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 the sidewalk in front of the hardware store where the two strikers were killed. On the sidewalk, written in chalk, "Police Murder. 2 ILA men killed- shot in the back," written several times. The area around the writing is cordoned off with a ring of flowers with a union flag and an american flag along with a newspaper are near the wall of the store. Further down the street is a group of men looking up at the little memorial. The two men who were killed were Howard S. Sperry and Nickolas Bordoise. Their deaths were the instigation of call for a city wide general strike. 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

Picture This Information

This artifact is part of the OMCA's Picture This website. More about the context and history of this artifact is available at Picture This.

About the Picture This web project: California's Perspectives on American History is a resource for teachers and students to learn about the experiences of diverse peoples of California by using primary source images from the Oakland Museum of California's collections. Organized into 11 time periods spanning from pre-1769 to the present, more than 300 photographs, drawings, posters, and prints tell stories from the perspectives of different ethnic groups. Historical contexts are provided to offer a framework of California's role in relation to American history.

The National Archives state that primary sources, "fascinate students because they are real and they are personal: history is humanized through them." Picture This invites students to examine the historical record, encouraging them to connect history with real people and explore how images tell stories and convey historical evidence about the human experience. History becomes more than just a series of facts, dates, and events.      

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