July 16, 2017
On this day in labor history, the year was 1934.
That was the day fatalities on Bloody Thursday touched off a four day general strike in San Francisco. It was the first time a
general strike had shut down a major U.S. port city.
The strike had been raging since May. Workers battled with police days earlier as the shipping bosses tried to force open
Two workers were killed.
More than 40,000 poured into Market Street to march silently in their funeral procession. Outrage fueled plans for a general strike.
Twenty-one unions across the city voted to walk.
In his book Strike!, Jeremy Brecher notes the momentum for a general strike was unstoppable, despite attempts by AFL
leaders to prevent it.
By 8 a.m. on this day, the San Francisco General Strike began.
Over 150,000 workers including teamsters and butchers, restaurant and transit workers joined longshoremen and seafarers in shutting down the ports, the city and the highways.
But as Brecher points out, the strike was met with a powerful counter-attack.
Hundreds of special deputies were sworn in.
The National Guard was called out, “complete with infantry, machine guns, tank and artillery units; state officials were poised on the edge of
declaring martial law.”
Vigilante raids began on the 17th, with assaults on the Marine Workers Industrial Union and the offices of the Western Worker newspaper and strike
Many other gathering places and homes where strikers regularly met were also
Hundreds were rounded up, beaten and arrested.
The city’s Central Labor
Committee authorized exceptions that eroded the strike’s power.
In the face of violent
raids and opposition from AFL leaders, the General Strike Committee voted to end the