8 in HIGH x 10 in WIDE
(20.32 cm HIGH x 25.40 cm WIDE)
The Oakland Tribune Collection, the Oakland Museum of California. Gift of ANG Newspapers

Photo shows a crowd of people standing outside the Oakland Auditorium (Kaiser Convention Center next to the Museum). Some people are sitting on the steps and others are standing around. In the background is the parking lot with several cars parked there and Lake Merritt. Probably a support rally for the striking dock workers in San Francisco and Oakland. Labor union unrest during the Great Depression affected San Francisco in the spring and early summer of 1934. Wages were falling across the country and California employers took advantage of the national trend by slashing wages, extending work hours, and attempting to break unionization. Labor unions had gained some control among waterfront workers after World War I but employers began discrediting any one associated with the union calling them 'bolshevicks' because of the presence of the Industrial Workers of the World. San Francisco Waterfront Employers formed their own company union and painted all independent attempts at bargaining for labor benefits with a "red brush." Between 1921 and 1933, San Francisco employers had managed to made the city into an open-shop community. But things were going to be changing with the election of Franklin Roosevelt to the presidency. The National Recovery Act permitted workers to organize and elect representatives of their own. San Francisco waterfront laborers chose to establish their own branch of the International Longshoremen's Association. In 1933 they obtained a charter from the national organization and organized most of the waterfront workers in the city to this union. One of the leaders of the union became Harry Bridges, an Australian immigrant, former sailor and dock worker. The waterfront workers wanted from their employers a increase in wages, the work week be shortened to thirty hours, a coastwide labor agreement be negotiated, that the union be given control of the hiring halls, and for nationwide bargaining to prevent one port from undercutting wages or breaking strikes in another port. Natuarally the employers refused and the International Lonshorement's union of San Francisco went on strike on March 7, 1934. By May 15, the seamen's union also joined the maritime strike. They were later joined by the ships clerks' and licensed officers' labor unions. The Oakland waterfront also went on strike in support of the San Francisco waterfront workers. The San Francisco employers tried to break the strike by slinging accusations that the strike was led by communists. A charge flung at Harry Bridges many times later in his career. On July 15, 1934, a day remembered as "Bloody Thursday," a confrontation developed between around six thousand strikers gathered at the Embarcadera were challenged by police. The violence went one for hours covering several blocks. Rocks were thrown, fires set, and the police used clubs and tear gas. Somewhere along the line shooting broke out and two union strikers were killed and more were gassed and clubbed by the police. A few days later, about 15,000 people accompanied the bodies of the two murdered strikers up Market St. in San Francisco. The union responded by calling for a city wide general strike, the second important one in American history. Around 127,000 workers walked off the job, freezing the entire city from July 17-July 19. Stores, restaurants, and factories were closed, food deliveries and public transportation stopped; even construction on the Bay Bridge came to a grinding halt. Around 125 unions in the Bay Area, including 70 in Oakland, united in support of the waterfront workers. One estimate said that 100,000 workers were off the job with ramifications felt in other cities that did business with San Francisco and Oakland or who also supported the strike. After the first day, National Guardsman occupied San Francisco's waterfront with bayonets afixed to their weapons at the order of Governor Merriam. Naturally the strike made headlines across the country and the administrator of the National Recovery Administration went to California to denounce te general strike. Growing national disapproval, probably because of the claims that strike was a communist inspired act, made many of the striking workers return to their jobs. The waterfront workers continued to strike until it became clear that mediation of the disputed points would occur. The mediators eventually gave the unions control of the hiring halls as well as some of their other demands. The strike cause tension between the unions and employeres for years afterward but the unions have remained strong. (Information provided by Ralph J. Roske, "Everyman's Eden: A History of California." New York: The MacMillan Company, 1968; 505-506 and Beth Bagwell, "Oakland: The Story of a City." Presidio: 1982; 217-221."

Used: Oakland Tribune

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