August 2 Teamsters Defy Martial Law

August 2, 2017

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

That was the day striking Teamsters in Minneapolis defied martial law. 

They stopped scab trucks, forcing the release of their strike leaders.

Armed with bayonets and machine guns, the National Guard had patrolled the streets for nearly a week.

They seized scores of strikers and union leaders and threw them into military stockades. 

Drivers were outraged. 

They defied Governor Olson and Major General Walsh who, on behalf of the Citizens Alliance and trucking bosses, were determined to break the strike.

Soon after strikers were imprisoned, drivers began chasing scab trucks across the city. 

Multiple reports poured in of pickets forcing trucks to stop. 

Some unloaded their cargo onto bridges.

Others chased, captured and damaged trucks. 

Strikers ripped ignition wiring out, forced scabs from the wheel and then disappeared before police and the National Guard could arrive to retaliate. 

In just three hours, strikers had overturned nearly 70 trucks. 

Unable to stop the superior force of striking drivers, Bill Brown, Vincent and Miles Dunne were ordered unconditionally released from the military stockades. 

Now employers, the governor, and other strike breaking agencies were eager to propose peace to federal mediators. 

But they proposed to scrap the terms of their early May agreement. 

In response, the leaders of Local 574 issued a General Strike call. 

In it they asked, “Is there one man so blind as not to see that if 574 is allowed to go down to defeat, under the brutal hammering of military despotism, the whole labor movement of the city will have been dealt a mortal blow?

Union men, brothers, sisters, fellow workers! 

What are you going to do about it? 

We appeal to you for solidarity!”

 

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