Labor History in 2:00

August 29 Steelworkers Strike

August 29, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1941. 

That was the day 2500 steel workers at the Pressed Steel Car Company near McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania walked off the job. 

It was the second walkout in two weeks. 

Workers effectively shut down production of armor plate for the Navy, shell forgings for the Army and railroad cars used to transport military materiel. 

The company had gone back on promises of holding a collective bargaining election. 

Steelworkers Organizing Committee sub-regional director, Abe Martin told The Pittsburgh Press that while the union had not called the strike, workers had “walked out themselves because they are fed up with the company’s discrimination against them.” 

SWOC had been trying to organize the plant for years. 

But the company had engineered an election for a so-called, independent union 18 months earlier, when the complex was only operating at half capacity. 

Workers walked out at the beginning of the month and ended their strike on the guarantee that negotiations for a new election would begin. 

But when they returned, they found that some were stripped of seniority while others were forcibly transferred to new departments.

The day before, machine shop workers on the afternoon shift were fed up and dropped their tools. 

Word spread throughout the evening and by early morning, picket lines were solid and production had come to a complete standstill. 

When the company tried to force reopening of the plant after Labor Day, 1500 workers formed picket lines at the gates to stop scabbing. 

They returned to work 10 days later in compliance with a request by the National Defense Mediation Board. 

The NLRB rejected SWOC’s election petition two months later, but SWOC persisted and won exclusive bargaining rights the following June.


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