Learn What Happened Today in Labor History: March 12

Today in Labor History, March 12, 1904 – Workers completed the first tunnel under the Hudson River, after 30 years of drilling. The tunnel connected Jersey City and Manhattan. Many tragedies occurred during the project. But the worst was in 1880, when the tunnel flooded, killing 20 workers on one day.

Today in Labor History, March 12, 1912 – The IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) won their Bread and Roses Strike textile strike in Lawrence, MA. During the strike, the cops kept arresting the women for loitering. So, they began to march as they protested. This was the first known use of the moving picket line. Additionally, the workers spoke 22 different languages and came from 24 different nationalities. So, the IWW provided each language group their own delegate on the strike committee and complete autonomy. For their part, the bosses hired Pinkertons to infiltrate the union and pose as workers. (Sources: The Lucy Parsons ProjectLibcom.org, IWW)


1912 – Shingle workers went on strike in Raymond, WA.

Today in Labor History, March 12, 1928 – In California, the St. Francis Dam failed, killing 431 people. The dam was designed and built by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. This department was under the direction of engineer, William Mulholland, for whom the famous street was named. Mulholland also designed the Los Angeles aqueduct, to divert water from the Owen’s Valley to the semi-desert community of Los Angeles. This led to the California Water Wars and the decimation of Mono Lake. It was also the inspiration for the film, Chinatown.

Labor History, March 12, Saint Francis dam fails, William Mulholland
Saint Francis dam, By Stearns, H.T. USGS – Public Domain

Today in Labor History, March 12, 1930 – Gandhi began the Salt March, a 200-mile march to the sea, to protest the British monopoly on salt in India.

1996 – Rioting erupted in Timika, Irian Jaya (Indonesia), disrupting Freeport mine operations. Over 1,000 Irianese workers rampaged through town, hijacking cars and damaging buildings. Rioting against the Freeport mine spread to other neighboring towns, as well.

The 2000s

Today in Labor History, March 12, 2003-Author Howard Fast (b1914) died. He wrote the novel Spartacus, which he began writing while in prison for contempt of Congress during HUAC. His crime was refusing to divulge the names of donors to an orphanage for American veterans of the Spanish Civil War (including Eleanor Roosevelt). His novel, Spartacus, inspired the Stanley Kubrick film, starring Kirk Douglas. The screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo, who was also blacklisted for refusing to testify before HUAC.

2004 – Steelworkers approved a settlement with Oregon Steel Mills, Inc. This ended the longest labor dispute in the USWA’s history and resulted in more than $100 million in back pay for workers. (Labor Tribune)

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