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February 22, 2018
Posted On: Jan 24, 2018

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

In the current Steward Update newsletter
The Most Famous Union Grievance in the Country
Whether you’re a dedicated football fan or completely oblivious to sports, chances are that you’re familiar with the name Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick—”Kaep” to his fans—was well-known in the football world since joining the San Francisco 49ers in 2012 as a quarterback, but has been making national headlines since 2016, when he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality in America. His actions inflamed the NFL establishment and the conservative media, even as other players from across the league and other athletes followed his lead.

Labor Quote
Equal Pay for Equal Work
"When we talk about equal pay for equal work, women in the workplace are beginning to catch up. If we keep going at this current rate, we will achieve full equality in about 475 years. I don't know about you, but I can't wait that long."
—Lya Sorano, founder, Women in Business

Labor Cartoon
H.L. Schwadron

Steward Tip
Looking for Leverage: When You’re Good, You’re Lucky
Leverage—an edge that can help you win a workplace fight with management—involves good organizing and hard work. A steward who "luckily" finds leverage also routinely works at internal organizing—keeping his co-workers up to date and involved in what the union is doing and what everyone can do to help keep the union strong. Organizing around grievances creates a pressure to settle that can be a steward’s best leverage. That’s not a new thought, but it is surprising how many stewards neglect basic organizing tactics when filing a grievance:
• You need an initial evaluation of how to get more members involved in the problem, possibly with a group grievance rather than an individual one.
• You need effective communication and publicity about a grievance in the affected area.
• You need to encourage visible signs of support—stickers, buttons, T-shirts, or ribbons, for example.
• Most of all, you need real planning about the most effective way to push the issue. You need to look at it as a campaign, not just as the filing of a routine grievance form.

—Excerpted from The Union Steward’s Complete Guide (2nd Edition, Updated)

Today in Labor History
January 24
Krueger’s Cream Ale, the first canned beer, goes on sale in Richmond, Va.  Pabst was the second brewer in the same year to sell beer in cans, which came with opening instructions and the suggestion: "cool before serving" - 1935

January 25
Sojourner Truth addresses first Black Women’s Rights convention - 1851
The Sheet Metal Workers Int'l Association (SMWIA) is founded in Toledo, Ohio, as the Tin, Sheet Iron and Cornice Workers’ Int’l Association - 1888
Two hundred miners are killed in a horrific explosion at the Harwick mine in Cheswick, Pa., Allegheny County. Many of the dead lie entombed in the sealed mine to this day - 1904
(The novel Sixteen Tons carries the reader down into the dark and dangerous coal mines of the early 
1900s, as Italian immigrant Antonio Vacca and his sons encounter cave-ins and fires deep below the earth’s surface. Above ground, miners battle gun thugs and corrupt sheriffs at Virden, Matewan and Ludlow in an epic struggle to form a union and make the mines a safer place to work. Historian Kevin Corley’s depiction of miners’ lives is based on his own interviews with mining families.)
The Supreme Court upholds “Yellow Dog” employment contracts, which forbid membership in labor unions. Yellow Dog contracts remained legal until 1932 - 1915
Some 16,000 textile workers strike in Passaic, N.J. – 1926

The federal minimum wage rate rises to 75 cents an hour - 1950
January 26
In what could be considered the first workers’ compensation agreement in America, pirate Henry Morgan pledges his underlings 600 pieces of eight or six slaves to compensate for a lost arm or leg. Also part of the pirate’s code, reports Roger Newell: shares of the booty were equal regardless of race or sex, and shipboard decisions were made collectively - 1695

Samuel Gompers, first AFL president, born in London, England. He emigrated to the U.S. as a youth - 1850
The Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America is chartered by the American Federation of Labor to organize "every wage earner from the man who takes the bullock at the house until it goes into the hands of the consumer." - 1897
Workers win a two-day sit-down strike at the Brooklyn electric plant that powers the city's entire subway system - 1937
A handful of American companies announce nearly 60,000 layoffs today, as the recession that began during the George W. Bush presidency charges full-tilt toward what became known as the Great Recession - 2009

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten.

Steward Update Weekly is brought to you by your union and Union Communication Services—Worker Institute at Cornell ILR, publisher of the Steward Update print edition newsletter, which provides union stewards with helpful information and advice. We hope the Steward Update Weekly will be a helpful tool in your important work as a steward for your union; if you have questions or suggestions on how the Weekly can be more useful, please email us at

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