Monday, January 7, 2013

Labor History Timeline--The Era of Depression and General Strikes

1933    National Industrial Recovery Act (NiRA): Companies that abided by NiRA codes for minimum wages and maximum working hours could not only skirt anti-trust laws, but could also enforce open shops and discriminate against union activists and workers of color. (Sources: WSWSInternational Socialist Review)
Toledo General Strike
1934    Toledo General Strike: 2 workers were killed and over 200 were injured during the Auto-Lite strike in Toledo, Ohio. The auto strike began in February, 1934, with as many as 10,000 other employed and unemployed Toledo workers joining the General Strike in May. During the General Strike, there was a five-day running battle between thousands of workers and the Ohio National Guard. Workers fought the police and National Guardsmen with their fists and with bricks (sometimes firing them with slingshots made from inner tubes). The strike ended when public outrage over the brutality against the workers forced Auto-Lite to recognize the union and offer employees a 5% raise. (Sources: WikipediaWSWS)
SF General Strike
1934    San Francisco General Strike: The longshoremen’s strike, which began as a strike for a union hiring hall and union recognition, started on May 9 and lasted 83 days, leading ultimately to the unionization of all West Coast ports. After World War One, West Coast long shore workers were poorly organized or represented by company unions. The IWW had tried to organize them with some successes, like in San Pedro, in 1922, but they were ultimately crushed by injunctions, imprisonment, deportation and vigilante violence. While longshoremen lacked a well-organized union, they retained a syndicalist sentiment and militancy. On May 9, 1934, longshoremen walked off the job at ports up and down the West Coast, soon to be followed by sailors. 2 strikers were shot dead by the bosses’ goons in San Pedro. There was also violence in Oakland and San Francisco. Street battles between the cops and strikers continued in San Francisco, heating up on July 3, and culminating in Bloody Thursday, on July 5, when 3 workers were shot by police (two of them died). The attack led to a four-day general strike that effectively shut down commerce in San Francisco, despite police violence and attempts to weaken it by national unions. (From the Daily BleedWorkday Minnesota and Wikipedia)

1934    Minneapolis General Strike: grew out of a Teamsters strike that began May 16. On Friday, July 20, 150 police opened fire on striking workers as they attempted to block a scab truck, killing two and injuring 67 others. That night, 15,000 workers protested, followed by a citywide strike of all transport workers on July 23. The next day, roughly 100,000 people participated in a march. On July 26, martial law was declared. Picketing and rallies were banned, while union leaders were arrested or and ordered to leave town. However, the strike was costing employers millions of dollars and the strike was ultimately settled with the employers recognizing the teamsters and offering workers a modest raise. (Sources: WSWSWikipedia)

1934    Eastern Textile General Strike: Over 400,000 textile workers participated in what was one of the largest strikes in U.S. history up until that point. The strike came in response to attacks by employers exploiting the new National Industrial Recovery Act (NiRA, see above), which allowed the mills to slash hours and weekly pay by 25%. In response, a General Strike of textile workers began on September 1 that spread throughout the South and the Eastern Seaboard.  The authorities in the various affected states responded by calling in National Guards, deputizing citizens, declaring martial law and other heavy handed tactics that resulted in numerous deaths and dozens of arrests. The workers’ ultimate defeat left most of the South non-unionized for the next 50 years. (Sources: International Socialist ReviewNorth Carolina History ProjectWikipedia)

1935    The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) Foundedon November 9, 1935, as an opposition movement within the AFL (which expelled the CIO in 1938). Important founding members included the Steelworkers, Auto Workers and Textile Workers. The CIO ultimately merged with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1955 to form the AFL-CIO.  (Sources: International Socialist ReviewWorkday Minnesota)

1935    Wagner Act: A wave of strikes and labor turmoil during the Great Depression paved the way for the Wegner Act—also known as the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which legitimized unions, but also created rules by which they had to abide, promoting the bureaucratization and timidity of union leadership. Even with the rules of NLRA strongly favoring the bosses, they fought it tooth and nail, finally winning passage of the Taft Hartley Act, in 1947, which weakened NLRA by blocking unions from engaging in secondary boycotts, solidarity actions with other unions, and general strikes.  (Sources: Modern School)

1937    GM Sit-Down Strike: GM recognized the United Autoworkers (UAW) after their famous 44-day sit-down strike in Flint, MI. The Flint strike was actually preceded by two days when workers at the Fisher Body plant in Cleveland launched a sit-down strike. During the Flint strike, 5,000 armed workers circled the plant to protect the workers inside. Following police attacks with tear-gas, workers fought back with fire hoses. 13 workers were injured by police gunfire. By the time the National Guard arrived, sympathy strikes had spread to GM plants across the country, with 44,000 autoworkers participating. (Sources: Workday MinnesotaDaily Bleed)
Battle of the Overpass, National Archives
1937    Battle of the Overpass: United Auto Workers were attacked by Ford security forces. UAW organizers Walter Reuther and Richard Frankensteen were badly beaten, swaying public opinion in favor of the UAW. (Sources Wikipedia)
Memorial Day Massacre, National Archives
1937    Memorial Day Massacre: The Chicago police shot and killed 10 unarmed protesting workers during the “Little Steel Strike.” 30 others were injured, including 9 who were permanently disabled. Most were shot in the back as they fled. No police officers were ever prosecuted. (From WikipediaWSWS)

1938    Hilo Massacre: On August 11938, police opened fire on 200 unarmed trade unionists protesting the unloading of a ship in Hilo Harbor, on the Big Island of Hawaii, in what became known as "the Hilo Massacre." The protest was in support of striking waterfront workers. 50 workers were injured. Police also used tear gas and bayonets. (From Workday Minnesota and the Daily Bleed)

No comments:

Post a Comment