Thursday, January 10, 2013

Labor History Timeline--The Modern Era, PATCO, Decline of Unionism

1981    PATCO StrikeU.S. federal air traffic controllers began a nationwide strike after their union, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO), rejected the government's final contract offer. Most of the 13,000 strikers ignored orders to go back to work and were fired on August 5 by President Reagan for participating in an illegal work stoppage. In response, the AFL-CIO organized a protest of 400,000 in Washington, D.C. However, Reagan's action crushed the union and sets the tone for labor-management relations across the country for the ensuing 30 years, with employers beginning to take tougher stands against unions, increasingly relying on strikebreakers and mass firings, and hastening the decline in union membership. (Sources: UHWOShmoop Labor History,  Workday Minnesota)

1989    Pittston Coal Strike: A Wildcat strike at the Pittston mines in West Virginia spread to 11 states, with 50,000 miners participating. The strike began when 98 miners and a minister occupied the company’s Moss 3 plant in Carbo, VA. The strike began after Pittston terminated health benefits for retirees, widows and disabled miners. State troopers were called in to arrest strikers after violent conflicts occurred, yet the struggle barely made the news the U.S. Over 4,000 strikers were arrested and UMW boss Richard Trumka did everything in his power to shut down the strike and sell the workers out. They ultimately won back health benefits for current and retired miners, one of the few labor victories of the 1980s, but they also lost job security and some workplace rights. By 1995, Pittston’s workforce had declined by more than two-thirds. (Sources:UHWOAFGE, Workday MinnesotaWikipedia)
Scene from “Bread and Roses,” Ken Loach’s 2000 film about Justice for Janitors

1990    LAPD Attacks Justice for Janitors (J4J): J4J began in Los Angeles in response to the slashing of wages and benefits by employers. In 1983, janitors were making $7 per hour or more, with health benefits. By 1986, their wages had declined to $4.50 per hour, without benefits, as building owners subcontracted cleaning services to private contractors who cut wages and benefits to better compete with each other. The J4J strike in LA lasted throughout April, with the janitors ultimately winning a 22% raise. (Sources: UHWOWikipedia)
Hamlet Chicken Plant Disaster, by Mojo Nixon and Jello Biafra

1991    Hamlet Chicken Plant Disaster: A fire at the Imperial Foods poultry processing plant in Hamlet, North Carolina, killed 25 and injured 49. Workers had been locked into the facility to prevent them from taking too many breaks, thus trapping them inside and dooming them to die in the fire. In 11 years, the plant had never received a safety inspection. The owners of the plant received 20-year prison sentences. (Sources: UHWO,Wikipedia)

2001    1st State-Wide Teachers’ Strike: occurred in Hawaii. 10,000 K-12 teachers and 3,000 university faculty participated. (Sources: UHWO)

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