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Legal Milestone List

  The Great Ferris Fire
  Berrien County Courthouse
  Elloitt-Larsen Civil Rights Act
  Milliken v. Bradley
  Elk, Oil, and the Environment
  Whisper to Rallying Cry
  Poletown & Eminent Domain
  Prentiss M. Brown
  Otis Milton Smith
  Freedom Road
  President Gerald R. Ford
  Mary Coleman
  Committee of One
  Milo Radulovich
  Striking Racial Covenants
  Murphy's Dissent
  Conveying Michigan
  Ending Jim Crow
  Pond's Defense
  Mount Clemens Pottery
  Emelia Schaub
  Rose of Aberlone
  Protecting the Impaired
  Laughing Whitefish
  The Uninvited Ear
  The King's Grant
  Improving Justice
  One Person—One Vote
  Eva Belles' Vote
  Constitutional Convention
  Ten Hours or No Sawdust
  Access to Public Water
  Augustus Woodward
  Sojourner Truth
  Justice William Fletcher
  Roosevelt-Newett Trial
  Cooley Law Office
  Baseball Reserve Clause
  Ossian Sweet Trial

9. Ten Hours or No Sawdust

The Saginaw Valley was the hub of the nation's lumber industry in the late 19th century, and the site of early ferment in Michigan's labor movement.

Complete Text on Milestone Marker

Ten Hours or No Sawdust

In June 1885, the legislature passed the state's first 10-hour employment law, but employers and employees could by contract evade the statute. When the lumber mill owners insisted on continuing the 11- or 12-hour workday, the workers who were paid by the day struck. Their slogan was "Ten hours or no sawdust."

The strike, which became violent, grew into Michigan's largest of the century. By September, however, it was clear that the mill owners would not accede to the workers' demands. The strike ended with workers still putting in 11 or 12 hours or receiving reduced pay for 10-hour workdays.

A few years later, Governor John T. Rich, referring to strikes of the era, said: "It is hardly consistent to condemn labor organizations for taking the law into their own hands unless some lawful and practicable method is provided for the protection of their interests."

Protection against unfair working conditions for which the Saginaw lumber mill workers went on strike did not become reality until the next century, when the laws regulating hours, wages, and working conditions we take for granted were adopted.

Placed by the State Bar of Michigan and the Saginaw County Bar Association, 1988.



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