August 1 Teamsters Fighting for a Future

August 1, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1934. 

That was the day National Guard troops in Minneapolis raided Teamsters local 574 headquarters. 

Over 150 were arrested, including top strike leaders Bill Brown and the Dunne Brothers, who were imprisoned in military stockades.

Troops also seized union records and files. 

Then they raided the Central Labor Union, seizing records and forcing out dozens of area labor leaders. 

Teamsters had been battling the trucking bosses and the Citizens Alliance throughout the spring and summer in what would be a turning point for industrial organizing. 

Finally, drivers agreed to a tentative settlement on the 25th, but the bosses rejected any deal, refusing to negotiate with ‘Reds.’

Farmer-Labor Party Governor Floyd Olson declared martial law the next day. 

4,000 troops arrived, issuing unlimited military permits to scab drivers. 

By month’s end, over 7,500 scab trucks were rolling throughout the city! 

Local 574 challenged the martial law: they demanded that peaceful picketing and open-air meetings be reinstated; they wanted troops withdrawn from the city; and they wanted all truck movement halted for 48 hours.

When Olson rejected these demands, a mass rally was called for the 31st to mobilize strike support. 

25,000 turned out to the Parade Grounds, cheering strike leader Bill Brown, who declared, “the Farmer-Labor Party is the best strikebreaking force our union has ever gone up against!” 

Historian Bryan Palmer notes the loudest and longest applause was reserved for Albert Goldman, who thundered, “If we submit without a struggle, then we deserve the fate of submissive slaves. We cannot, we dare not, submit. We call upon the workers, organized and unorganized, to clench their fists, shout defiance of the bosses, and struggle until victory or death.”

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