September 21, 2009

The year 1934 marked a turning point for the working-class struggle during the Great Depression, with three strikes in three cities–Toledo, San Francisco and Minneapolis–that showed workers could fight back and win. Clause 7(a) of the National Industrial Recovery Act, passed in 1933, had granted workers “the right t into organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.” But workers had to make the letter of the law a reality through their own battles with emp

THE SAN Francisco General Strike in July 1934–or the Big Strike, as it was known locally–developed as part of a West Coast maritime strike that, at its height, involved more than 130,000 workers in the Bay Area and about 200,000 coast-wide, bringing key sectors of the economy to a standstill.

Despite their strategic position in the economy, longshore workers suffered terrible conditions even before the onset of the Great Depression. Essentially reduced to temporary workers, most had to stand in demeaning “shape-ups” every morning, hoping a foreman would pick them for a day’s work. This system lent itself to bribery, favoritism and abuse, and pitted workers against one another for jobs.

After the defeat of the 1919 longshore strike, the maritime bosses forced all workers to join a company union, called the Blue Book, and anyone who tried to organize a real union was summarily fired. This set-up meant that union control of the hiring hall became the central demand in organizing on the docks.

Read this interesting, historical article – Source: The battle for the docks |