Today in Labor History – May 9th


National Guard in San Francisco

coal mine exploded at Roslyn, Washington, killing 45 mine workers – 1892

Japanese workers strike at Oahu, Hawaii’s Aiea Plantation, demanding the same pay as Portugese and Puerto Rican workers. Ultimately 7,000 workers and their families remained out until August, when the strike was broken – 1909

Legendary Western Federation of Miners leader William “Big Bill” Haywood goes on trial for murder in the bombing death of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg, who had brutally suppressed the state’s miners. Haywood ultimately was declared innocent – 1907

Longshoremen began a strike for a union hiring hall and union recognition, ultimately leading to the San Francisco general strike. After World War One, West Coast long shore workers were poorly organized or represented by company unions. The IWW had tried to organize them and had some successes, like in San Pedro, in 1922, but they were ultimately crushed by injunctions, imprisonment, deportation and vigilante violence. While longshoremen lacked a well-organized union, they retained a syndicalist sentiment and militancy. Many Wobblies were still working the docks. On May 9, 1934, longshoremen walked off the job at ports up and down the West Coast, soon to be followed by sailors. Strikers were shot by the bosses’ goons in San Pedro. There was also violence in Oakland and San Francisco. Street battles between the cops and strikers continued in San Francisco, heating up on July 3, and culminating in Bloody Thursday, on July 5, when 3 workers were shot by police (two of them died). The attack led to a four-day general strike that effectively shut down commerce in San Francisco, despite police violence and attempts to weaken it by national unions – 1934

Hollywood studio mogul Louis B. Mayer recognizes the Screen Actors Guild.  SAG leaders reportedly were bluffing when they told Mayer that 99 percent of all actors would walk out the next morning unless he dealt with the union.  Some 5,000 actors attended a victory gathering the following day at Hollywood Legion Stadium; a day later, SAG membership increased 400 percent – 1937

Labor leader Walter Reuther and his wife May died suspiciously in an airplane crash. Repeated attempts had been made on Reuther’s live going back to 1938 – 1971

4,000 garment workers, mostly Hispanic, strike for union recognition at the Farah Mfg. Co. in El Paso, Tex. – 1972


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