Monday, May 13, 2013

May 13 (1907) San Francisco Streetcar Strike: "Motormen and conductors wanted: Experienced, sober, intelligent..."

This image is a view of Market Street during the Strike of 1907


On this day May 13, 1907, the San Francisco Call reports "Car Service Resumed on Market Street: Police Maintain Order and Peace Remains on the Sabbath."

The city was in the midst of the Strike of 1907. The "Carmen" of the United Railroads (as the streetcar drivers were called) wanted a 20% pay increase (to equal their counterparts in Oakland) and an 8-hour workday (from the current 10 hours).

Starting on May 5 and lasting until November, it was one of the longest and bloodiest strikes in US history, claiming 31 lives and injuring 1100. 

In the end, the strike was a blow to the labor movement.  The president of United Railroads Patrick Calhoun replaced striking workers with the help of professional strike breaker James Farley who provided armed "scabs." Mr. Calhoun also attracted workers from the East by placing ads in Eastern newspapers such as the following:

Motormen and conductors wanted:
Experienced, sober, intelligent and industrious men. For further particulars address the United Railroads, San Francisco.

Writing in the Southern California Quarterly, Richard Gribble writes "The 1907 San Francisco Carmen's strike typified the struggle which existed between labor and capital in the Progressive era. Labor continually pressed for improved working conditions and remuneration and the principal of the closed shop. Capital fought to maintain control of labor and the work environment." (Spring, 1991). 

Image taken from foundsf.org, with this caption: "View of Market Street during the Strike of 1907."
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Flannery O'Connor

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.