A history of Labor In the United States

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AP U.S. History: Unit 9 – History of Labor Unions

A History of Labor In the United States (This list comes from Labornet)

1648 Boston Coopers and Shoemakers form guilds
1663 Maryland Indentured Servants' Strike
1675 Boston Ship Carpenters' Protest
1677 New York City Carters' Strike
1684 New York City Carters' Strike
1741 New York City Bakers' Strike
1768 New York City Tailor's Strike
1774 Hibernia, New Jersey, Ironworks Strike
1778 Journeymen printers in New York combine to increase their wages
1791 Philadelphia carpenters carry out first strike in the building trades
1792 Philadelphia shoemakers form first local union organized for collective bargaining
1794 Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers formed in Philadelphia
1805 A journeymen cordwainers' union in New York City includes a closed-shop clause in its constitution
1806 Philadelphia shoemakers found guilty of criminal conspiracy after striking for higher wages
1824 Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Textile Strike
1825 The United Tailoresses of New York, a trade union organization for women, organized in New York City.
1827 The Mechanics Union of Trade Associations, made up of skilled craftsmen in different trades, formed in


Philadelphia Carpenters' Strike
1828 The Workingmen's Party formed in Philadelphia.

Paterson, New Jersey, Textile Strike

1829 The Workingmen's Party of New York formed

1831 New England Association of Farmers, Mechanics and other Workingmen formed.

Lynn, Massachusetts, Shoebinders' Protest
1832 Boston Ship Carpenters' Ten Hour Strike
1833 Lynn, Massachusetts, Shoebinders' Protest begins.

Manayunk, Pennsylvania, Textile Strike.

New York City Carpenters' Strike.

1834 National Trades Union, first attempt at a national labor federation, formed in New York.

Lowell, Massachusetts, Mill Women's Strike

Manayunk, Pennsylvania, Textile Strike
1835 Ten-Hour Movement among skilled workers
1835 Paterson, New Jersey, Textile Strike.
1836 National Cooperative Association of Cordwainers, the first national union of a specific craft, formed in New York City.

Lowell, Massachusetts, Mill Women's Strike

New York City Tailors' Strike

Philadelphia Bookbinders' Strike

1840 President Martin Van Buren establishes the ten-hour day for employees on federal public works projects.

1842 Commonwealth vs. Hunt: Massachusetts Supreme Court rules that labor unions are not illegal conspiracies.

Anthracite Coal Strike
1844 Lowell Female Labor Reform Association formed
1847 New Hampshire passes first state law fixing ten hours as the legal workday
1848 Pennsylvania's child labor law makes twelve the minimum age for workers in commercial occupations
1850 New York City Tailors' Strike
1852 Typographical Union founded - first national union of workers to endure to present day
1859 Iron Molders' International Union founded
1860 New England Shoemakers' Strike
1861 American Miners' Association, the first national coal miners' union is formed in St. Louis, Mo.
1863 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers founded
1864 Cigar Makers' Union founded
1866 National Labor Union founded - an attempt at creating a national federation of unions

1867 Knights of St. Crispin founded - a union of factory workers in the shoe industry

1868 First federal eight-hour law passed - applied only to laborers, workmen, and mechanics employed by the


Anthracite Coal Strike
1869 Colored National Labor Union founded.

Knights of Labor organized in Philadelphia.

Troy, New York, Collar Laundresses' Strike.
1870 First written contract between coal operators and coal miners signed
1872 National Labor Reform Party formed
1873 Miners' National Association formed
1874 Tompkins Square Riot in New York City
1875 Conviction of Molly Maguires for anthracite coalfield murders - twenty are eventually hanged.

Anthracite Coal Strike

1876 Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers founded.

Workingmen's Party founded - first Marxist party in the United States. Later becomes Socialist Labor Party.

Greenback Party formed
1877 Federal and state troops are called out to crush the first nationwide strike in US history when railroad

workers walk off their jobs.

Cigarmakers' Strike.

San Francisco Anti-Chinese Riots

Members of the militant Molly Maguires, a rank and file anthracite coal miners' organization, are hanged after being framed by a Pinkerton spy.
1878 Socialist Labor Party founded.
1878 Greenback Labor Party organized.

International Labor Union founded.

1881 Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada founded; predecessor

of the American Federation of Labor (AFL).

Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners founded

Revolutionary Socialist Labor Party formed

1882 First Labor Day celebration held in New York City.

Congress passes Chinese Exclusion Act.

Cohoes, New York, Cotton Mill Strike.
1883 International Working People's Association (anarchist) formed.

Lynchburg, Virginia, Tobacco Workers' Strike.

Molders' Lockout begins.
1884 Federal Bureau of Labor established in the Department of the Interior.

Fall River, Massachusetts Textile Strike.

Union Pacific Railroad Strike.
1885 Congress passes Foran Act to forbid importation of foreign laborers on contract.

Cloakmakers' General Strike.

McCormick Harvesting Machine Company Strike.

Southwest Railroad Strike.

Yonkers, New York, Carpet Weavers' Strike.
1886 In Chicago, 350,000 workers demonstrate for the eight-hour workday, founding May Day as an

international workers' holiday.

Eight-hour-day movement fails.

"Haymarket Massacre (Riot)": Police attack Haymarket Square labor rally in Chicago, sparking violence

and the frame up of eight labor leaders.

American Federation of Labor (AFL) founded with Samuel Gompers as first president.

Augusta, Georgia, Textile Strike.

Eight-Hour Day Strikes.

McCormick Harvesting Machine Company Strike.

Southwest Railroad Strike

Troy, New York, Collar Laundresses' Strike

1887 Seven anarchists sentenced to death for the Haymarket bombing (five eventually executed).

Port of New York Longshoremen's Strike

1888 First federal labor relations law enacted - applied only to railroads

International Association of Machinists founded

Burlington Railroad Strike

Cincinnati Shoemakers' Lockout

1889 Baseball Players' Revolt begins

Fall River, Massachusetts, Textile Strike

1890 United Mine Workers (UMW) of America founded in Columbus, Ohio.

Carpenters' Strike for the Eight-Hour Day

1891 People's (Populist) Party formed.

Savannah, Georgia, Black Laborers' Strike.

Tennessee Miners' Strike.
1892 International Longshoremen's Association founded.

Seamen's Union founded

Strike in Homestead, Pennsylvania, by iron and steel workers gains national attention

Coeur d'Alene Miners' Strike

New Orleans General Strike
1893 American Railway Union founded.

Western Federation of Miners founded.

Federal court in Louisiana applies the Sherman Antitrust Act to unions for the first time in finding a

sympathy strike to be in restraint of trade.

National Civic Federation formed.
1894 Nationwide Rail Strike led by American Railway Union in Pullman, Ill. paralyzes nation's transportation.

Coxey's Army of the unemployed marches on Washington, DC

Cripple Creek, Colorado, Miners' Strike

Great Northern Railroad Strike
1894 Labor Day becomes an official US holiday
1895 U.S. Supreme Court, in In re Debs case, upholds an injunction restraining the Pullman strikers based on the power of the government to regulate interstate commerce.

Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance founded

Haverhill, Massachusetts, Shoe Strike
1896 Leadville, Colorado, Miners' Strike begins.
1897 Lattimer, Pennsylvania, Massacre, a sheriff and deputies gun down 19 striking miners and wound 40

others during a peaceful protest

1898 Congress passes the Erdman Act providing for mediation and arbitration of railroad labor disputes.

American Labor Union founded

Marlboro, Massachusetts, Shoe Workers' Strike begins
1899 Brotherhood of Teamsters founded

Buffalo, New York, Grain Shovelers' Strike

Cleveland, Ohio, Street Railway Workers' Strike

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Miners' Strike

New York City Newsboys' Strike
1900 International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union founded

Anthracite Coal Strike

Machinists' Strike
1901 Socialist Party of America founded

United Textile Workers founded

Machinists' Strike

National Cash Register Strike

San Francisco Restaurant Workers' Strike

Steel Strike

1902 Great Anthracite Coal Strike, miners walk off the job for 164 days.

Chicago Teamsters' Strike

1903 Department of Commerce and Labor created by Congress.

Women's Trade Union League founded.

Cripple Creek, Colorado, Miners' Strike begins.

Oxnard, California, Sugar Beet Strike.

1903 Telluride, Colorado, Miners' Strike begins.

Utah Coal Strike begins

1904 New York City Interborough Rapid Transit Strike.

Packinghouse Workers' Strike.

Santa Fe Railroad Shopmen's Strike begins
1905 Industrial Workers of the World founded in Chicago.

New York Supreme Court, in Lochner v. New York, declares maximum hours law for bakers

1906 Eight-hour day widely installed in the printing trades
1907 Goldfield, Nevada, Miners' Strike begins

An explosion kills 361 miners in Monongah, West Virginia in the nation's worst mining disaster.

1908 US Supreme Court, in Adair v US, finds that yellow-dog contracts are constitutional.

US Supreme Court, in Danbury Hatters Case, holds a boycott by the United Hatters Union against a

manufacturer to be a conspiracy in restraint of trade under the Sherman Antitrust Act.

US Supreme Court, in Muller v. Oregon, declares an Oregon law limiting working hours for women


IWW Free-Speech Fight in Missoula, Montana.
1909 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People founded

Georgia Railroad Strike

IWW Free-Speech Fight in Spokane, Washington

McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, Steel Strike

"Uprising of the 20,000" Garment Strike in New York

Watertown, Conn. Arsenal Strike

1910 Bethlehem Steel Strike
1910 Cloakmakers' Strike

Chicago Clothing Workers' Strike

Los Angeles strike wave

Philadelphia General Strike

1911 US Supreme Court, in Gompers v. Bucks Stove and Range Company, upholds an injunction ordering the

AFL to remove the company from its unfair list and cease a boycott.

Fire kills 146 workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City.

Illinois Central and Harriman Lines Rail Strike begins

Southern Lumber Operators' Lockout begins

1912 Massachusetts adopts the first minimum wage act for women and minors.

Chicago Newspaper Strike.

Fur Workers' Strike.

IWW Free-Speech Fight in San Diego, California.

Lawrence, Massachusetts, Textile Strike, twenty thousand textile workers representing 26 different

nationalities win the 60 day "Bread and Roses" strike.

Louisiana Timber Workers' Strike begins

New York City Hotel Strike

Pain Creek and Cabin Creek, West Virginia, Mine Strikes
1913 US Department of Labor established

Ludlow, Colorado, Massacre

Machinists Strike and Boycott

Michigan Copper Strike

Paterson, New Jersey, Textile Strike

Rubber Workers' Strike

Studebaker Motors Auto Workers' Strike

1914 Congress passes the Clayton Antitrust Act. Ostensibly limits the use of injunctions in labor disputes

Amalgamated Clothing Workers founded

Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill Strike begins

Company gunmen attack a tent colony of striking UMWA families in Colorado and kill 19 men, women, and children in the Ludlow Massacre
1915 Congress passes the LaFollette Seamen's Act - regulates working conditions for seamen

Standard Oil Strike

Youngstown, Ohio, Steel Strike begins

1916 Congress passes Federal Child Labor Law - later declared unconstitutional

Congress passes the Adamson Act establishing the eight-hour day for railroad workers

Six killed and forty wounded in bombing of San Francisco preparedness parade - labor leaders arrested

American Federation of Teachers founded

Arizona Copper Strike

Minnesota Iron Range Strike

New York City Transit Strike

New York Cloakmakers' Strike

Standard Oil Strike

1917 Supreme Court, in Hitchman Coal and Coke v. Mitchell, upholds the legality of yellow-dog contracts

Green Corn Rebellion in Oklahoma

Bisbee, Arizona, Miners' Strike

Butte, Montana, Miners' Strike

Pacific Northwest Lumber Strike
1918 War Labor Board is created

First national conference of women trade unionists

1919 Huge postwar strike wave sweeps across the nation

Communist Party of America founded

Red Scare begins

Actors' Strike

Boston Police Strike

New England Telephone Strike

Seattle General Strike

16,000 Silk Workers in Paterson, NJ strike for a shorter workweek

Steel Strike

1920 Trade Union Educational League founded

Alabama Miners' Strike

Clothing Workers' Lockout

West Virginia Coal Wars begin, ten people killed in the Matawan Massacre in a battle over the right to organize the southern West Virginia coalfields
1921 Supreme Court, in Duplex Printing Press v. Deering, rules that the Clayton Act notwithstanding, federal

courts could enjoin unions for actions in restraint of trade

Congress restricts immigration to the United States and establishes the national origin quota system

Seamen's Strike

Battle of Blair Mountain, 2000 US troops block miners' attempt to organize in southern West Virginia
1922 Conference for Progressive Political Action founded

Anthracite Coal Strike

Bituminous Coal Strike

Railroad Shopmen's Strike

1924 Samuel Gompers dies. William Green becomes president of the American Federation of Labor
1925 Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters founded

Anthracite Coal Strike

1926 Congress passes the Railway Labor Act, which requires that employers bargain with unions and forbids discrimination against union members

Passaic, New Jersey, Textile Strike

1927 Nicolo Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Mass. labor activists are executed

Bituminous Coal Strike

1928 New Bedford, Massachusetts, Textile Strike

Convict-labor system for coal mining is outlawed in Alabama

1929 Stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression

Trade Union Unity League founded

Conference for Progressive Labor Action founded

Gastonia, North Carolina, Textile Strike

1930 National Unemployed Council formed

Imperial Valley, California, Farm workers' Strike

1931 Congress passes Davis-Bacon Act providing for payment of prevailing wages to workers employed on

public works projects

"Scottsboro Boys" arrested in Alabama

Harlan County, Kentucky, Miners' Strike

Tampa, Florida, Cigar Workers' Strike
1932 Congress passes the Norris-LaGuardia Act, which prohibits federal injunctions in labor disputes and outlaws yellow-dog contracts

Bonus Army March of World War I veterans on Washington, DC

American Federation of Government Employees founded

California Pea Pickers' Strike

Century Airlines Pilots' Strike

Davidson-Wilder, Tennessee, Coal Strike begins

Ford Hunger March in Detroit, Michigan

Four workers killed as protesters march on Ford Rouge Plant near Detroit seeking jobs during the Great


Vacaville, California Tree Pruners' Strike
1933 Congress passes the National Industrial Recovery Act, which guarantees rights of employees to

organize and bargain collectively.

Frances Perkins becomes secretary of labor and the first woman named to a presidential cabinet

Newspaper Guild founded

Briggs Manufacturing Strike

California Farm workers' Strikes

Detroit, Michigan, Tool and Die Strike

Hormel, Iowa, Meat-Packing Strike

New Mexico Miners' Strike
1934 Southern Tenant Farmers' Union founded

Harlem, New York City, Jobs-for-Negroes Boycott

Imperial Valley, California, Farm workers' Strike

Minneapolis Teamsters' Strike

Newark Star-Ledger Newspaper Strike begins

Rubber Workers' Strike

San Francisco Longshoremen & General Strike

Textile Workers' Strike

Toledo, Ohio, Auto-Lite Strike
1935 US Supreme Court declares the National Industrial Recovery Act unconstitutional

Congress passes the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects the rights of workers to

organize and bargain collectively.

Franklin Roosevelt signs the labor-backed Social Security Act into law

Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) formed inside the American Federation of Labor (AFL)

Negro Labor Committee founded

United Auto Workers (UAW) founded

Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri Metal Workers' Strike

Pacific Northwest Lumber Strike

Southern Sharecroppers' and Farm Laborers' Strike

1936 Steel Workers' Organizing Committee formed

Atlanta, Georgia, Auto Workers' Sit-Down Strike

Berkshire Knitting Mills Strike

First sit-down strike by auto workers starts at Bendix Products in South Bend, Indiana

General Motors Sit-Down Strike

RCA Strike

Rubber Workers' begin the nation's first major sit-down strike at the Firestone tire plant in Akron, Ohio

Seamen's Strike

Seattle Post-Intelligencer Newspaper Strike
1937 US Supreme Court declares the NLRA constitutional

American Federation of Labor expels the CIO unions

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union founded

General Motors Sit-Down Strikes in US and Canada - strikes end after workers win first UAW contract

Battle of the Overpass, Ford Co. thugs beat Walter Reuther and other UAW organizers in Dearborn, Mich.

Hershey, Pennsylvania, Chocolate Workers' Strike

Little Steel Strike and Memorial Day Massacre, ten strikers shot at Republic Steel in Chicago

US Steel signs a first contract with the Steel Workers Organizing Committee
1938 Congress passes the Fair Labor Standards Act, which establishes the forty-hour work week, the minimum wage, and bans child labor in interstate commerce

Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) is founded with John L. Lewis as president

Chicago Newspaper Strike begins

Maytag Strike

US Supreme Court issues decision permitting employers to permanently replace strikers

1939 Chrysler Auto Strike

General Motors Tool and Diemakers' Strike
1940 Ford Motor Strike
1941 AFL and CIO give no-strike pledges for the duration of World War II.

Allis-Chalmers Strike

Captive Coal Mines Strike

Detroit, Michigan, Hate Strike against black workers

International Harvester Strike

New York City Bus Strike

North American Aviation Strike
1942 National War Labor Board established: establishes "Little Steel Formula" for wartime wage adjustments

United Steel Workers of America founded

1943 Fair Employment Practices Committee is established

Congress passes the Smith-Connally Act to restrict strikes and union political activity during the war

Bituminous Coal Strike, UMWA strike which triggered a US government takeover of the mines ends with a contract providing portal-to-portal pay and other benefits

Detroit, Michigan, Hate Strikes against black workers

1944 Philadelphia Transit Strike
1945 Kelsey-Hayes Strike

New York City Longshoremen's Strike

Montgomery Ward Strike

Oil Workers' Strike

1946 Huge postwar strike wave sweeps across the nation

United Mine Workers win a health and welfare fund in bargaining with the coal operators

Nationwide coal strike prompts US government to seize the mines to continue production

Electrical Manufacturing Strikes

General Motors Strike

Pittsburgh Power Strike

Railroad Strike

Steelworkers launch 30 state strikes against US Steel

1947 Congress passes the Taft-Hartley Act (Labor Management Relations Act) restricting union practices and permitting the states to ban union security agreements.

RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company Strike

Telephone Strike
1949 CIO expels two unions for alleged Communist domination

Hawaii Dock Strike

1950 CIO expels nine unions for alleged Communist domination

United Auto Workers and General Motors sign a contract that provides for pensions, automatic cost-of-

living wage adjustments and guaranteed increases over the life of the contract

"Salt of the Earth" Strike of New Mexico Miners begin

1951 UAW president Walter Reuther elected president of CIO
1952 President Truman seizes the steel industry when the steel companies reject the Wage Stabilization Board

recommendations. Supreme Court rules the action unconstitutional

George Meany becomes president of the AFL

Steel Strike

1953 AFL and CIO agree to a "no raiding" pact. AFL expels the International Longshoremen's Association for corruption

Louisiana Sugar Cane Workers' Strike

1954 Kohler Strike begins

1955 United Auto Workers win supplementary unemployment benefits in bargaining with Ford

AFL and CIO merge with George Meany as first president, Walter Reuther as vice-president.

Southern Telephone Strike

1956 East Coast Longshoremen's Strike

Steel Strike

1957 AFL-CIO expels Teamsters, Bakery Workers, and Laundry Workers for corruption
1959 Congress passes the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (Landrum-Griffin), which regulates the internal affairs of unions

Steel Strike

1960 Civil rights sit-ins begin at Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, NC.

Negro American Labor Council founded

General Electric Strike

Seamen's Strike

Mother Jones, UMWA organizer, dies at age 100
1962 Presidential executive order gives federal employee's union’s right to bargain with government agencies.

New York City Newspaper Strike begins

East Coast Longshoremen's Strike
1963 Congress passes Equal Pay Act prohibiting wage differentials based on sex for workers covered by the

Fair Labor Standards Act

1964 Civil Rights Act bars discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin
1965 United Farm Workers Organizing Committee formed

California Grape Workers' Strike

1966 New York City Transportation Strike
1967 Copper Strike begins
1968 Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., while supporting sanitation workers.

New York City Teachers' Strikes

1969 Charleston, South Carolina, Hospital Workers' Strike

Black Lung compensation bill passes in West Virginia after mass demonstrations by UMWA members

1970 Postal strike is first nationwide strike of public employees

Hawaii becomes the first state to allow local and state government employees the right to strike

Congress passes the Occupational Safety and Health act
1970 General Motors Strike

Postal Workers' Strike: President Nixon declares a national emergency and orders 30,000 troops to New

York City to break the first nationwide postal strike.

Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act takes effect after passing Congress December 30, 1969

1971 New York City Police Strike
1972 Farah Clothing Workers' Strike and Boycott

Lordstown, Ohio, Auto Workers' Strike

Philadelphia Teachers' Strike begins
1973 United Farm Workers, led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, is chartered by the AFL-CIO

1974 Coalition of Labor Union Women is founded (CLUW)

Congress passes the Employment Retirement Income Security Act regulating all private pension plans

Baltimore Police Strike

Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers union activist Karen Silkwood is killed during investigation of Kerr-McGee nuclear plant in Oklahoma
1975 First legal statewide public employees' strike in nation's history occurs in Pennsylvania

Washington Post Pressmen's Strike begins

1977 Bituminous Coal Strike begins

Coors Beer Strike and Boycott begins

J.P. Stevens Boycott begins

Willmar, Minnesota, Bank Workers' Strike

1978 Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Newspaper Strike begins
1979 Lane Kirkland becomes president of the AFL-CIO
1979 Independent Truckers' Strike
1980 Joyce Miller of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union becomes the first woman to sit on the AFL-CIO executive board
1981 President Ronald Reagan fires most of the nation's air traffic controllers for striking illegally and orders their union, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Association, decertified.

400,000 unionists, the largest labor rally in American history, takes place in Washington in protest against the policies of the Reagan administration.

Baseball Players' Strike
1983 Phelps-Dodge Copper Strike begins
1984 Yale University Clerical Workers' Strike
1985 Hormel Meatpackers' Strike begins

Los Angeles County Sanitation District Strike

Yale University Clerical Workers' Strike
1986 Trans World Airlines Flight Attendants' Strike

USX (United States Steel) Lockout begins

After years of lawsuits and passage of local legislation federal asbestos in schools regulations are


1987 Paper workers' Strike and Lockout begins

Professional Football Players' Strike

1989 Eastern Airlines Workers' Strike

Mine Workers' Strike against Pittston Coal Company

1990 UMWA Pittston Strike ends, miners ratify a new contract
1991 Three hundred thousand unionists march in Washington, DC to demand workplace fairness and health care reform

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