Saturday, May 09, 2009

75 Years Ago Today

Seventy-five years ago today the only "successful" general strike in American history began. Born of the Longshoremen's Strike in San Francisco, which spread to every port on the west coast, the San Francisco General Strike absolutely shut down all commerce and industry in San Francisco, and threatened the government of California. In general, I do not like labor unions (for a short while I was a member of the IBEW. It didn't do anything for me, and I think it was run less than democratically.). Neither do I like the Communists, who were very active in San Francisco in the months before the General Strike. A good summary of the government's and the shipping companies' perspective on the strike can be read in this story published in the San Francisco News in July 1934.

But it seems to me, that the practices of the shipping companies at that time were reprehensible: Longshoremen and stevedores had to pay bribes to the bosses in order to work. The longshoremen and stevedores had other grievances, for sure, but this one is, I think, the one that is an insult to liberty and most indicative of the black hearts of the shipping company owners. It directly interfered with what should have been a pure relationship between the seller of labor and the buyer of labor.
Today, across the street from the Rincon Towers you can see te monument erected to the longshoremen who were killed by the SFPD. A more balanced, and interestingly this shows the violence employed by the strikers, report was published in the September 1934 issue of Survey Graphic magazine.

Harry Bridges, the leader of the Longshoremen, is a hero in the labor and comunist movement around the world. His birthday is a paid holiday in many unions. Frighteningly, his birthday is also offically celebrated by the State of California nd the City of San Francisco. Arlo Guthrie sings his praises.

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