From The WPA Guide to California (1939)
"THERE is no' state in the Union, no place on earth, where labor is so honored and so well rewarded," David C. Broderick
told the United States Senate
in his maiden speech in 1858, "no time and place since the Almighty doomed
the sons of Adam to toil, where the curse, if it be a curse, rests so lightly
as now upon the people of California."
The vigorous independence of the pioneer has persisted until present times as a characteristic of the State's labor movement. Of the men who had the hardihood to make the long westward trek in Gold Rush days, many were skilled workingmen from trades in which unions were being organized. Among the European-born immigrants were English Chartists, Irish nationalists, French and German political exiles of 1848-men schooled in the labor movement, in struggles for national independence, or for democratic liberties. In the new-born camps and towns of California, they found no feudal tradition to influence social relationships. To people who saw men in overalls win or lose fortunes overnight, there was no place for concepts of the superiority or special privileges of the wealthy.
The State's labor movement began in its first big city, San Francisco, since early days the trade-union center of California and, until later years, of the whole region west of the Rocky Mountains. The second great metropolitan center, Los Angeles, remained an open-shop stronghold for half a century, the lower labor standards of its competing industries threatening the gains won by labor in the north. But, as Los Angeles outstripped San Francisco in population, the disparity
between labor conditions in the two cities began to diminish, for San Francisco trade unionists came to realize that labor in the north could hold its gains only with the aid of labor in the south. During ti 1930's the organize4 labor movements of both cities began to pol their strength in an effort to overcome the sharp contrast between urban and rural working conditions and attempted to organize ~ vast numbers of underprivileged migratory workers in the State's dominant industry, agriculture.
The swift tempo of San Francisco's growth from village to metropolis characterized the development of its labor movement. The printers, teamsters, draymen, lightermen, riggers and stevedores in i850 ; bakers and bricklayers in 1852; calkers, carpenters plasterers, brickmasons, blacksmiths, and ship~wrights in 1853; and musicians in 1856. Although most of these organizations had to make several starts before they achieved stability, they gained better working conditions for their members, kept wages balanced with the wildly rocketing cost of living, and launched the movement for progressive labor legislation. Of the labor laws pushed through in two decades, 1850-70, by these infant labor unions, the most important were pro~ visions for payment of wages, a mechanics' lien, and an eight-hour day. In no other city in the country, it is said, did so many workers enjoy the eight-hour day as in San Francisco during these years.
The outstanding labor struggle of the 186o's, the molders' and boilermakers' strike of 1864, was conducted along lines typical of those spacious days. The strikers were opposed by a newly formed iron-works employers' association, which threatened to levy a fine of $1,000 on the first employer to grant the strikers' demands. The association wired Portland, New York, Bost9n, and Providence for strikebreakers and paid their fare West. When the strikebreakers arrived at Panama, however, they were greeted by a delegation of representatives from the striking unions and the San Francisco Trades Union, the city's first central labor body. All arrived at San Francisco on friendly terms as fellow union members.
The organization of the first effective State federated labor body, the Mechanics' State Council, was the labor movement's defense against employers' opposition to the eight-hour day. Forming the "Ten Hour League" (i 867) to counter labor's "Eight Hour League," the employers, following the shipowners' action in discharging all who worked on the eight-hour basis on the chief steamship lines, pledged themselves to hire no one for less than a ten-hour day. "By so doing," they stated, "we believe that we are working for the best interest of the journeymen mechanics as well as for the best interests of the city and state at large." The Mechanics' State Council, organized in the Los Angeles as well as the San Francisco area, responded by affiliating with the National Labor Union, America's first great nati6nal labor federation.
An era of comparative protection for labor came abruptly to its end with completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869. Lab~r, hard hit by the falling wages and the rising unemployment of the depression-ridden decade that followed, began to lay the blame for its misfortunes on the thousands of Chinese coolie railroad workers suddenly turned loose on the labor market. For the next two decades the campaign against the use of Chinese labor, pushed to the limit by politicians and demagogues, diverted the energies of the trade union movement. But labor's fear of being reduced to servitude was well founded. Still fresh in men's minds was the struggle against the efforts of pro-slavery officials and landowners to introduce slavery to California; this had first been brought to the fore in 1852 when railroad and landowning interests were prevented, by protest meetings of miners and city workers, from forcing a law permitting importation of contract labor through the legislature. The anti-Chinese movement, although accompanied by racial discrimination which gave rise to outbreaks of brutal violence, was primarily based on economic interest. In ever greater numbers the Chinese were taking over work in the fields, in the service trades, in the light manufacturing industries-until by 1872 they comprised half of all the factory workers in San Francisco. The wages paid them were far below wages of American workers. And when Americans refused to have their wages lowered to the pay levels of the Chinese, employers threatened to hire Chinese workers instead. On the other hand, the builders of the Central Pacific had threatened to hire American workers when Chinese construction hands struck against $30 monthly for a 12-hour day (1867).
"The Chinese Must Go!" was
the slogan that carried Dennis Kearney, one of the most widely known figures
in the early
"The Chinese Must Go!" was the slogan that carried Dennis Kearney, one of the most widely known figures in the early California labor movement, to prominence. Until he appeared on the scene in 1877 as a saviour of the masses, he had been vociferously anti-labor. Joining the "law and order" group formed by nervous businessmen in July 1877 when rioters roamed the city denouncing Chinese and capitalists, he suddenly left it to lead the rioters. Refused admission to the Workingmen's Party of the United States, he set up in October 1877 a rival organization, the Workingmen's Party of California. At Sunday afternoon meetings of workers and unemployed on vacant sand lots, where he delivered incendiary speeches, his favorite pose was with a noosed rope in his hand. This he declared was his platform. He was jailed for advising every man "to own a musket and a hundred rounds of ammunition" but was soon released. Eventually, as opposition arose within the Workingmen's Party, an investigating committee charged him with being a "dictator . more than suspected of selling
out to the enemy"-the enemy in this case being railroad and banking interests. Discredited, Kearney went back to the draying business he had left and devoted himself to getting rich.
The man who headed the opposition to Kearney, Frank Roney, remained an outstanding figure in the State's labor movement long after Kearney's retirement. Active as a young man in the movement for Irish independence, he had emigrated to the United States to become a national figure in the iron molder's union. He arrived in San Francisco in 1875, wrote the constitution and platform of the Workingmen's Party, and soon took his place as a leader in the labor organization drive of the i88o's. Following the disappearance of the Workingmen's Party from the political scene, he was elected president of the Federated Trades and Labor Unions of the Pacific Coast, later the San Francisco Central Labor Council. To Roney was entrusted the job of organizing the seamen of the port of San ~ranasco, twice previously attempted with no more than short-lived success.
In what was known as the world's worst shanghaiing port, the Seamen's Protective Association, headed by Roney as president, took up the fight against wages so low and shipboard conditions so brutal that crews could be filled only by kidnapping. The association faced the opposition of shipowners, crimps, and underworld elements who preyed on sailors. During one meeting held in I 88o, according to the union's minute book, "there were constant interruptions by the boarding-house sharks and their whiskey-brought bummers, going even so far as to throw valuable eggs, that did not have time to get the proper age and odor, at the agitators; but they made a bad failure, for the superior intelligence and calmness of the speakers entirely discomforted their enemies." The union fought for seamen's civil rights by preferring charges against brutal ships' officers in Federal courts. It won the backing of progressive San Franciscans, chief among them Henry George, single-tax proponent, editor of the San Francisco Post, and a consistent supporter of the labor movement. The fight to improve seamen's working conditions was extended into the legislative field when Roney drew up and presented to Congress two laws, one embodying the union's demand for punishment of brutal officers and the other specifying that two-thirds of the crew of every American vessel should be American citizens. The legislative struggle was later taken up and carried on for some thirty years by Andrew Furuseth, as secretary of the Sailors' Union of the Pacific and (from 1908) of the International Seamen's Union. of America.
As a result of the struggle against a sharp wage cut in i88~ a stable organization, the Coast Seamen's Union, was at last set up with the aid of officers of the Knights of Labor, then at the peak of its growth in California, and Socialists from the International Working-
men's Association, of whom five served on the union's original advisory committee. The union halted the drive for wage cuts, organized branches at leading ports up and down the Pacific Coast, and launche~ (1887) the Coast Seamen's Journal, for years the Coast's most important labor paper. In 1891 the Coast Seamen's Union and the deep-sea steamship sailors' union dropped their jurisdictional differences an'1 merged as the present Sailors' Union of the Pacific.
Following organization of the seamen, the waterfront unions be-came an important factor in San Francisco's labor movement, for longshoremen, ship calkers, pile drivers, and other waterfront workers had already been organized for a period of years. Feeling a bond o~ common interest, the maritime unions made repeated efforts to achieve joint organization. The Wharf and Wave Federation (i888), the City Front Labor Council (1891), and the Waterfront Federation (1914-1923) were predecessors of the present Maritime Federation of the Pacific.
The City Front Federation of 1901, reputed to have been the strongest trade federation in the country at the time, grew out of the intense organizational drive in all crafts that accompanied the great industrial boom at the turn of the century. During the two decades that followed its organization, the trade union movement grew at such a pace that San Francisco took first place among the unionized cities of the United States. But labor's gains were not achieved without opposition. To meet what they considered the threat of union domination, employers organized on a broader and more effective basis than in the past. A complicated and tense situation developed, which culminated in the building trades strike of 1900 and the City Front Federation strike of 1901. The successful conclusion of the building trades strike was followed by organization of the Building Trades Council, which became the most powerful factor in the labor movement. The City Front Federation strike, in which the waterfront unions went out in support of locked-out teamsters, was bitterly fought because both labor and employers knew that the question of establishing the open shop in San Francisco was at stake. Although the unions partially lost the strike, they checked the open-shop drive and survived.
Out of the City Front Federation strike grew the Union Labor Party, supported by the San Francisco Central Labor Council because of its resentment over Mayor James D. Phelan's use of police to protect strikebreakers brought into the city. The Union Labor Party's candidate for mayor, Eugene Schmitz, was elected in 1902 to succeed Phelan. The story of how an alleged alliance of politicians, utilities, and vice interests won control of the party has been told by Fremont Older, editor of the San Francisco Bulletin, who helped lead the reform movement that culminated in the graft prosecutions initiate4
against Schmitz, Abraham Ruef, and a long list of municipal officeholders in 1906. Older's story deals, too, with the activities of Patrick Calhoun, political boss and United Railroads head, who, it is said, precipitated the 1907 traction strike in an effort to halt the prosecution, by diverting public attention. Having aroused public indignation against labor, on the ground that the strike was holding up reconstruction of the earthquake-wrecked city, Calhoun melodramatically broke the strike. Those in control of the Union Labor Party had by this time been denounced by the San Francisco Central Labor Council in an emphatic statement published May 30, 1906, which said, in part: "We declare every corruptionist, briber and bribed, should be prosecuted and punished according to law and hereby pledge our cooperation to that end." In the end Calhoun was brought to trial, but acquitted.
Despite the rapid growth of the labor movement in San Francisco, Los Angeles remained largely a non-union town. The employers of San Francisco had stated flatly that unless the unions acted to level competition with the south by organizing Los Angeles they would begin a new drive for open-shop conditions in the Bay area. Taking up the challenge, labor sent a corps of organizers south in June 1910. In Los Angeles the Founders and Employers Association was refusing to meet with union representatives of some 1,200 workers idle in a metal-trades lockout covering all plants in the city. The International Molders Union sent its national organizer, George Gunray, to aid the Los Angeles drive. As the organizing drive got underway, the public began to develop a sympathetic attitude toward unionism.
And then occurred the disaster that for many years was to delay labor organization in Los Angeles. At one o'clock in the morning of October I, 1910, an explosion shattered the plant of the Los Angeles Times, owned by General Gray Otis, leader of the city's anti-union forces. Twenty-one of the workers in the building were killed and many injured.
Intense excitement followed and while the Labor Council, investigating, announced that the explosion had been a gas explosion, the police, the grand jury, the Mayor's committee, civic bodies, the City Council, also investigating, declared that the explosion had been caused by dynamite. Otis offered a reward of $300,000 for the finding of those responsible. Three groups of detectives began the search.
On April 14, 191 I, James B. McNamara and Ortie McManigal were arrested in Detroit by the detective William J. Burns. Ortie McManigal in a confession implicated, among others, James Mc~amara's brother John J. McNamara, Secretary of the International ~ssociation of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers' Union. J. J. ~cNamara was arrested on April 22 in Indianapolis. The Mc-
Namaras were taken to the Los Angeles jail and held; MeManigal was taken along as prosecution witness.
Labor, convinced of the innocence of the McNamaras, rose to their defense. According to Perlman and Taft (History' of Labor in the' United States 1896-1932, Volume IV) "Los Angeles was at the time the battlefield of several simultaneous labor wars. . . . The explosio~ in the morning of October I, 1910. . . came as a climax in these hard fought battles." The American Federation of Labor raised a quarter of a million dollar fund, and the famous advocate, Clarence Darrow, was retained to defend the men.
The trial dragged on slowly with labor-still certain of the men 5 innocence-engaged in a veritable crusade. But Clarence Darrow apparently became convinced of the great strength of the State's case. Through the journalist Lincoln Steffens, he began to negotiate with the authorities. In retrospect, Steffens wrote in his autobiography that his newspaper report of the case "began by saying that both capital and labor had pleaded guilty, and showed that the MeNamaras had made no confession which involved other persons but had entered into an agreement by which, 'without force, the labor problem was to be reconsidered in the most anti-labor city in America."
The details of the agreement made with the prosecution have remained a source of argument. According to Perlman and Taft, "The agreement with the prosecution stipulated that both brothers would plead guilty, and that J. B. MeNamara would receive life imprisonment but John J. McNamara a less severe sentence, and that all other prosecutions would be dropped." Influential people of Los Angeles and the court officers were won over, and so finally were the McNamaras. On December I, 1911, Attorney Darrow rose in court and stated that his clients wished to change their plea from "not guilty" to "guilty as charged." Four days later James B. McNamara was sentenced to life imprisonment and John J. McNamara to a term of 15 years. In passing sentence the judge verbally castigated the men:
which action, it is alleged, was against the agreement. Later that part of the stipulation concerned with the prosecution of others was also disregarded.
The decade that followed saw a rapid growth in the influence on California's labor movement of the Industrial Workers of the World, central organizing agency in Northwest logging camps and Midwest wheat fields, as it began extending its work to the mines, lumber camps, ports, and agricultural areas of the State. It came into prominence in California at the time of the Wheatland hop field riots of 1913, which brought before the Nation for the first time the intolerable conditions of field labor in the State and prompted an investigation leading to the first Government action in cleaning up these conditions. The
situation that prompted the riots at the Wheatland hop ranch, said to belong to the State's largest single employer or field labor at the time, was later described by Carleton W. Parker, executive secretary of the State Commission of Immigration and Housing: "Twenty-eight hundred pickers were camped on a .treeless hill . . . Some were in tents, some in topless squares of sacking . . there was no provision for sanitation, no garbage disposal. The temperature during the week of the riot remained near 105 degrees, and though the wells were a mile from where the men, women and children were picking . . no water was sent into the fields . . . It developed in the state investigation that the owner of the ranch received half of the net profit earned by an alleged independent grocery store, which had been given the grocery concession and was located in the center of the camp grounds." The overcrowding of the camp was found to have been aggravated by the fact that the ranch owner had followed the common practice of advertising for twice the necessary number of pickers in order to keep down wage levels. In the rioting that began when a sheriff's posse broke up a protest meeting, four were killed. A week after the riot, the first act regulating California labor camps went into effect.
The I. W. W. continued to play an important part in the labor movement until the early post-war period. Among the causes contributing to its decline were the anti-union drive and the prosecution of many of its members under the State's newly passed criminal syndicalism laws. Its last important appearance in the State was in the 1923 seamen's strike at San Pedro, when Upton Sinclair was arrested for publicly reading the Declaration of Independence.
A prominent defender of the two I. W. W. leaders, Richard Ford and Herman Subr, who were arrested in the Wheatland disturbance and convicted after a long-fought trial, was a young Irish member of the molders' union, Thomas Mooney. The leading part that he played in the electrical workers' strike of 1913 and in the attempted organization of United Railroads workers in 1916 also brought him to the fore in northern 'California as an aggressive trade unionist. He was a leading member of the group that began preparing a new organizational drive in southern California to counter a new open-shop campaign in the north organized by employers. As such he came particularly to the attention of the "law and order" committee formed by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce to promote adoption of an anti-picketing ordinance.
The newspaper files of tl~e period reveal the combination of anti-union and wartime preparedness propaganda in an attempt to label as disloyal labor's determination to maintain its organizational lines. In the tense atmosphere of the growing struggle a bomb exploded, killing ten persons, on the route of the Preparedness Day parade staged in San
Francisco July 22, 1916. Among those arrested were Mooney, his wife Rena, and his friend, Warren K. Billings. Found guilty, Mooney was sentenced to be hanged and Billings to life imprisonment. After world-wide protests, Governor William D. Stephens, at the behest of President Woodrow Wilson, commuted Mooney's sentence to life imprisonment in November 1918.
The case soon became one of the most celebrated labor controversies of modern times. In the course of repeated State hearings and Federal inquiries, a picture of corruption was revealed that strengthened the conviction held by many people that the case had been a frame-up. On the basis of new evidence soon uncovered, and ,9f confessions and other evidence exposing the perjury of key prosecution witnesses, the jurors who found Mooney guilty and the judge who sentenced him publicly reversed their positions. As the years went by, more and more evidence indicating Mooney's innocence came to light. In August 1928 every living person connected with the prosecution, except District Attorney Charles Fickert and an assistant, recommended Mooney's pardon. The trial judge, Judge Griffin, declared in a public address in February 1929: ~cThe Mooney case is one of the dirtiest jobs ever put over and I resent the fact that my court was used for such a contemptible piece of work." But for 22 years, Mooney remained in San Quentin penitentiary while successive Governors resisted appeals for a pardon. Throughout these years the case was carried through State and Federal Courts as Mooney's defense attorneys asked for a review of new evidence and opening of a new trial. Finally in Oct~ her 1938, after lengthy hearings in San Francisco before a referee, the United States Supreme Court, passing on the case a second time, found itself compelled on legal grounds to deny a requested review of the case. A month later Culbert L. Olson, who had expressed his firm belief in Mooney's innocence while still a State senator, was elected Governor of California. One of his first steps on taking office in January 1939 was to issue an unconditional pardon.
In the meantime the wartime anti-union campaign had driven ahead to success, initiating a period of open-shop domination that lasted throughout the 1920's. It reached its climax in 1921, when the newly formed Industrial Association of San Francisco raised a war chest of $1,250,000 to break the building trades strike of that year. With the collapse of the building trades unions, too weakened to resist when the Industrial Association's wage board cut wages twice within a year, the strongest single force in the labor movement of that period was rendered helpless. At about the same time, the Metal Trades Council was defeated, losing agreements it had held with the employers since 1907. The seamen's unions, too, went down to defeat in 1921. The loss of the dock strike of 1919, called in protest against alleged en-
dangerment of life and limb by speed-up and excessive loads, had already caused the collapse of the riggers' and stevedores' union. In the succeeding decade, the "American Plan," substituting individual for collective bargaining, prevailed throughout the State.
The resurgence of the labor movement following enactment of the National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933 was marked especially by the outburst of latent protest against long-standing grievances on San Francisco's waterfront. The conditions that prompted the 1919 strike had continued under the agreement signed in December 1919 between the Waterfront Employers' Association and the Longshoremen's Association of the Pacific, organized by longshore gang bosses, which longshoremen designated a "company" union, calling it the Blue Book Union (for the color of the membership book) ; the agreement made every dock worker who refused to join ineligible for employment. Another basic grievance was the "shape-up" system of hiring from the docks, which longshoremen claimed forced them to wait without compensation for hours at a time, fostered corrupt control of employment by hiring agents from whom men had to buy their jobs, and resulted in some men working 24 and 36 hours and longer without sleep, while others starved for lack of work. As a leader in protests against abuses, the lanky young Australian, Harry Bridges, who had been working on the docks ever since he had come ashore as a sailor 12 years before, was coming to the fore; among longshoremen he was known as "Limo Harry," a first-class winch driver and a man who stood up for his rights. Within a few weeks after a charter had been secured from the International Longshoremen's Association in September 1933, about 90 per cent of the men on the front had joined the new union. At a coastwise convention held in the spring of 1934, the longshoremen formulated demands to correct the abuses on the docks. When hearings led to no definite result, they took a strike vote on March 7. The seamen's unions, likewise showing a new vitality, had also been refused when they presented demands to the shipowners. On May is, 1934, they voted to join the strike; and the ship clerks and licensed officers' organizations followed suit.
The killing of two waterfront picketers and the clubbing and gassing of a hundred others by police on Thursday, July 5, 1934-after-wards known as Bloody Thursday"-was the incident that swept nearly every union in the Bay area into the second important general strike up to that time in the Nation's his' toty. From July 17 to July '9 stores closed, shops and factories shut down, and trucks and street cars stopped running in San Francisco as 127,000 workers left their jobs. The strike aroused the emphatically expressed opposition of many newspapers, individuals, and organizations throughout the Nation. The NRA Administrator, General Hugh S. Johnson, appeared on the scene
to denounce it in a public address. On July 20 the strikers began returning to their jobs. The waterfront unions, however, after media tion of the dispute, won agreements with the shipowners which still serve as the basis of labor relations in the maritime industry. They were enabled to organize in i935 the Maritime Federation of the Pacific, first attempt to apply the principle of joint organization on a coastwise basis. It now has 28,000 members, drawn from A. F. of L and C. I. 0. unions, and from unions in Canada and the Hawaiian Islands. The strong public feeling aroused by the general strike soon subsided, but not the opposition to one of its leaders, Bridges, long shoremen's president and later C. I .0. Pacific Coast director. It was still being expressed four years later in a controversy involving the United States Secretary of Labor over his right (since he had not yet been naturalized) to remain in the country.
As the labor movement began to advance again after its long period of decline, the unions weakened in 1919-21 gained renewed strength, while new unions staged intensive drives in industries never before organized. San Francisco and Oakland recovered more than their old union strength; organization extended into Los Angeles from its port at San Pedro; it reached even into the inland valleys where the labor movement had never before made headway. Throughout the 1930's the labor movement has continued to make steady gains.
In union-minded San Francisco, more than 120,000 of whose inhabitants belong to labor unions, the principle of collective bargaining has come to be accepted as a matter of fact. In the neighborhood of the port, where the outward signs of the labor movement's flourishing condition are most apparent, longshoremen swing along the streets with union buttons conspicuously displayed on their white (union-made) caps. Big Irish teamsters driving their trucks down to the docks wear union buttons; so do the Italian fishermen, the taxi drivers, streetcar conductors and motormen, newsboys and bootblacks. Almost every restaurant, bar, barber shop, drug store, and laundry displays a union sign. The A. F. of L. unions are strong among teamsters, streetcar employees, and workers in the building trades and service industries, including retail store clerks, hotel employees, and others; the C. I. 0. unions, among longshoremen, warehousemen, newspapermen, and smelter and tunnel workers. In recognition of labor's strength, employers have organued in distributors', waterfront employers', hotel owners', and other associations cQvering all the major industries. A San Francisco Employer's Council, organized in 1938, announced a desire for more cooperative relations with labor. A development of the same year, tried out with much success during a warehousemen's lockout, was the town meeting, at which employers and union leaders presented their respective sides of the dispute before a public audience.
As against 30,000 trade union members in 1933-34, Los Angeles today has 200,000. The trade union movement had advanced despite the continued open-shop stand of employers, who in 1938 pushed through a drastic anti-picketing ordinance. Although a number of industries remain largely unorganized, the disparity between labor conditions in the State's two larger cities no longer exists. A basic factor in bringing about this change was the rapid growth of unionization in such mass production industries as aircraft, auto, rubber, and oil. Intensive organizational drives have been staged among musicians, teamsters, workers in the building trades, and in the motion-picture and other industries. The almost complete organization of all trades in the harbor district, San Pedro, has given the city's growing labor movement solid backing. A force to be reckoned with has been ?he rise of unions in the motion-picture industry, which number (1939) some 12,000 members. To the surprise of many who believed that movie people would never step out of their make-believe world, screen actors, writers, and directors have come forward as topnotch trade union members.
The most important downward pull on California's labor standards is exerted today by the rural areas, where some 200,000 almo~t completely unorganized agricultural workers, mostly homeless migrants, live and work under conditions generally recognized as sub-standard. Of these nomadic workers, the majority are refugees from the Dust Bowl area, although Mexicans work in the citrus groves of the south and the sugar-beet fi~lds of the north and Filipinos and Japanese in the asparagus and celery fields of the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta region. Just as labor's weakness in the south once +hreatened its gains in the north, so now its weakness in the rural areas threatens its gains in the cities. The sharp divergence between urban an rural labor standards has begun to worry city unionists especially ~ecause of the dominant position in the State's economy of its highly mechanized agriculture, which provides most of the freight handled by both rail and water and a large proportion of the raw material processed by manufacturing plants.
The sharpest conflicts since the revival of the West Coast labor movement in 1933-34 have developed out of what employers have termed the "inland march" of city trade unions. To meet it, the forces opposing unionism have systematized and extended their organization. Led by the Associated Farmers, Inc., representing the corporative farm interests of the State, they have induced a number of the valley towns to adopt anti-picketing ordinances. The Farmers' Transportation Association of Southern ~alifornia, organized in 1938 in nine southern counties under the auspices of the Associated Farmers, has announced its intention to maintain "the right of every man to
work without being coerced into joining or not joining a union"; it issues licenses to truck drivers, after questioning them on union affiliation, only when they have pledged to pick up and deliver cargoes under all circumstances except when prevented by "acts of God."
Labor's "inland march" has been blocked increasingly often during the last decade, in rural and company towns where trade unions lack the support of public opinion which they have won in the cities, by the activities of vigilante organizations that have helped themselves to the name of groups organized for different purposes in the pioneer period. In the 1933-34 wave of agricultural strikes, vigilante methods were invoked to break the Imperial Valley lettuce strike and the San Joaquin Valley cotton strike, largest strike of field workers in California history. In the 1936 Salinas lettuce strike, vigilantism attained proportions that shocked public opinion in the State and Nation. Again in the spring of 1937 vigilante methods were used to break the Stockton cannery strike. In April 1938 about 300 men, women, and children (members of the International Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers Union) were driven by vigilante raids from their homes in Grass Valley and Nevada Ci?y, site of the country's second largest gold mine. Under police escort they returned to their homes, reopened their union hall, and carried on.
When anti-union forces undertook an intensive campaign to secure adoption of a State-wide anti-picketing law at the polls in 1938, labor unions-both A. F. of L. and C. I. 0.-saw their common danger, recognizing the campaign as the prelude to a general open-shop drive, and united to defeat it. The proposed law, known as Proposition No. One, was considered by many groups to be more stringent than any similar act since the anti-conspiracy laws of Colonial days. Commented the official publication of the California State Grange: "Said by its proponents to be needed legislation for industrial peace, this initiative proposition would really take away the constitutional rights of labor; it is dangerous because the layman does not recognize the fascistic provisions hidden within the proposal." Proposition No. One became the central issue in the campaign preceding the November elections. A. F. of L. and C. I. 0. unions, central labor bodies, maritime workers, teamsters, steelworkers, newspapermen, carpenters, tunnel miners, movie stars, railwaymen, and clergymen joined in a successful counter-campaign which defeated the measure.
Out of the cooperation of A. F. of L. and C. I. 0. unions in this campaigu, strengthened by the victory in the elections of candidates for public office endorsed by both, grew a movement for unity of the labor movement's two wings. In Stockton and in Sacramento, joint labor committees formed by A. F. of L. and C. I. 0. locals continued to function.
Another influence promoting the unification of the labor movement has been the gradual disappearance of the racial discrimination that once characterized it. The anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese agitation that kept American and Oriental workers apart has largely vanished. Today the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the retail clerks', culinary, and other A. F. of L. unions, and all the C. I. 0. unions admit Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino workers to membership with full rights, including eligibility to hold office. The hostility once directed against Chinese, Japanese, or Mexican workers is more apt to be directed now against native-born Dust Bowl refugees when attempts are made to use their labor at wage rates that endanger general California standards.
Organized labor in California shows a growing tendency to welcome the help of technical experts in dealing with the complex problems of negotiation with employers, arbitration cases, and presenting the union point of view to the public. Notable in this field is the work of the Pacific Coast Labor Bureau, a non-profit service organization specializing in economic counsel to labor unions. It has headquarters in San Francisco and branches in other West Coast cities. The bureau represents A. F. of L., C. I. 0., Railroad Brotherhood, and bona fide independent unions.
The extension of labor's
activities to the political field has enabled it to report many legislative
gains. California has an old-age assistance law, an unemployment compensation
act, a 48-hour maximum work week law for women workers, and an apprentice
law (recently passed). The State protects workmen suffering from occupational
diseases. In order to protect and supplement such legislation, unions have
begun to participate in politics to an increasing extent.
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