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Today in Labor History

Sept. 20, 1887 
According to folklorist John Garst, steel-drivin’ manJohn Henry, born a slave, outperformed a steam hammer on this date at the Coosa Mountain Tunnel or the Oak Mountain Tunnel of the Columbus and Western Railway (now part of the Norfolk Southern) near Leeds, Ala. Other researchers place the contest near Talcott, W. Va.

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Updated: Sep. 20 (12:43)

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The 1934 Minneapolis Strike
Updated On: Feb 26, 2014

In May 1934, Teamsters Local 574 in Minneapolis, Minnesota set out on a campaign to organize all the transportation workers in the city. When employers refused to recognize the union, Local 574 struck the city’s trucking operations.

Some 35,000 building trades workers showed their solidarity by also striking. Although the strike was settled on May 25, employers delayed honoring their commitments, prompting a resumption of the strike on July 16.

On July 20 – or “Bloody Friday” as it came to be known – police opened fire on the strikers, killing two and wounding 55. The governor declared martial law, and the National Guard occupied the Minneapolis local, arresting some 100 officers and members.

Because of the ties that had developed between the citizens and the Teamsters, a mass march of 40,000 forced the release of the Teamsters and the strike was won.

"The impact of it was that the employers were not going to be the masters of the workplace," said Teamster Jack Maloney, a veteran of the strike. "That was really what it was all about."

What happened in Minneapolis during the spring and summer of 1934 transformed the city and played a decisive role in the history of organized labor in the U.S.

The struggle was a turning point for working people: It helped to establish the right to form a union. Congress passed the NLRA in 1935 which marked the start of a new era of fairness and prosperity in American workplaces.

The strike was also a successful turning point for the Teamsters: from a craft union to a national union as over-the-road drivers continued to organize across the Midwest and the nation.

The following video tells the story of the violent strike that led to the enactment of legislation acknowledging the rights of workers to organize and bargain: the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.


 
 
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