Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May 8 (1913) PGE Workers Strike for "one days rest in seven days worked"

Geary Line in San Francisco. A circuit blew on May 7, 1913 giving residents a "bitter taste of what may be expected in a general way if the strike is not settled" according to The Call on May 8. The new "municipally owned" Geary Line opened for business on December 28, 1912.

On the cover of the the San Francisco Call on this day in 1913 the headline reads "Public Utilities Crippled by Strike." According to the IBEW 1245, the strike lasted three weeks, with the workers ultimately receiving a contract less favorable than the one that inspired the protest.

The strike was not well organized. Only the electrical workers walked out (not the gas workers) and "this fact alone saved the city from darkness last night, from cold, steam and heatless apartments, and foodless restaurants."

By 1913, California had become quite dependent on PG&E. "The magnitude of the service provided by Pacific, Gas & Electric System, and the wide variety of manufacturies and public utilities absolutely dependent upon it for energy puts the situation directly before every man, woman and child in that portion of California from Butte county to Touloume county to the coast line...Should the strikers succeed...the public should be made fully aware that it would cripple every industry in central California...There is no industry of any kind and character in the 30 counties in the state that is not dependent on Pacific's service for continuance of its business."

The workers were arguing for one day of rest in seven days worked, an 11% wage increase ($0.50 per day), and better working conditions.

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Flannery O'Connor

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