California has a rich history of working people standing together to fight for the very rights and workplace protections we consider fundamental to this day. See below for a look into how workers have shaped the Golden State for generations!

Special thank you to Fred Glass with the California Federation of Teachers for generously sharing excerpts from his book, From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement, available for purchase at the University of California Press

Animated cartoon sponsored by union played role in reelecting Roosevelt

Approaching the 1944 presidential election at the height of World War II, it was unclear whether Franklin Delano Roosevelt, already elected to an unprecedented three terms, would make it to the finish line again.  The Democratic Party had taken a battering in the 1942 congressional elections, with their Republican opponents picking up nearly fifty seats.  The Democrats retained a slim majority, but momentum seemed to be going in the wrong direction.  Creative action to win the election was called for.

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Open Shop II: Union organizing campaigns

A rapidly growing Los Angeles economy and a population that leaped from one hundred thousand to a third of a million between 1900 and 1910 demanded new buildings, new services and more workers to provide them.  Despite the prevailing official optimism about life in sunny southern California, many recently arrived working people found themselves living and toiling in unexpectedly difficult circumstances. When union organizers went looking for workers to sign up, it wasn’t hard to find them, even within the city’s repressive open shop atmosphere. 

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Los Angeles at the turn of the last century: How it worked when there were no labor laws

This installment illuminates the mean streets of Los Angeles in the early 1900s for many workers, especially ironworkers.  Unionizing against the Citizens Alliance was an uphill battle.  This story can also be found in California Federation of Teachers Communications Director Fred Glass’s book on University of California Press, From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement. Available here.

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Struggle for the eight hour day

This installment of the California labor history series is excerpted from Fred Glass’s book on University of California Press, From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement.

In 1863 a prolonged strike of tailors for higher pay led to the formation of the first central labor body in the state, the San Francisco Trades’ Union.  Fifteen unions from diverse trades joined to coordinate activities of common interest to their members.  The outstanding leader of the San Francisco Trades’ Union was Alexander Kenaday.

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