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November 24: The Cigar Makers Union

Samuel Gompers was elected president of the Cigar Makers’ International Union, Local 144, in New York on this date in 1875. The union had reorganized itself after two decades of struggle with a piecework system and the constant arrival of  immigrant laborers from Bohemia. During the economic crisis of 1877, a four-month lockout by the […]

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June 11: The 40-Hour Week

The 12,000-strong New York Furriers’ Union, a heavily Jewish union led by the hard-hitting Ben Gold, ended a half year of striking, lock-outs, police brutality, and red-baiting to win a contract on this date in 1926 that established the first guarantee in America of a five-day, 40-hour work-week, beyond which workers would be paid time-and-a-half. […]

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May 1: May Day Lovers

Labor movement comrades Bessie Abramowitz and Sidney Hillman announced their engagement while leading, arm-in-arm, the contingent of clothing workers in the Chicago May Day parade on this date in 1916. Abramowitz, six years earlier, had at age 20 sparked a major walk-out of workers at Hart, Shaffner and Marx, which won her a job with […]

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February 7: The Jewish Debs

Abraham Shiplacoff, the first socialist elected to the New York State Assembly, died in Brooklyn on this date in 1934. A labor activist and editor, he was prosecuted in 1918 under the federal Espionage Act for his outspoken opposition to U.S. military intervention in post-revolutionary Russia, but the indictment was quashed by Attorney General Palmer […]

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January 8: Sandra Feldman

Sandra Feldman became the first women elected to head the United Federation of Teachers on this date in 1986. A decade later, she would become president of the American Federation of Teachers, a position she held until her retirement in 2004. Feldman was born to a poor family in Coney Island in 1939. At age […]

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November 26: Leon Davis

Leon Davis, founder and long-time president of Local 1199, the drug and hospital workers union, was born in Russia on this date in 1906. Under his leadership for half a century, the union grew from a small confederation of drug store workers to more than 150,000 members in twenty states — mostly low-paid, highly exploited […]

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November 7: The UFT’s First Strike

More than 5,000 New York City teachers, 10 percent of the teaching work force, went on strike today in 1960, demanding recognition for their newly formed United Federation of Teachers. Another 2,000 teachers called in sick. More than 50 percent of New York’s teachers were Jewish women, according to Rebecca Kobrin (at the Jewish Women’s […]

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