general strikes in california

map of california

1946, december 3 - 4 - oakland workers declare a "work holiday"
the events leading to the general strike, one of only a handful in the nation's history, began in the fall of 1946. faced with the continuing resistance of oakland's retail merchants to unionization at hastings and kahn's department stores in downtown oakland, 400 clerks from those stores went out on strike in late october. in early december, the strike escalated when store management, backed by oakland's city government and conservative business elite, enlisted the aid of police to clear away pickets and protect strike-breaking delivery trucks. american federation of labor unions (afl) throughout alameda county voted to strike in solidarity with the clerks. on december 3, 1946, 100,000 workers from 142 afl unions--including workers from factories, industries, services, retail stores, transportation systems and more--declared a "work holiday" and walked off their jobs. the general strike lasted until city and labor leaders settled on a compromise agreement, returning workers to their jobs on december 5. in the months that followed, the populist oakland voters league brought together progressive factions in the city to elect four out of five labor candidates to the city council.

excerpted from we called it a work holiday: the 1946 oakland general strike, an exhibit presented by the oakland museum of california.

an article on this strike was also published in the people's weekly world, a publication of the communist party u.s.a.

1934, july 5 - ? - san francisco maritime strike escalates to a bloody city-wide conflict

longshoremen and other maritime workers in san francisco had been on strike since may 9. no goods were being loaded or unloaded in the city's ports. on july 3, the industrial association (ia), an association of employers and business interests, began moving goods from the docks to warehouses, under police protection provided by the city. rioting began as workers from throughout the city tried to prevent the movement of freight. rioting spilled over to the eastern shores of the bay, as reports of police and striker violence came from oakland, alameda and berkeley.

the international longshoremen's association (ila), which had been leading the maritime strike called on all other unions in the city to send workers to the waterfront to help stop the transport of cargo to storage. thousands answered the call. no moving truck in the industrial section of south-of-market san francisco was safe from the throngs of strikers and strike supporters. police responded to the rioting with heavy beatings, tear gas and arrests.

though the city was quiet the next day, as the ia decided not to move any freight on the national holiday, labor leaders called for a citywide general strike to start the next day. as that day began, rioting erupted to a level of violence that, to this day, has marked it as "bloody thursday." over 2000 national guards troops were sent into san francisco by governor merriam to "establish peace." what ensued was quite the opposite. three strikers were killed, 31 were shot and hundreds of others were tear gassed, clubbed, beaten and stoned. gunfire was routinely directed into crowds, streetcars and houses.

with the introduction of national guardsmen, martial law was imposed throughout the city. machine guns and riflemen were posted at all intersections and on top of most buildings in south-of-market. anyone walking on the street was stopped at 50 feet and, if they did not halt, were shot. under national guard protection, bay bridge construction, which had been interrupted by the rioting, resumed.

in the following weeks, there was little of the mass rioting experienced in the first days. there was, however, a heavy red-baiting campaign conducted by the mayor's office with the cooperation of the local press. it culminated in mass arrests of communists and several vigilante attacks on radical centers on july 16. a pattern repeated itself at each location. a gang of inidentified individuals would arrive at a location, barrage the exterior with bricks, trash the interior and beat up anyone they found inside. once the gang fled, police radio cars would arrive and rest all "asserted communists." over 350 people were arrested. none of the vigilantes were persued or arrested. police captain deguire said that "this was to be the first of a series of raids on all asserted communist headquarters in san francisco."

the museum of the city of san francisco has an extensive exhibit on this strike. neither it (nor any of my other sources) describe how and on what date this strike ended. if you have this information, please e-mail me.

the world : north america : united states : california