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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: San Francisco | Labor & Workers
Labor Fest: San Francisco General Strike Walk
Jack Heyman of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU),local 10, and Labor Historian/activist Louis Prisco conducted a tour of the waterfront sites where major events led up to the general strike of 1934. The following image, The Funeral Procession Two Slain Strikers, by Victro Arnautoff. Copyright the estate of Victor Arnautoff.
The San Francisco general strike of 1934 was the culmination of decades of exploitation and strife on the west coast waterfronts. One of the major demands of the workers was for an independent union with their own hiring hall. Prior to '34, dock workers were hired in the "shape up," a corrupt system where potential workers had to pay a bribe to the "gang boss" or "Crimp" for a day's work. As Louis Prisco pointed out, "an excellent example of this can be found in the film, On The Waterfront, 1954, with Marlon Brando."
The strike began with the longshoremen and maritime workers and soon included the Teamsters Union after the shipping companies employed "scabs" to move the cargo. The violence and deaths of the two strikers at the hands of the police only inflamed the situation. The funeral procession of the fallen men up Market Street on July 9th brought thousands of sympathic blue collar workers into the strike, peacefully shutting down San Francisco and Alameda counties.
The strike was successful and a new era was born.
As Jack Heyman Stated, "radicalization of the bay area was a direct result of the '34 Strike."
For more information:
A Terrible Anger:The 1934 Waterfront and General Strikes In San Francisco, by David f. Selvin, 1996.
Endangered Dreams, The Great Depression In California, By Kevin Starr.1996
At the corner of Mission and Steuart Streets strikers Howard Sperry and Nicholas Counderakis were gunned down on what became known as "Bloody Thursday," July 5, 1934.
Pier 28 was the location of several important events early in the strike. Harry Bridges, soon to become a major figure in the waterfront labor movement, was fired here for supporting the union.
The eldest, youngest, and the tour guides at the ILWU hiring hall near Fisherman's Warf. The union was victorious, they got their hall.