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Today in Labor History

Jan. 23, 1933
Led by metal finishers, 6,000 workers walked off the job over wage cuts at Briggs Manufacturing Company, sparking a strike wave of 15,000 auto body workers that paralyzed Detroit’s auto industry. With scabs trucked in and finished products trucked out under police escort, the company quickly resumed production. When the strike was called off on May 1, strikers were not rehired, but their collective action forced wage increases in the industry.
- Voices of Labor

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Updated: Jan. 24 (02:05)

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The 1934 Minneapolis Strike
Updated On: Feb 26, 2014

In May 1934, Teamsters Local 574 in Minneapolis, Minnesota set out on a campaign to organize all the transportation workers in the city. When employers refused to recognize the union, Local 574 struck the city’s trucking operations.

Some 35,000 building trades workers showed their solidarity by also striking. Although the strike was settled on May 25, employers delayed honoring their commitments, prompting a resumption of the strike on July 16.

On July 20 – or “Bloody Friday” as it came to be known – police opened fire on the strikers, killing two and wounding 55. The governor declared martial law, and the National Guard occupied the Minneapolis local, arresting some 100 officers and members.

Because of the ties that had developed between the citizens and the Teamsters, a mass march of 40,000 forced the release of the Teamsters and the strike was won.

"The impact of it was that the employers were not going to be the masters of the workplace," said Teamster Jack Maloney, a veteran of the strike. "That was really what it was all about."

What happened in Minneapolis during the spring and summer of 1934 transformed the city and played a decisive role in the history of organized labor in the U.S.

The struggle was a turning point for working people: It helped to establish the right to form a union. Congress passed the NLRA in 1935 which marked the start of a new era of fairness and prosperity in American workplaces.

The strike was also a successful turning point for the Teamsters: from a craft union to a national union as over-the-road drivers continued to organize across the Midwest and the nation.

The following video tells the story of the violent strike that led to the enactment of legislation acknowledging the rights of workers to organize and bargain: the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.


 
 
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