by Jay Moore
It began on July 14, 1934. That day the San Francisco Labor Council pushed by radicalized rank-and-file workers declared a General Strike, and this led to four days of intense class struggle, the likes of which has rarely if ever been seen in this country. The aim of the General Strike was to support the port’s longshoremen who had been striking with other longshoremen up and down the coast from Seattle and Portland to San Pedro since early May — and joined by unions for the merchant seamen — for a coast-wide contract, a union-controlled hiring hall, reduced working hours, and a wage increase. Faced off against them was a common front of the cities’ big business communities, the mayors, a competing company-aligned union, sell-out national union officials, and the right-wing Hearst-owned newspapers. Two members of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) had been shot to death by the San Francisco police on July 5th, “Bloody Thursday,” during a pitched day-long battle between thousands of workers and hundreds of cops to stop strikebreaking trucks from going into the docks. The solemn and dramatic mile-long funeral procession for the two men was attended by thousands of dockyard and shipboard workers, their supporters, and onlookers. But the Governor of California had subsequently called out the National Guard who came armed with machine guns to reopen the docks and provide protection for the scabs, thus endangering the strike.