Side A: Organized efforts to establish an eight-hour workday existed as early as 1866 in the United States. The Cleveland Rolling Mills Strikes of 1882 and 1885, as part of this almost-70-year struggle, contributed to the establishment of the eight-hour workday. Both strikes challenged the two-shift, twelve-hour workday in addition to seeking recognition of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers. The first strike – by English, Welsh, and Irish skilled workers – was at the Newburgh Rolling Mills, a major producer of steel rails for the rapidly expanding railroad industry that once stood near this site. It was quickly broken when unskilled Polish and Czech immigrants, unaware of the ongoing labor dispute, were hired. The strike ended when these new workers did not support the union. (continued on other side)
Side B: [continued from other side] In 1885, unskilled workers staged a more violent strike following a series of wage cuts. Carrying the American flag, they marched into downtown Cleveland demanding government intervention. Riots ensued, and Mayor George Gardner ordered company president William Chisholm to restore wages. The strike ended as a result of Gardner’s intervention, but strike leaders were blacklisted, the union was broken, and the twelve-hour workday remained. The eight-hour workday movement continued to gain momentum in the 1880s. Many industries voluntarily adopted the modern schedule, but the 1886 Haymarket Riots in Chicago marred the movement’s reputation. In response to the riots, May 1st was designated an international holiday in honor of laborers. Not until the Wagner Act of 1936 established the 40-hour workweek was the eight-hour day institutionalized in the United States.
Sponsors: The Ohio Bicentennial Commission, Shett Metal Works Local #33, and The Ohio Historical Society