Friday, March 25, 2011

Today in Labor History: March 25

March 25, 1893: A federal court issued the first injunction against a union under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. The case was brought against the Workingman's Amalgamated Council of New Orleans for interfering with commerce. The law was a major victory for bosses.

March 25, 1911: Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire  in New York City killed one hundred and forty-six people, mostly women and young girls who were working in sweatshop conditions. As tragic as this fire was for poor, working class women, it is estimated that over 100 workers died on the job each day in the U.S. in 1911. What was most significant was that this tragedy became a flash point for worker safety and public awareness of sweatshop conditions.

The Triangle workers had to work from 7:00 am until 8:00 pm, seven days a week. The work was almost non-stop. They got one break per day (30 minutes for lunch). For this they were paid only $6.00 per week. In some cases, they had to provide their own needles and thread. Furthermore, the women were locked inside the building to minimize time lost to bathroom breaks.

A year prior to the fire, 20,000 garment workers walked off the job at 500 clothing factories in New York to protest the deplorable working conditions. They demanded a 20% raise, 52-hour work week and overtime pay. Over 70 smaller companies conceded to the union’s demands within the first 48 hours of the strike. However, the bosses at Triangle formed an employers’ association with the owners of the other large factories. Soon after, strike leaders were arrested. Some were fined. Others were sent to labor camps. Armed thugs were also enlisted to beat up and intimidate strikers. By the end of the month, almost all of the smaller factories had conceded to the union. By February, 1910, the strike was finally settled.

1 comment:

  1. On the same day, in 1894, Jacob S. Coxey began leading his "army" of unemployed from Massilion, Ohio to Washington, DC, and on March 25, 1947, a coal mine explosion in Centralia, IL killed 111.