Labor History Articles

Emma Tenayuca:

Pecan Shellers’ Strike Sparked Hispanic Workers’ Movement

(03/2012) In Depression-era south Texas, a young Mexican-American woman broke tradition when she stood up for oppressed workers in her community and made an important contribution to the fight for social justice.

Vilified by the conservative establishment that controlled San Antonio, she became a beloved leader to oppressed workers in the Mexican-American community. They called her “La Pasionaria.”

In World War II, Black Women’s Army Unit Delivered

WACs Cleared Massive Backlog, Sped Mail to Soldiers

(01/2012) In 1945, an Army battalion of African-American women played an important role in U.S. efforts to defeat Nazi forces in Europe — even though many Americans questioned their right to serve. By processing a massive backlog of mail destined for the troops, these soldiers improved the morale of America’s fighting force.

César Chávez:

‘Si, Se Puede,’ Yes, We Can

(09/2011) It is next to impossible to think of the modern labor movement — and the struggles of farm workers in the United States — without César Chávez. A firm believer in nonviolence, Chávez beat the odds and successfully organized a union of farm workers. In the process, he became a symbol of hope to millions of Americans.

Regina V. Polk: Breaking the Mold


“I only met Regina Polk once. Briefly. That’s a teamster? I thought. The beauty? The cape? The high heels? The perfect make-up? Where’s the beer belly and the donut? The scowl and the crowbar?” – Terry Spencer Hesser

Regina V. Polk fought diligently for workers’ rights, working as a labor organizer and business agent for the Teamsters in the late 1970s and early 1980s, defying stereotypes and empowering women in a male-dominated workforce.

Rev. James Orange: A Champion for Labor and Human Rights

(01/2011) Reverend James Orange played a critical role in actions that led to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and later applied his organizing skills in the fight for economic justice for workers across the south.“He was the living embodiment of the connection between the union movement and the Civil Rights movement,” former AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said in a 2008 tribute.

1913 Silk Strike United Diverse Workforce

(11/2010) A 1913 strike among silk industry workers in Paterson, NJ proved that laborers could stand up to the factory bosses who exploited them. The strike united men and women, immigrant and native-born, and skilled and unskilled workers, and although it was not entirely successful, it left an enduring legacy. The strike inspired union leaders in other industries and set the stage for their victories in the decades that followed.

OSHA 40th Anniversary:

Forty Years Later, The Fight for Safety in the Workplace Goes On

(09/2010) Before passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in December 1970, millions of Americans risked their lives every time they reported for duty: There were no national safety laws to protect workers.

Forty years ago, the groundbreaking legislation created the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), which is responsible for setting workplace safety and health regulations — and ensuring that employers nationwide comply with them.