cemetery. December 1907 was the worst month in U.S. coal mining history, with more than 3,000 dead - 1907

A 47-day strike at Greyhound Bus Lines ends with members of the Amalgamated Transit Union accepting a new contract containing deep cuts in wages and benefits. Striker Ray Phillips died during the strike, run over on a picket line by a scab Greyhound trainee - 1983
 
Twenty-six men and one woman are killed in the Wilberg Coal Mine Disaster near Orangeville, Utah. The disaster has been termed the worst coal mine fire in the state’s history. Federal mine safety officials issued 34 safety citations after the disaster but had inspected the mine only days before and declared it safe - 1984
 
December 20
Delegates to the AFL convention in Salt Lake City endorse a constitutional amendment to give women the right to vote - 1899
 
The first group of 15 Filipino plantation workers recruited by the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association arrive in Hawaii. By 1932 more than 100,000 Filipinos will be working in the fields - 1906
 
Thousands of workers began what was to be a 2-day strike of the New York City transit system over retirement, pension and wage issues. The strike violated the state’s Taylor Law; TWU Local 100 President Roger Toussaint was jailed for ten days and the union was fined $2.5 million - 2005


December 21
Powered by children seven to 12 years old working dawn to dusk, Samuel Slater’s thread-spinning factory goes into production in Pawtucket, R.I., launching the Industrial Revolution in America. By 1830, 55 percent of the mill workers in the state were youngsters, many working for less than $1 per week - 1790
 
Supreme Court rules that picketing is unconstitutional. Chief Justice (and former president) William Howard Taft declared that picketing was, in part, "an unlawful annoyance and hurtful nuisance..." - 1921
 
December 22
A group of building trades unions from the Midwest meet in St. Louis to form the National Building Trades Council. The Council disbanded after several years of political and jurisdictional differences - 1897
 
Twenty-one Chicago firefighters, including the chief, died when a building collapsed as they were fighting a huge blaze at the Union Stock Yards.  By the time the fire was extinguished, 26 hours after the first alarm, 50 engine companies and seven hook-and-ladder companies had been called to the scene. Until September 11, 2001, it was the deadliest building collapse in American history in terms of firefighter fatalities - 1910
 
Amid a widespread strike for union recognition by 395,000 steelworkers, approximately 250 alleged “anarchists,” “communists,” and “labor agitators” were deported to Russia, marking the beginning of the so-called “Red Scare” - 1919
(Mobilizing Against Inequality: Unions, Immigrant Workers, and the Crisis of Capitalism: Are immigrant workers themselves responsible for low wages and shoddy working conditions? Should unions expend valuable time and energy organizing undocumented workers? Unions in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States have taken various approaches to confront the challenges of this significant segment of the workforce. As U.S. immigration policy is debated, readers will gain insight into how all workers benefit when wages and working conditions for immigrant workers are improved.)
 
December 23
AFL officers are found in contempt of court for urging a labor boycott of Buck's Stove and Range Co. in St Louis, where the Metal Polishers were striking for a 9-hour day - 1908
 
Construction workers top out the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 1,368 feet, making it the tallest building in the world - 1970
 
Walmart Stores Inc., the nation's largest employer, with 1.4 million "associates," agrees to settle 63 wage and hour suits across the U.S., for a grand total of between $352 million and $640 million. It was accused of failure to pay overtime, requiring off-the-clock work, and failure to provide required meal and rest breaks - 2008
 
December 24
Seventy-two copper miners’ children die in panic caused by a company stooge at Calumet, Mich., who shouted “fire” up the stairs into a crowded hall where the children had gathered.  They were crushed against closed doors when they tried to flee - 1913


—Compiled and edited by David Prosten