MN Women & Work History Timeline 1930 - 1997
1930 - 1934
1930’s: Nellie Stone Johnson, a black female labor leader, was the first woman to serve on a national committee to negotiate equal pay for women.
• 1930’s: High school became the main determinate for a young worker’s employment training. Many students were tracked according to their family history, race and gender. Students from working class families generally received courses in industrial arts, service, and clerical work, and they learned values of discipline, respect of authority, and ability to follow rules. Their middle and upper-class counterparts generally received courses in management, college prep, home economics, and learned values of initiative and drive. Students from rural communities tended to drop out of school at a higher rate as they were needed to help work on the farm. By 1940 over half of rural boys, and almost forty percent of rural girls did not attend high school.
• 1930: Minnesota’s unemployment rate reached 15,000 or roughly 18.5% of the population. Over 12,000 people attended a mass meeting in Minneapolis to hear a discussion regarding the unemployment problems. The State Federation continued to call for shorter hours, better wages, unemployment benefits, and a total ban on child labor.
• 1930: Full-time, year-round employment participation of all women was 34.1%. Of this, 14.4% were married, and the rest were single, widowed or divorced. 39.1% of all Black women were employed; 20.3% of immigrant foreign born women were employed; and 38.5% of American born white women were employed.
• 1930: An Urban League study found that two thirds of Minneapolis workers of color were employed in three hotels as either waiters, maids, or housemen. Outside of these areas, workers of color could be found in the railroad industry as waiters, porters, and car cleaners, or within the meat packing industry.
• 1932: The Seventh Street Club for Girls opened to provide temporary housing, food, and counseling for unemployed women in Minneapolis. The Club served an average of 50 women per day, and was sponsored in part by the Women’s Occupational Bureau (which assisted over 10,000 women that year) and the Federation of Labor. The Club assisted with the short term needs of female workers, but failed to address the basic need for women to achieve wage parity with their male counterparts and to obtain employment outside of domestic and clerical jobs. Meridel Leseuer noted that women were often isolated from their own gender in employment and in housework and would turn to men or starve in private.
• 1933: Federal Programs for work relief began with the Civil Works Administration, which was designed to alleviate unemployment and create projects for workers. As with other relief programs in the New Deal, the CWA neglected to incorporate plans for women in their original design. The planners assumed family men should be the primary recipients of aid, and women, whether single or married, were not assumed to not require work relief or assistance. After protests from women across the nation (including Eleanor Roosevelt) CWA projects began to accept women’s applications. Within one year, nine-thousand women in Minnesota were working on over six hundred CWA projects. Male workers were assigned to construction work, while female workers were assigned to cleaning, sewing, social service, and office work.
• 1933: The state’s pro-labor House of Representatives supported measures to regulate the work hours of women to 54 hour a week. This legislation was countered by efforts to restrict the number of women eligible for work relief and to completely restrict married women from working.
• 1934: The International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), local 183 was formed in St. Paul. The initial organizing drive was led by a small dress shop with less than one hundred workers. The garment trade generally consisted of older, non-married women who were the sole supporters of their family. Many employers used a piecework approach to the work, which encouraged women to work faster, not take breaks, and to take work home in order to finish their quota. The union supported higher wages for women, better working conditions, and paid sick leave. The ILGWU offered classes to its members in labor history, English, labor journalism, economics, and labor film viewing During the early years of the depression, 65% of those in the clothing and textile industry were unemployed.
1934: The Teamsters called a strike for wage increases, shorter hours, and a closed shop for workers in the trucking industry. The strikers received support from the general public, and other labor organizations, while most business, newspapers, and the Citizens’ Alliance supported the company owners. The protest lasted several months and the Women’s Auxiliary group continued to play a key role. They organized soup kitchens, clothing drives, medical care, and provided many crucial services for the families of strikers. More than 300 women with their children rallied in the reception room of the mayors office and left a petition at city hall on behalf of destitute workers and their families
.• 1934: As the Teamsters strike gained national notoriety, the workers continued to engage in many forms of direct action. They picketed endlessly; took to the streets to shut down commercial traffic; and both workers and supporters led an eighteen block long parade. Another protest rally was attended by 20,000 strike supporters, but quickly turned to tragedy when the strikers violently fought with police and special deputies. Two special deputies were killed, one of which was a board member of the Citizen’s Alliance.
• 1934: The final phase of the Teamsters strike became one of the states bloodiest labor struggles. July 20, which became known as “Bloody Friday,” police and strikers once again battled in the streets. Heavily armed police opened fire at point blank range on a group of unarmed strikers, killing two and wounding sixty-seven others, most which were shot in their back. An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 attended the funeral of Henry Ness, one of the murdered strikers. Governor Olson called out the National Guard, raided the headquarters of both the Teamsters and the Citizen’s Alliance, and required both sides to adhere to mediation. After all was said and done, many believe the truckers came out ahead.
• 1934: After the bloody Teamsters strike was resolved sporadic violence continued to break out. After A. William Brown and another Teamster organizer were murdered, Teamster leaders organized the Workers Defense Corps, and publicly announced they were buying rifles and ammunition for target practice. President Franklin D. Roosevelt initiated an investigation of local Teamsters leaders, which resulted in the indictment and prosecution of 15 Teamsters for sedition.
• 1934: The Minneapolis Central Council of Workers was organized by and for unemployed workers and relief workers. They assisted in the Truckers strike by walking the picket line and helping staff the commissary.
1935 - 1939
1935: After the CWA was abolished in 1935, the Emergency Relief Administration (ERA) was instituted which provided employable jobs skills to semi-skilled and unskilled women who were heads of families or self-supporting. ERA jobs included, sewing, leisure and health projects, with nearly half of the 6500 workers assigned to sewing. A resident summer school for women was opened with the objective of making them more employable. The school took in 100 students, ages 18-30, per summer, and emphasized training, physical recreation, health and hygiene.• 1935: The Work Progress Administration (WPA) was established by New Deal legislation on a semi-permanent basis to take the place of the Civil Works, the CCC, and the ERA. The WPA employed roughly 10% of the labor force and by 1936, a 500 worker sewing project had become one of the first WPA projects to organize its workers as part of the Federal Workers Section. As with other government work relief programs, jobs were assigned according to gender, regardless of the workers skills. The Cass Lake WPA sewing group further segregated its workers by race: one group for white women and a separate group for women of color. Married women who accepted work were seen as a threat to male workers: they took work away from men who "rightfully" deserved it. Under the New Deal, women were only considered in relationship to the family, and the morality of non-family women was subject to scrutiny. Women who received mother’s pensions (later known as Aid to Dependent Children) could not work WPA projects; married women were not eligible unless their husbands were deserted or disabled. Organized labor and the Federal Workers Section sought to improve women’s situation in the relief system through court battles and demonstrations.
• 1935: An ILGWU strike at three factories, including Manhattan Cloaks, was quickly resolved after the companies signed an agreement that provided for a closed shop, minimum wage, a 35 hour work week, and pay for holiday and overtime. Less than six months later, workers at Manhattan Cloak were out on strike again due to the company’s failure to adhere to their agreement. The company responded by locking out all of their fifty-five Minneapolis workers and moving the facility to St. Cloud. The ILGWU continued to fight and held demonstrations outside of the new factory. Replacement workers honored the union’s boycott and staged a walkout, leaving only 10 of the 45 female employees behind factory doors. A regional labor board forced the owners to comply with their original agreement and required the company to return to Minneapolis.
• 1935: A strike at the Strutwear Knitting Company lasted for more than eight months and its success led to the establishment of a union local; a union contract; and women’s involvement in the union. The strike was initiated by 150 workers after the company cut wages and enforced a company-run union. The skilled workers, who were mostly male, were expected to pay 25 cents in union dues or they would be forced to leave the company. The workers resisted and organized Local 38 of the American Federation of Full Fashioned Hosiery Workers. Initially the union only organized the skilled workers, but eventually won the support of the female production workers who composed the majority of workers at the plant. After eight workers were dismissed for union activity, union leaders called a strike and the Strutwear plant was shutdown. By the time the plant tried to open on the fourth day, 3000 workers and union supporters formed a picket line. Strikers constructed a coffin and held a funeral to symbolize the death of the company-run union and violence broke out as police escorts for scab workers clubbed the strikers. Fearful that more violence would ensue, Governor Olson called out the National Guard. Strutwear eventually agreed to all of the strikers demands, except the reinstatement of eight workers, which was to be decided in court.
• 1935: The Citizens Alliance put continual pressure on government agencies to restrict relief allotments to workers who engaged in strikes. The Minneapolis welfare board responded and rewrote the regulation to restrict eligibility for Work Progress Administration assignments. Workers picketed the WPA offices to demand equal access to relief work at a minimum union wage to be available to all workers. A committee of the Hennepin County Farmer Labor WomenÕs Club found that the by denying young women on relief their work, they are forcing them to accept jobs at starvation wages...and possibly into prostitution. The relief cuts were eventually restored.
• 1936: An important step for many female clerical workers was reached when union organizer Florence Huber raised the membership of the SBTA, Local 17661 from 23 in 1936, to over 600 in 1938. Newly organized workers always asked for union wage scales (some workers pay by increased by 30%,) higher pay for skilled job classifications, paid vacations, and seniority rights. Males continued to command the SBTA leadership, although the union was now predominately female. Both Huber and her female replacement faced open hostility and sexism on the job. The Minneapolis Central Labor Union made comments such as, “it’s a man’s job to organize.” Florence Huber’s sister, Claire Strong Broms, organized a Housewives Union in St. Paul.
• 1936: Women who worked the WPA sewing project workers protested an unauthorized reduction in salary, and a week later they protested against filthy working conditions at a Medicine Lake site. The protest lasted for 10 days and resulted with the protest leaders being transferred to a hospital project where they were promptly discharged.
• 1936: The Minnesota State Federation of Teachers is established with the purpose of organizing more union locals in the state.
1936: Members of the ILGWU began to organize workers at Boulevard Frocks. When union organizers signed up seventy of the factory’s six-hundred workers, the company an anti-union drive. One woman was fired after joining the union; employers divided the workers into separate classes and paid some workers higher wages than others. A union contract was eventually signed but the workers settled for substantially less than they were asking.
• 1936: The ILGWU also began to organize workers at Munsingwear, a large manufacturer of undergarments and hosiery. Munsingwear had a long history of anti-unionism and company paternalism, and the its officers were members of the notorious Citizen’s Alliance. Within a year, 200 workers had signed with the ILGWU, however union organizers could not successfully mobilize the 2000 employee work force. Munsingwear began to negotiate with the Textile Workers Organizing Committee (TWOC) and the CIO. After two mass meetings, the TWOC managed to gain a contract which offered minimal benefits to the workers.
• 1937: Female workers at the Strutwear Company formed the Strutwear Hosiery Workers Auxiliary as a place to deal with their unique problems. The women outnumbered men at the plant, yet the men had control of the union leadership; women were excluded from the higher paying positions; and they were absent on contract negotiating committees. The women union members could not form a separate union of their own, so they formed an auxiliary. The auxiliary received respect and support from the chairman of the shops committee, however several male workers felt the auxiliaries and women were trying to take over the union leadership. The auxiliary focused on social and educational events, and developed a union culture through after work activities By 1939, women entered the previously all-male rank of knitter.
• 1938: The Minimum Wage Advisory board established a minimum wage for female workers, which ranged from 11 to 15 dollars per week. Seven hundred of the state’s 4200 garment industry workers received a raise, and during the first six months, total wage adjustments reached $15,000. The garment and textile factories, and many smaller firms argued unsuccessfully that these wages should only apply to single, self-supporting women.
• 1939: Labor unions adopted a resolution affirming a woman’s right to work regardless of her marital status. Strong lobbying by the Business and Professional WomenÕs Association and the League of Women Voters prompted the state to purge employment bills that contained discriminatory practices. During the legislative sessions of 1937 and 1939, labor organziations and women’s advocates sponsored legislative measures which indirectly affected access to, and the conditions of, work for women.
• 1939: Eight clerical workers at a trucking firm engaged in the first SBTA strike. Truck drivers for the company refused to cross the picket line during the week-long protest. The strike ended victoriously when the trucking firm negotiated a contract that allowed a five dollar a week wage increase and some guarantees of health insurance.
• 1939: Work Progress Administration strikes broke out over wage cuts and lay-offs at the Minneapolis Sewing Projects. When 6000 predominantly female workers experienced a 30% pay cut or lost their job, the entire morning shift of WPA employees walked off the job to protest. Over ten thousand workers and their supporters led a three mile long parade to the state capitol. There the workers unsuccessfully demanded immediate reinstatement of laid off workers, an increase in relief budgets, and an enlargement of workers pensions.
• 1939: Widespread strikes occurred after WPA agencies announced a series of reduction measures: wages would be cut to a uniform level, regardless of skill level or seniority; hours would increased; 4000 workers would be laid off; and workers employed for more than 18 months were fired. Workers at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds were the first to respond when they laid down their tools, walked off the job, and advocated a general strike. Soon, 9,000 workers walked off the job in Hennepin County, 5,000 in St. Paul, and 1,500 in Duluth. Violence broke out a three sites, two were at the sewing projects. When police were called to the picket line of sewing workers in Minneapolis, they began swinging their clubs at the crowd and injured a few picketers. When WPA projects opened a few days later, nearly one thousand strikers and supporters shouted at the scab workers. The police escort fired tear gas and bullets at the crowd, injuring 14 and killing an unemployed worker. A picketer at another site was stabbed by a relief worker. When the state administrator threatened to dismiss the workers under a five-day absence rule, many workers returned, although some stayed off the job for over a week.
1940 - 1949
1940’s: As the number of enlisted men in World War II increased, the government encouraged women to participate in the waged workforce. Just as in the first World War, women were welcomed back into male-identified positions, and married teachers were welcomed back in the schools. The Minneapolis-Moline Power Implement Company, a local defense plant, recruited women with promises of equal pay for equal work. Many women once again performed the same types of unwaged work: sewing, nursing, and fund-raising. Between in 1940 and 1945, the number of female workers increased by 54%, or 60,000 workers. The majority of new jobs were in the manufacturing field, where women now worked in positions once held by men. Between 1942 and 1945, over 40,000 women were employed in the defense sector. This time, women began to view their participation in the workforce as a more permanent commitment. Seventy-five percent of the women wished to keep their jobs once the war was over. However, after the war, women were once again forced by the government and the employers to relinquish their positions to the male workers.
• 1940’s: Labor union were faced with a new challenge with the increasing number of women in the workforce. Many unions leaders initially resisted allowing women into their ranks, but eventually allowed them to join. Women had to pay dues, but the unions did little to further their working conditions and rights. Some unions fought for equal pay simply because they feared the male workers would be paid less if they performed the same job as a woman. Before the war was over, nearly 60,000 women were affiliated with a labor union, compared to 20,000 before the war.
1940’s: As W. W. II progressed, defense plants began to allow Native Americans and blacks to work within their plants. 10,430 skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers were needed to work in 13 plants to assist the war effort. Firms which had previously barred blacks from working within their plants, except as janitors, now began recruiting them in earnest. Munsingwear hired its first black female worker in 1943, and by the year end, they had hired 30 minority workers. Labor union were forced to adjust their policies as well to allow minority workers to join rank. Before WWII, black workers were barred from most unionized jobs, due to either industrial or union discrimination.
• 1940’s: Approximately 70,000 Native American men and women left the reservations to join the military or obtain work in the factory or defense plants. After the war, employers quickly replaced them with white workers. Many Native American workers remained in the city, but faced job discrimination, unemployment, and poverty. Some turned to seasonal work of fishing, producing rice, and timber work. None of which could fully support most Native American families.
• 1940: Newly hired female workers began a organizing a union at Honeywell Regulator Company through their informal networks. The company had a notorious history of anti-unionism and discouraged workers from joining through discriminatory wage increases, detective agencies, and open coercion of union employees. Two of the organizers for the new union were fired for their activities. The company claimed the workers were fired due to their marital status, although they retained several married workers. The organizers were reinstated after the case went to trial.
• 1943: Union members at Hormel’s Austin were granted a charter as members of the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA), Local 9. The UPWA was quite progressive for their time: they fought for wage parity between women and men, and welcomed black workers into their union.
• 1944: The Minnesota Democratic Party and the Farmer-Labor party joined forces to create the DFL. Labor leader, Nellie Stone Johnson played a prominent role in organizing the party and became a trusted advisor to Hubert H. Humphrey.
• 1945: Minnesota labor unions denounced a proposed Equal Right Amendment for women. They believed that the ERA would endanger all legislation enacted to protect workers, such as the minimum wage, maximum hours, and workers compensation.
• 1945: Women were allowed to work as cab drivers during the war. The female drivers had fewer accidents and fewer complaints than the men they had replaced. Many hoped in vain that their superior records would lead to full time employment.
• 1945: The Bartenders International Union Local 287, fought to ban the hiring of female bartenders and argued that women would jeopardize the industry or they would give the industry a bad reputation if they were employed. Legislation was introduced by the Commission on Public Safety that declared female bartenders to be destructive liabilities to a business. Both the union and the Commission successfully asked the city of Minneapolis for an ordinance to restrict women from employment in the industry.
• 1946: The Federation of Women Teachers and the Men Teachers Federation of St. Paul joined forces to initiate the first organized teacher’s strike in the United States. They protested unequal pay between the sexes, unequal pay between elementary and secondary female teachers, and merit pay that was based on favoritism.
• 1947: Nellie Stone Johnson secured endorsements for the Minneapolis Fair Employment Practices Act, which outlawed job discrimination in the city. The country did to pass similar legislation until the 1960’s.
• 1948: The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers decided to strike in the midst of a cold winter after experiencing several pay cuts.
• 1949: Toni Stone, a black woman from St. Paul, became the first woman to play professional baseball when she signed with the Indianapolis Clowns.
1950 - 1997
1950’s: Education and job training for female workers had steadily declined during the past decades, leaving women less likely to participate in the waged workforce. The percentage of female college students declined from 47% to 35.2%. Most women who did attended college were funneled into home economics courses or secretarial training courses.
1950’s: Employed Middle-class and upper-class women often times viewed their work as temporary, and were not as involved in issues of pay equity, equal opportunity, and sex-discrimination as their working-class sisters.
• 1950: The Minnesota Council of Churches published, ”Minnesota and her Migratory workers.” Their report drew attention to the miserable working conditions and wages endured by migrant workers, and it provided suggestions for improvement at both the community and government levels. Migrant workers were denied equal protection under minimum wage laws, child labor laws, workers compensation, unemployment insurance, and because they were not unionized, lacked collective bargaining rights. The workers generally did not protest or organize their labor for fear of being fired, blacklisted, or deported. Approximately 16,000 migrant workers settled in the farming communities of the Red River Valley, Crookston, Moorehead, Albert Lea, Owatonna, Hollandale, St. James, and Madelia after the war. Sugar beets farms required approximately 6,000 workers for a successful season. Because of the long hours and paltry wages, many workers would have their entire families (including children) laboring in the fields with them. Workers generally earned $1 an hour, but were required to reimburse their employer for transportation costs to and from Minnesota, roughly $45. The workers also paid about $13 per week in meals, and the government took 20-25% of their check for housing costs and savings and housing costs, which left many migrant workers forever in dept.
1953: Laura Zemlin founded Opportunity Workshop, Minnesota’s first vocational training program for the developmentally disabled. The organization quickly grew from 15 to 700 clients.
• 1955: Minnesota passed the Human Right Act which prohibited discrimination in employment, and strengthened both the Civil Right Act and the Equal Pay Act.
• 1955: Labor activist Nellie Stone Johnson lobbied for legislation designed to outlaw any form of job discrimination within the state. Her efforts were rewarded when the state passed its Fair Employment Practices Act. This Act protected people’s right to obtain and hold employment without discrimination.
• 1958: The People’s Centennial Book Committee was formed and published The People Together, a labor histography of Minnesota’s first 100 years. The Committee included many notable authors and activists such as: Meridel LeSueur, Carl Ross, and Irene Paull.
• 1960: The University of Minnesota was among the first in the nation to develop and offer Continuing Education for Women courses designed to prepare mature women to enter the waged workforce.
• 1962: The League of Women voters conducted a study which determined that women were still discriminated against in the waged workforce, but felt it was a result of the different types of lives women led. Many working women disagreed with their findings and believed that discrimination was a result of unfavorable stereotypes and biases against female workers.
• 1965: Governor Karl Rolvaag organized Minnesota’s Commission of the Status of Women which, among other areas, studied employment of female workers. The study uncovered a definite and general pattern of discrimination against women in the waged workforce, which included discrimination of wages, promotions, titles, job categories, and programs such as maternity leave. Discrimination was also very apparent at the University of Minnesota. Women were severely underrepresented in all professional degrees and were forced to endure additional testing. For example, in medical school where women only consisted of 5.6 % of the students, and married women had to pass a special interview before they were accepted. Their law school graduated 3% women, and the school of dentistry had only one woman in 1964. The Commission proposed a law be passed to ensure equal pay for equal work, set a minimum wage as most women were in minimum wage positions, and overcome discrimination. Two years later, a supplemental report came out giving the Commission an “A” for their research and a “F” to the male-dominated legislature for their lack of action.
1967: The Minnesota Human Rights Act was passed and covered a wide-range of basic rights for all persons, including the right to employment, and membership in labor unions. This Act also created the Minnesota Department of Human Rights to investigate reports of discrimination, and advise people of their rights.
• 1970’s: Women finally began to be hired as full-time workers in the iron mines.
• 1970: Minnesota author Kate Millet, publishes a revolutionary book titled Sexual Politics, where she discusses womenÕs unwaged work as a form of oppression.
• 1970’s: Minnesota legislators passed legislation which made it illegal for an employer to fire a woman based on her marital status or her sexual preference.
• 1970: The Minnesota Chapter of the National Organization for Women was founded. Their goals include securing rights for all women in the waged and unwaged workforce.
• 1970: Minneapolis teachers vote to strike for smaller class sizes and higher salaries. The teachers received support from other unions across the state, and the strike ended within a month.
• 1973: Although it was eventually defeated, Minnesota ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have strengthened existing anti-discrimination laws regarding gender, and would have reinforced the laws regarding equal employment practices.
• 1973: Title IX was passed which required schools give equal access to males and females involved with sports programs that receive federal funding. The coverage extended to the employment and salaries of coaches, trainers and support staff. Twenty four years later, only one-third of Minnesota schools are in compliance.
• 1974: The Child Labor Standards Act was passed and established minimum standards for age requirements, and where and when children can work.
• 1976: The Commission on the Economic Status of Women was established in St. Paul. The Committee serves as an advisory board to study issues of pay equity and occupational segregation, and employment patterns.
1977: Eight women initiated the first bank strike in Minnesota history, and possibly the first strike against gender based wage discrimination and unfair working conditions. The all-woman union, known as the Willmar 8, picketed daily in front of the bank for 18 months during a record-cold winter. The women received an enormous amount of support from women across the national, and were the focus of two movie documentaries. Although the EEOC did find discriminatory practices were involved at the bank, the NLRB did not find in favor of the strikers, and the strikers lost their bid.
• 1978: A non-profit advocacy program, From Prostitution to Independence, Dignity, and Equality (PRIDE), was established for women in the sex-work industry.
• 1980’s The American Indian Women’s Resource Center was established and assisted Native American women with education, job training, and job placement.
• 1980’s: Women Involved in Farm Economics (WIFE) was established as a result of declining farm prices. WIFE was an advocacy and support group for women working on their family farm.
• 1980’s: Occupation segregation remained apparent for Minnesota’s women, with 76% of employed women working within clerical, service, sales, nursing, or teaching positions. Once in these positions, women were often times relegated to the lower end of the job hierarchy. Women consisted of 77% of elementary school teachers, however they only held 36% of the secondary school teaching positions, and a mere 14% of the administrative positions. Women were also paid unfairly, earning only 57 cents for each dollar earned by men.
• 1980: Minnesota Working Women, an affiliate of the national organization, "9 to 5,” was founded as an advocacy group for service and clerical workers.
• 1980: Employment rates rose 20% for women since the 1960’s, from 34.4% to 54%. Marriage rates remained roughly the same, and men began to assume a small portion of the unwaged housework.
• 1984: Six thousand members of the Minnesota Nurses Association went on strike against fifteen hospitals to protest low wages and unfavorable working conditions. The nurses won their strike and brought national attention to the professional status of traditionally female dominate occupations.
• 1984: Minnesota becomes the first state in the nation to implement pay equity, also referred to as comparable pay for comparable work, for all local and state government jobs. Pay equity addressed gender-based wage discrimination by requiring government employers to use gender neutral criteria when determining wages. The majority of workers who received a wage adjustment increase were women who were employed in female-dominated positions, such as clerical and health care. Implementation of pay equity for 35,000 of the state’s 190,000 employees was completed by 1986, at a cost of 3.7 percent of the state’s total payroll.
1984: Hormel Corporation imposed a 23% wage cut on the workers, stating that they needed to remain competitive, despite the company boasting millions of dollars in profits. CEO, Richard Knowlton excluded his own $339,000 salary from the 23% wage cut.
• 1985: Members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local P-9, employed at HormelÕs Austin plant voted to go on strike for a wage increase, job safety, and an increase in their standard of living. After daily picketing didn’t produce desired results, P-9 turned to Ray Rogers of Corporate Campaign. Rogers’ strategy involved expanding the strike to include First Bank Systems, which held 15 percent of HormelÕs stock. The NLRB found that the campaign against First Bank was an illegal secondary strike, and prohibited further protests against them.
• 1985: Women played an integral role during the strike and formed the Austin United Support Group. Members of the Support Group worked the picket line, facilitated fund raising activities, provided emotional support to union families, spoke at public events, distributed food, and organized clothing exchanges.
• 1986: After Hormel announced plans to reopen their plant with permanent replacement workers, strikers organized a picket to shut down the plant. P-9 members sent a roving picket line to Hormel plants in Iowa, Texas, and Nebraska, and Hormel workers who honored the roving picket line were immediately fired. The union received an enormous amount of support from other union locals, farmers, and peace activists, including Jesse Jackson. The union did not receive the critical support from UFCW leaders, nor from Governor Perpich, who called out the National Guard to discourage further dissent. Hormel’s stronghold on Austin was very similar to the mining company’s control of Iron Range communities. Without Hormel anchoring the town, the majority of workers would be unemployed and small businesses would cease to exist. This left some community members either silent or siding with the company. The union eventually lost their battle when the UFCW placed the union local in trusteeship, and P-9 organizers were evicted from the union headquarters. A new contract was adopted which greatly benefited the company, and over 1,000 union jobs were lost during their struggle.
• 1985: Evelina Giobbe founded W.H.I.S.P.E.R. (Women Hurt In Systems of Prostitution Engaged in Revolt), an advocacy group for women in the sex-work industry.
• 1987: Minnesota’s third and sixth congressional district led the nation with 68% of all families having more than one working member.
• 1987: Workers at American Linen Supply Co. in Hibbing, St. Cloud, and Bemidji went on strike over dangerous working conditions, pension plans, and unfair labor practices. The workers at St. Cloud and Hibbing were unsuccessful in their efforts and went back to work without a contract or a union. The seven female strikers in Hibbing, known as the "Hibbing 7," held out and won their case after five years of protesting. The women were awarded almost a half million dollars of back-pay and benefits, and were reinstated in their jobs.
• 1988: Unisys Corporation closed five plants, and eliminated thousands of jobs in the process. The corporation relied heavily upon defense contracts for their production work. When the number of contracts decreased, Several of the downsized workers formed a committee to develop alternative ideas on how the plant could use their technology to manufacture non-military products. State legislature, Karen Clark, proposed a bill which encouraged the defense contractors to research these alternative products instead of laying off their workforce. Unfortunately, the bill was defeated by three votes. The employees at Unisys gained national recognition for their inventiveness, creativity and willingness to fight for their jobs.
• 1993: A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that women continued to represent the majority of Minnesota’s part-time workers, constituting 71.4 percent of the part-time workforce. Overall, 21.2 percent of employed persons worked part-time, only 17.5 of them voluntarily.
• 1994: The Agricultural Women’s Institute (AWI) was founded in Rochester by Julie Gay. The Institute addressed concerns of female farmers, who tended to be ignored by the government, agricultural suppliers, and academia.
• 1994: The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) won a big organizing victory at a Hibbing electronics firm. The mostly female workforce of 350 organized over their concerns of hazardous chemicals and unfair treatment. Female union members and organizers from the Twin Cities incorporated new technology to organize the workers, including, videotaping discussion groups, and long-distance conference calls.
• 1995: Fifty female nursing home workers in Walker successfully struck against Beverly Enterprises, the nations largest privately owned nursing care corporation, over unfair labor practices and wages. During one protest, a striker was hit by a car driven by a scab worker who failed to stop and report the incident. More than 250 people attended a rally in support of the workers.
• 1995: Minnesota had the highest percentage of employed women of any state in the nation. 70% of women 16 and older were in the workforce, compared to 59.3% nationally.
• 1997: While 70% of Minnesota women were employed in the waged workforce, only 1 in 10 women held top corporate positions, and women held a mere 6.25% seats on the board of directors. A survey found that 70% of women in top positions believed that stereotyping of female workers, exclusion from networks, and an inhospitable corporate environment, were significant factors in women being excluded from top positions.