Minneapolis Truckers' Strike, 1934
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Change comes at a steep price
The 1930s were a time of intense labor activism in Minnesota, and one of the most notorious--and violent--battles between business and labor occurred in Minneapolis. The city's business leaders had managed to keep unions at bay through an organization called the Citizens Alliance. But, in 1933, activists Carl Skoglund and Vincent R. Dunne successfully organized truckers (also called teamsters) in the Minneapolis coal yards. In May 1934, their union, Teamsters Local 574, initiated a citywide strike that halted trucking operations throughout Minneapolis. On May 25, after management accepted a federally mediated settlement that granted union recognition and wage conditions, the strike was settled.
But a clash over the terms of the settlement led to a second strike. The conflict peaked in late July, with a bloody, two-day battle at the city market, where strikers clashed with police, who were trying to open the market for farm produce to be brought in. The police force was increased, women strike supporters entered the fray, and 35,000 building trades workers went on strike in support of the teamsters. When Minnesota governor Floyd B. Olson called in the National Guard and the Citizens Alliance activated the local militia, strike leaders countered with "flying squads" of pickets. But the toll was sobering: 200 injured and 4 dead.
After lengthy negotiations over bargaining and wages, the two sides reached an agreement. The settlement was a resounding victory for the Minneapolis teamsters and for the broader labor movement. In Minneapolis and across the country, the workers' fight for a living wage and the right to organize unions and the violent opposition of business interests--all occurring during the Depression's darkest years--spurred passage of the 1935 Wagner Act. This federal legislation legitimized and enforced the right of workers to collective bargaining through unions.
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