February 23
2015.02.23history duboisW.E.B. DuBois, educator and civil rights activist, born - 1868

The National Marine Engineers Association (now the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association), representing deck and engine officers on U.S. flag vessels, is formed at a convention in Cleveland, Ohio - 1875

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

William Randolph Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner began publishing articles on the menace of Japanese laborers, leading to a resolution in the California legislature that action be taken against their immigration - 1904

Woody Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land” following a frigid trip—partially by hitchhiking, partially by rail—from California to Manhattan. The Great Depression was still raging. Guthrie had heard Kate Smith’s recording of “God Bless America” and resolved to himself: “We can’t just bless America, we’ve got to change it” - 19402015.02.23history guthrie
(Woody Guthrie: A Life: Folksinger and political activist Woody Guthrie contributed much to the American labor movement, not the least of which are his classic anthems "Union Maid" and "This Land Is Your Land." This is an easy-to-read, honest description of Guthrie’s life, from a childhood of poverty to an adulthood of music and organizing—and a life cut short by incurable disease. Guthrie’s life and work inspired millions while he lived and continues to do so through musicians such as his son Arlo, Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg and Bruce Springsteen, to name just a few. Guthrie is portrayed as he was—an imperfect being but one with a gift that helped millions as they struggled toward better lives.)

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

Following voter approval for the measure in 2003, San Francisco’s minimum wage rises to $8.50, up from $6.75 - 2004

February 24
2015.02.23history lawrence strikeU.S. Supreme Court upholds Oregon state restrictions on the working hours of women, justified as necessary to protect their health. A laundry owner was fined $10 for making a female employee work more than 10 hours in a single day - 1908

Women and children textile strikers beaten by Lawrence, Mass., police during a 63-day walkout protesting low wages and work speedups - 1912

Congress passes a federal child labor tax law that imposed a 10 percent tax on companies that employ children, defined as anyone under the age of 16 working in a mine/quarry or under the age 14 in a “mill, cannery, workshop, factory, or manufacturing establishment.” The Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional three years later - 1919

February 25
Amalgamated Association of Street & Electric Railway Employees of America change name to Amalgamated Transit Union - 1965

The Order of Railroad Telegraphers change name to Transportation-Communication Employees Union - 19652015.02.23history wisc.protesters

A crowd estimated to be 100,000 strong rallied at the Wisconsin state Capitol in protest of what was ultimately was to become a successful push by the state’s Republican majority to cripple public employee bargaining rights - 2011

February 26
Congress OKs the Contract Labor Law, designed to clamp down on "business agents" who contracted abroad for immigrant labor. One of the reasons unions supported the measure: employers were using foreign workers to fight against the growing U.S. labor movement, primarily by deploying immigrant labor to break strikes - 1885
2015.02.23history labor.law.sourcebook(The Labor Law Source Book: Texts of 20 Federal Labor Laws is a handy collection that puts the full texts of all the major U.S. labor laws into one book. Includes the National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Family and Medical Leave Act and 15 more. The full, actual language of each law is presented—without elaboration by the editor—and a helpful topic finder at the back of the book tells you which laws apply to basic concerns and classes of workers.)

Bethlehem Steel workers strike for union recognition, Bethlehem, Pa. - 1941

A coal slag heap doubling as a dam in West Virginia’s Buffalo Creek Valley collapsed, flooding the 17-mile long valley. 118 died, 5,000 were left homeless. The Pittston Coal Co. said it was "an act of God" - 1972

A 20-week strike by 70,000 Southern California supermarket workers ends, with both sides claiming victory - 2004

February 27

Legendary labor leader and socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs becomes charter member and secretary of the Vigo Lodge, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen. Five years later he is leading the national union and in 1893 helps found the nation’s first industrial union, the American Railway Union - 1875

Birth of John Steinbeck in Salinas, Calif. Steinbeck is best known for writing The Grapes of Wrath, which exposed the mistreatment of migrant farm workers during the Depression and led to some reforms - 1902

Thirty-eight miners die in a coal mine explosion in Boissevain, Va. - 19322015.02.23history woolworths.sitdown

Four hundred fifty Woolworth’s workers and customers occupy store for eight days in support of Waiters and Waitresses Union, Detroit - 1937

The Supreme Court rules that sit-down strikes, a major organizing tool for industrial unions, are illegal - 1939

Mine disaster kills 75 at Red Lodge, Mont. - 1943

February 28
U.S. Supreme Court finds that a Utah state law limiting mine and smelter workers to an 8-hour workday is constitutional - 1898

(Actually Leap Year Feb. 29) The minimum age allowed by law for workers in mills, factories, and mines in South Carolina is raised from 12 to 14 - 1915
2015.02.23history kids.at.work(Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor: Your heart will be broken by this exceptional book’s photographs of children at backbreaking, often life-threatening work, and the accompanying commentary by author Russell Freedman. Photographer Lewis Hine—who himself died in poverty in 1940—did as much, and perhaps more, than any social critic in the early part of the 20th century to expose the abuse of children, as young as three and four, by American capitalism.)

Members of the Chinese Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union in San Francisco’s Chinatown begin what is to be a2015.02.23history garment.strikers successful four-month strike for better wages and conditions at the National Dollar Stores factory and three retail outlets – 1938

(Actually leap year Feb. 29) Screen Actors Guild member Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American to win an Academy Award, honored for her portrayal of “Mammy” in “Gone with the Wind” - 1940

In response to the layoff of 450 union members at a 3M factory in New Jersey, every worker at a 3M factory in Elandsfontein, South Africa, walks off the job in sympathy - 1986

March 01
The Granite Cutters National Union begins what is to be a successful nationwide strike for the 8-hour day. Also won: union recognition, wage increases, a grievance procedure and a minimum wage scale - 1900

2015.02.23history curranJoseph Curran is born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. At age 16 he joined the Merchant Marines and in 1937 went on to lead the formation of the National Maritime Union. He was the union’s founding president and held the post until 1973, when he resigned amidst corruption charges. He died in 1981 - 1906

IWW strikes Portland, Ore., sawmills - 1907

An article in the March 1936 edition of the magazine Popular Science lists what it terms “the world’s craziest jobs,” all of them in Hollywood. Included: Horse-tail painter (to make the tails stand out better in the movies); bone-bleacher (for animal skeletons in Westerns); and chorus-girl weigher, whose function the article did not make terribly clear - 1936

Sailors aboard the S.S. California, docked in San Pedro, Calif., refuse to cast off the lines and allow the ship to sail until their wages are increased and overtime paid. The job action lasts three days before the secretary of labor intervenes and an agreement is reached. The leaders were fined two days’ pay, fired and blacklisted, although charges of mutiny were dropped. The action marked the beginnings of the National Maritime Union - 19362015.02.23history taylor lewis

CIO president John L. Lewis and U.S. Steel President Myron Taylor sign a landmark contract in which the bitterly anti-union company officially recognized the CIO as sole negotiator for the company's unionized workers. Included: the adoption of overtime pay, the 40-hour work week, and a big pay hike - 1937

After five years of labor by 21,000 workers, 112 of whom were killed on the job, the Hoover Dam (Boulder Dam) is completed and turned over to the government. Citizens were so mad at President Herbert Hoover, for whom the dam had been named, that it was later changed to Boulder Dam, being located near Boulder City, Nev. - 1936

The federal minimum wage increases to $1 per hour - 1956