Labor History Articles

A Look Back

Fighting for Workplace Safety

(05/2017) (This article first appeared in the May-June 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

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 designed to protect workers across industries.

A Look Back

The Great 1970 Mail Strike that Stunned the Country

(03/2017) (This article first appeared in the March-April 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.) 

In March of 1970, the United States had been in a financial and commerce standstill for two weeks. Tired of poor working conditions and low pay, postal employees went on strike at 499 post offices in 13 states. Mail piled up and went undelivered while the eyes of the nation were focused on the strikers. Time magazine wrote that it was “the strike that stunned the country.” 

A Look Back

January-February Labor History Milestones


Strikers marching during the 1912 “Bread and Roses” textile strike. 
Photo courtesy of the Lawrence History Center

(This article first appeared in the January-February 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.

January 11, 1912 – The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) organized the “Bread & Roses” textile strike of 23,000 workers, including immigrants from many different countries, in Lawrence, MA. A new state law changed the work week from 56 hours down to 54 hours per week. The mill owners docked the pay of the workers for the lost two hours, while at the same time speeding up the looms to make up for lost production. Textile workers walked off the job shouting “Short pay!” when they realized their weekly pay was cut.

A Look Back

Labor History Milestones

(11/2016) (This article first appeared in the November-December 2016 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

A letter carrier delivers a live baby, which became outlawed in 1916 when post office management set a weight limit on packages and barred the shipment of humans.
Courtesy of The Smithsonian Institute

Let's take A Look Back at some Labor History milestones that took place in November and December: 

November 17, 1916 – To the relief of Post Office Department employees, management set a limit of 200 pounds per day to be shipped by any single customer. Builders were finding it cheaper to send supplies through the post office rather than wagon freight. In one instance, 80,000 bricks for a new bank were shipped Parcel Post from Salt Lake City to Vernal, UT, 170 miles away. The weight-limiting directive also barred the shipment of humans: a child involved in a couple’s custody fight was shipped – for 17 cents – from Stillwell to South Bend, IN, in a crate labeled “live baby.”

A Look Back

Labor History Milestones


St. Paul public school students join teachers on the picket line.

(This article first appeared in the September-October 2016 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine

Let's take a Look Back at Labor History milestones that took place in September and October:

October 1946 – In 1946, the idea of a teachers’ strike was revolutionary. But faced with severe underfunding, nearly 90 percent of St. Paul, MN, public school teachers voted in favor of an illegal work stoppage. The strike wasn’t only about pay – teachers walked picket lines for better schools. As a result, they enjoyed wide support, with students and parents joining their protests. The strike began in 3-degree weather, and lasted for five weeks. The teachers suspended the strike after St. Paul officials agreed to designate city funds to schools. 


With Help from Women’s Movement, Canadian Postal Workers Score Big Win for Families

(07/2016) A little solidarity can go a long way. Thirty-five years ago, Canadian postal workers launched a 42-day strike for paid maternity leave – and won. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) was the first federal union in Canada to win 17 weeks of paid maternity leave – and they did it by building an alliance with the women’s movement.

Women Workers Defy Their Boss and Win a Union


New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug, right foreground, walks a picket
line supporting striking Farah workers in Houston on Feb. 10, 1973.

(This article first appeared in the March-April 2016 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.) 

Factory boss Willie Farah said he’d rather be dead than see his company go union.

But the women workers in his clothing factory had something up their sleeves.

Between 1972 and 1974, thousands of Farah Manufacturing Company workers walked off the job, organized a nationwide boycott, and won a union. Eighty-five percent of the strikers were women, and almost all were Chicano, or Mexican-American.

Their fight for a union also changed the way the women saw their role in society: They became leaders – at work, at home, and in their communities.

Paul Robeson: Internationally Acclaimed Performer, Champion of the People


Robeson signs autographs after a 1924 concert for naval workers.
Photo courtesy of Robeson Family Trust and Marilyn Robeson

(This article first appeared in the January-February issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Paul Robeson was an internationally acclaimed singer and actor, an outstanding athlete and intellectual, an outspoken advocate of racial justice and workers’ rights, and a fierce opponent of colonialism and fascism.