On July 5, 1934 police attacked striking longshore workers on the San Francisco waterfront. Nick Bordoise and Howard Sperry were killed and 109 people were wounded, in what came to be known as the Battle of Rincon Hill. San Francisco labor countered with a general strike lasting four days. It was one of three strikes that Art Preis in Labor's Giant Step states, "gave heart and hope to labor everywhere for the climatic struggle that was to build the CIO." -- Preis, p. 33.
We have also provided a selected Bibliography of materials from the Holt Labor Library collection and useful Web Sites to assist you in researching this momentous event in American labor history.
Below the song, "Frisco Strike Saga," was penned by Stephen Karnot and Earl Robinson to commemorate the strike. It is reprinted from Songs of the People published in 1937 by Workers Library Publishers.
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Dunne, William F. The Great San Francisco General Strike: The Story of the West Coast Strike - The Bay Counties' General Strike and the Maritime Workers' Strike. New York: Workers Library Publishers, 1934. Includes self criticism from the Communist Party USA.
Goldberg, Joseph P. The Maritime Story: A Study in Labor-Management Relations. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958. History of the development and growth of the U.S. maritime unions and the resulting counter organization by ship owners. Places the 1934 strike in this context.
Golden Lands, Working Hands. [videocassette]. Oakland, CA: California Federation of Teachers, 1999. Includes Roosevelt's New Deal and militancy in the West Coast maritime trades culminating in the San Francisco General Strike of 1934 and the beginning of the CIO.
The ILWU Story: Two Decades of Militant Unionism. San Francisco: Information Department, International Longshoremen's & Warehousemen's Union, 1955. A condensed history of the ILWU in its own words, it covers more than two decades.
Harry Bridges Collection. [microfilm]. Sunnyvale, CA: Library Microfilms, [n.d.]. Pamphlets, clippings, letters; from the San Francisco Public Library collection.
Hinckle, Warren. The Big Strike: A Pictorial History of the 1934 San Francisco General Strike. Virginia City, NV, Silver Dollar Books, 1985. Includes an introduction by Harry Bridges.
Kimeldorf, Howard. Reds or Rackets? The Making of Radical and Conservative Unions on the Waterfront. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1988. A study of the political contrast between the East and West Coast longshore from World War I through the early 1950s.
Larrowe, Charles P. Harry Bridges: The Rise and Fall of Radical Labor in the U.S. Second edition revised. Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill & Company, 1977. Biography of the leader of the 1934 San Francisco General Strike and eventual head of ILWU.
Lens, Sidney. The Labor Wars: From the Molly Maguires to the Sit Downs. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1973. The San Francisco General Strike is placed in the context of other great labor battles.
Life on the Beam: A Portrait of Harry Bridges & the Building of the Golden Gate Bridge. [videocassette]. Working in America series. Oakland, CA: We Do The Work, [199?]. Includes interviews with Harry Bridges.
Nelson, Bruce. Workers on the Waterfront: Seamen, Longshoremen, and Unionism in the 1930s. Urbana and Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press,1988. "..portrays the sustained burst of trade union militancy and radical political activity that occurred among seamen and longshoremen, especially in Pacific Coast ports..."--book jacket.
Preis, Art. Labor's Giant Step: Twenty Years of the CIO. New York: Pioneer Publishers, 1964. Preis shows how the 1934 San Francisco General Strike, Minneapolis Teamster strike, and the Toledo Auto-Lite strike "gave heart and hope to labor everwhere for the climatic struggle that was to build the CIO." -- Preis, p. 33.
Selvin, David F. A Terrible Anger: The 1934 Waterfront and General Strikes in San Francisco. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1996. The former editor of Northern California downplays the role of the Communist Party.
Quin, Mike. The Big Strike. New York: International Publishers, 1979. A lively chronicle of the San Francisco General Strike.
Ward, Estolv E. Harry Bridges on Trial. New York: Modern Age Books, 1940. The dramatic story of the U.S. government's attempt to deport Harry Bridges and the trial that exposed the conspiracy against Bridges and the American labor movement.
Yellen, Samuel. American Labor Struggles. New York: S.A. Russell, 1956. Ten strikes beginning with the "Railroad Uprisings of 1877 and ending with the "Longshoremen on the West Coast" are covered.
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1934 ILWU & General Strikes of San Francisco - From the California Digital Library, 544 modern prints made from original negatives held by The Bancroft Library. The negatives are part of the photograph archive of the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin newspaper photograph archive.
The Big Strike - "A journalist describes the 1934 San Francisco Strike." Excerpts from Mike Quin's book, The Big Strike.
"Bloody Thursday" and the General Strike - Newspaper articles from July 3-18, 1934 reprinted by the Museum of the City of San Francisco, as well as other related documents.
Ex Post Facto - Journal of the History Students Association, San Francisco State University. Two articles in the 1997 volume analyzing the strike related issues.
George Seldes on San Francisco's Press & the 1934 General Strike - Seldes calls San Francisco press coverage of the strike, "the most shameful page in the history of that city's journalism."
ILWU - Official International Longshore & Warehouse Union web site. Includes current current organizing and solidarity campaigns and online edition of The Dispatcher back to January 1999. (The entire site is frames intensive.)
Shaping San Francisco - Includes history and photos of the San Francisco General Strike and the Battle of Rincon Hill from the Shaping San Francisco Multimedia Project.
San Francisco Labor Fest - Includes a schedule of events in the month long annual commemoration of the San Francisco General Strike.
The Holt Labor Library provides these links for your convenience. While every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate, the Holt Labor Library makes no guarantees as to the accuracy or completeness of the information on these sites, and is not liable for any inaccuracy, error, or omission, regardless of cause.
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