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Chronology of Illinois Labor History (1819 – 1996)


The Apprenticeship Law provided the first protection for minors in Illinois.
The first meeting to form the first national miners’ union in the U.S. took place in Belleville, when the American Miners’ Association was formed. The Association became inactive after 1868.
Strikes of coal miners led to passage of the La Salle Black Law, which “prohibited any person from preventing any other person from working at any lawful occupation on any terms he might see fit and from combining for the purpose of depriving the owner or possessor of property of its lawful use and management.”
The Iron Molder’s International Union met in Chicago. It was described as the “largest convention of workingmen of one craft ever held on the continent” up to that time. Under the leadership of William Sylvis, the union was considered the most powerful in number, resources and completeness and the most ably led trade union in America in that period.
March: an act making eight hours a legal day’s work was passed.
May 1: “Eight Hour Day Strike”. Chicago workers led by the Molders Union tried to get employers to obey the law passed in March for eight hours to be the “legal work day in the State of Illinois.”
January: Workingmen’s Party of Illinois was organized.
Local assemblies of the Knights of Labor chartered in Peoria, Chicago, and Springfield.
Delegates from 17 trade unions met to form a Trade Council, which was the forerunner of the Chicago Federation of Labor.
During railroad strike of 1877 militia detailed to Peoria, Chicago, Decatur, Galesburg, and East St. Louis.
July 26:”Battle of the Viaduct”–U.S. troops of the Second Militia Regiment and police attacked about 5,000 workers at Halsted and 16th Street in Chicago. “Turner Hall Raid”–Police raided the hall during a meeting of the German Furniture Workers, killed Mr. Tessman, wounded many others. A judge later found the police guilty of preventing the workers from exercizing their right to freedom of speech and assembly.
April: Illinois General Assembly passed Armed Workmen Law, requiring all military organizations other than the state militia to be licensed by the governor.
Creation of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics.
April: Strike at Carne factory.
First convention of the Illinois State Federation of Labor met in Chicago and declared that May 1, 1886, would be the day for workers all over America to demand the eight-hour day.
July: Street car strike in Chicago.
May 4: Haymarket protest meeting at which a bomb was thrown, killing 8 police officers and wounding about 65 other persons.
November 11: Convicted Haymarket bombers Parsons, Spies, Fischer, and Engel were executed.
The Cole Anti- Boycott Law and the Merritt Conspiracy Law were passed as a reaction to the Haymarket affair.
Burlington Strike of engineers and firemen was the most serious labor conflict ever experienced by that railroad and raised the issue of protection of interstate commerce against boycotts and the quasi-public nature of railroads.
Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr open Hull House. Investigations undertaken by residents of Hull House led to the establishment of free employment offices, regulation of sweatshops, state factory inspection, and other progressive social legislation.
June 26: Governor Altgeld pardoned the remaining persons convicted of the Haymarket bombing–Neebe, Fielden, and Schwab.
Workers at Pullman Car Company strike over wage cuts. American Railway Union called general railroad strike in sympathy. President Cleveland sent federal troops to Chicago in defiance of Governor Altgeld.
Passage of first version of law providing for the investigation of labor disputes.
Chicago teachers organize into the Chicago Teachers’ Federation. In 1902, they affiliated wih the AFL.
October 12: Repudiation of an agreement for the eight- hour day, a wage increase, abolishment of the company store and recognition of the United Mine Workers led to the “Virden Riot”, when striking miners opposed the introduction of strikebreakers and armed guards. Ten miners and six guards were killed and about 30 persons wounded.
First public employment office opened in Chicago. Also employment agencies required to be licensed by the state.
Meat packers strike. Union members return to work under the same conditions as prior to the strike.
November: The Industrial Workers of the World was founded in Chicago.
State Department of Factory Inspection created.
Ten hour day law for women passed.
Strike of clothing workers against Hart, Shaffner and Marx in Chicago led by Sidney Hillman, which later led to the founding of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers. It was of outstanding importance for it marked the beginning of a most highly elaborated industrial government.
Occupational Disease Act passed.
Workmen’s Compensation Act passed.
Henrici strikes, Chicago. Use of excessive force by Chicago police. These strikes clarified the Illinois labor law concerning boycotts.
November: Joe Hill was executed in Salt Lake City, Utah, and brought to Chicago for a giant funeral. His ashes were later scattered at the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument in Waldheim Cemetery.
June 22:Striking United Mine Workers in Herrin clashed with strikebreakers and 22 of the latter killed. Men accused of killings tried and acquitted.
Amalgamated Trust and Savings Bank of Chicago started. It was sponsored by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers and was the first bank ever sponsored by a union.
July 21: WCFL, the Voice of Labor premiered with two hours of music.
Children required to complete elementary grades before going to work.
Split in the United Mine Workers led to creation of the Progressive Miners of America.
Italian labor organizer, Giovanni Pippan was murdered during his campaign to organize the Italian bread wagon drivers of Chicago.
Illinois Six Day Work Week Law was passed.
General Assembly enacted Workmen’s Occupational Diseases Act and the Industrial Homework Law.
Pekin became the smallest American community ever to experience a general strike, which was called to protest the unfair employment practices of the American Distilling Company. The strike left the town completely paralyzed for three days.
Eight hour day law for women was passed.
Unemployment Compensation Act passed.
February 17: workers at Fansteel Corporation staged a sit-down strike to gain recognition of their union. This strike later led to a decision of the U.S. Supreme court declaring the illegality of such strikes.
May: “Memorial Day Massacre”–Ten men were killed and eight wounded in a Memorial Day clash between police and members of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee at the plant of the Republic Steel Company in South Chicago.
Act passed making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, or creed in training or employment by firms operating under governmental defense contracts.
Equal Pay for Women Act passed.
Chairman of Montgomery Ward refuses to comply with War Labor Board orders to extend contract signed in 1942. President Roosevelt orders seizure of Ward’s property in Chicago, with Secretary of Commerce as manager. After union elections, the seizure was terminated until December 27, 1944, when an executive order authorized the Secretary of War to seize all Ward’s property to force compliance with War Labor Board orders which Ward’s was flagrantly ignoring. The seizure was terminated in 1945 by President Truman.
The Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations opened at the University of Illinois. Its three-phase program included: extension services for civic, labor, and management groups, research and information, and professional instruction at the University.
August 21: Strike against International Harvester by the United Electrical Workers.
Fair Employment Practices Act passed.
The Chicago Teachers’ Union was recognized by the Chicago Board of Education.
Representatives of four railway operating unions met in Chicago to form the United Transportation Union.
May 22: First strike by Chicago teachers lasting 3 days.
August 5: Founding meeting of the Illinois Labor History Society.
Illinois Minimum Wage Law passed.
Agreement, called the Chicago Plan, negotiated between U.S. Department of Labor, area building contractors, and nine Chicago-area building trades unions by which goals for hiring minority workers were established.
Coalition of Labor Union Women was founded in Chicago.
Governor Walker issues Executive Order Number 6, establishing the Office of Collective Bargaining extending bargaining rights to state employees employed in agencies under the Governor.
Illinois State Labor Relations Act and Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act passed, permitting employees of state and local government units to organize and bargain.
June 27: Staley Manufacturing in Decatur locked out 763 UPIU Local 7837 members.
June 21: UAW Members began a strike at Caterpillar, Inc., plants in Peoria, Decatur, and Pontiac.
Strike at Bridgestone/Firestone plant in Decatur
December 2-3: UAW members rejected Caterpillar offer, but central bargaining committee ended strike.
Trailmobile locked out members of UPIU in Charleston.