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Labor History Timeline

Excerpted from: AFL-CIO, Labor History Timeline, and Congressional Digest Federal Labor Laws (June-July 1993)

Building a new nation

1607   English planters found Jamestown colony and complain about lack of laborers
1619   Slaves from Africa first imported to colonies
1664   First slavery codes begin trend of making African servants slaves for life
1676   Bacon’s Rebellion of servants and slaves in Virginia
1677   First recorded prosecution against strikers in New York City
1765   Artisans and laborers in Sons of Liberty protest oppressive British taxes
1770   British troops kill five dock workers in Boston Massacre
1773   Laborers protest royal taxation in the Boston Tea Party
1775   American Revolution begins
1786   Philadelphia printers conduct first successful strike for increased wages
1787   Constitution adopted
1791   First strike in building trades by Philadelphia carpenters for a 10-hour day Bill of Rights adopted

Struggles for freedom

1800   Gabriel Prosser’s slave insurrection in Virginia
1806   In Commonwealth v. Pullis, the Mayors of Philadelphia ruled unions to be an illegal conspiracy
1808   Slave importation prohibited
1834 First turnout of “mill girls” in Lowell, Mass., to protect wage cuts
1835   General strike for 10-hour day in Philadelphia
1842   Commonwealth v. Hunt decision frees unions from some prosecutions, ruling that unions are legal organizations and strikes are a legal means of advocacy
1843 Lowell Female Labor Reform Association begins public petitioning for 10-hour day 
1847   New Hampshire enacts first state 10-hour-day law
1848 Seneca Falls women’s rights convention
1860   Great shoemaker’s strike in New England
1861   Abraham Lincoln takes office as President and Civil War begins
1863   President Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation
1865   13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishes slavery


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