Category Archives: Labor History

The Bread & Roses Strike

The 100th Anniversary of the Great Lawrence Strike of 1912, popularly referred to as the Bread & Roses Strike, begins January 2012. A number of events have been planned to commemorate this historically significant event. The Bread and Roses Centennial …

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Why Teach Labor History?

The Role of Labor Classroom Materials

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Wisconsin Teaching Labor History Law

Wisconsin is implementing the nation’s first state law requiring the
teaching of labor history and collective bargaining.

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Labor History Timelines

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Harry Renton Bridges



(1901-1990)
Melbourne, Australia

Fifteen years after he set foot in San Francisco 1920, Harry Bridges was at the forefront of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which was the first US union to actively fight against racism. He led the longshoreman’s San Francisco General Strike (May 9, 1934), notable for “Bloody Thursday” and being first industry-wide strike in US history…

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César Estrada Chavez



(1927-1993) Yuma, Arizona

César lived amongst former migrant workers and endured the conditions and racial issues that affected them. Starting his political work with the Community Service Organization (CSO) in 1952, he founded the United Farm Worker’s (UFW) in 1962…

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Nelson Hale Cruikshank

(Click Here) Nelson Hale Cruikshank helped create Social Security and Medicare

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Eugene Victor Debs



(1855-1926) Terre Haute, Indiana

Eugene V. Debs was born in a wooden shack in Terre Haute, Indiana on February 5, 1855. At age 16 he became a locomotive fireman, stoking fires on the early prairie railroads. His years working on the railroad affected him so deeply that when the local of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen was organized in 1875 Debs played an active role…

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Thomas Reilly Donahue



(1928-) New York City, New York

Donahue grew up in an Irish Catholic family in The Bronx, New York, the son of Thomas R. and Mary E. Donahue. After completing his elementary and secondary schooling, he joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 17, serving as a seaman from 1945-1946…

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Arthur Goldberg

(Click Here) Arthur Goldberg was a labor strategist for the union movement and former Secretary of Labor

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Samuel Gompers



(1850-1924)
London, England

Samuel Gompers emigrated in 1863 to New York, where he followed his father’s trade of cigar making and became a naturalized citizen in 1872. As a labour leader, Gompers gained a worldwide reputation for conservatism. In a period when the U.S. was bitterly hostile to labour organizations, he evolved the principles of “voluntarism,” which stressed that unions should exert coercion by economic actions, i.e., strikes and boycotts…

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William Green

(Click Here) Former AFL president, moved the federation toward “social reform unionism.”

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Joe Hill

(Click Here) Songwriter, itenerant laborer, union organizer-and martyr.

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Sidney Hillman

(Click Here) Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America founder. Often credited with inventing trade unionism as we know it today.

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Mary Harris Jones (Mother Jones)


The Workers’ Warrior

One of the most colorful figures in American labor history is Mary Harris Jones, “Mother Jones.” Frequently showing up at strikes and rallies, she was known as a real “hell raiser.” While she is most often recognized for her comment, “Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living,” many of her speeches were profound and prophetic…

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Lane Kirkland

(Click Here) Former AFL-CIO president – had a profound effect on world affairs.

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John L. Lewis

(Click Here) President off the United Mine Workers (UMWA) and founding president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).

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Lucy Randolph Mason

(Click Here) Social reformer dedicated to workers’ rights and racial justice.

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Peter McGuire

(Click Here) The “father” of Labor Day and of May Day – championed the need for a national federation.

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George Meany


(1894-1980)
“The basic goal of labor will not change. It is — as it has always been, and I am sure always will be — to better the standards of life for all who work for wages and to seek decency and justice and dignity for all Americans.”
-George Meany…

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Phillip Murray

(Click Here) CIO president who helped transform the industrial union movement into a stable powerful organization.

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Kate Mullaney

Click here to read about Kate Mullaney

Click here to visit Kate Mullany National Historic Site Website.

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Albert Parsons

Click here to read about Albert Parsons.

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Frances Perkins


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Served Secretary of Labor and held the distinction of being the first women to serve in a presidential cabinet position.

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Esther Eggersten Peterson


(Click Here)
Eloquent and effective advocate for the rights of workers, women and consumers.

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A. Philip Randolph




“The essence of trade unionism is social uplift. The labor movement has been the haven for the dispossessed, the despised, the neglected, the downtrodden, the poor.”

A. Philip Randolph

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Walter Reuther


(Click Here)
Long-time president of the United Automobile Workers (UAW) considered the model of a reform-minded, liberal trade unionist.

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Bayard Rustin


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Brilliant theorist, tactician and organizer and the first head of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute.

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Albert Shanker

Click here to read about Albert Shanker.

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Linda Chavez-Thompson


Lubbock, Texas

Linda Chavez-Thompson became the highest-ranking woman in the labor movement when she was first elected to the new position of AFL-CIO executive vice president at the federation’s 1995 convention. Born in Lubbock, Texas, on Aug. 3, 1944, Chavez-Thompson was elected to the AFL-CIO Executive Council in 1993…

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The History of Labor Day

Click this link to learn about The History of Labor Day.

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A Cry for Justice: The Voices of Chinese Workers

Click this link to read about: “A Cry for Justice: The Voices of Chinese Workers”

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Courses on Labor History and Related Topics

The American Labor Studies Center receives numerous inquires from teachers who are interested in
locating a complete course of study on the topic of labor history. Often they hope to have their
school district adopt a version of the course as an elective offering or, at the very least, they
plan to select certain topics for inclusion in a specific course they are already responsible for
teaching…

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Employee Free Choice Act & Labor Law History

The Employee Free Choice Act, supported by a bipartisan coalition in Congress, would enable working people to bargain for better benefits, wages and working conditions by restoring workers’ freedom to choose for themselves whether to join a union…

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