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Musicians' Union Report on the General Strike

Photograph of Gov. Frank MerriamSan Francisco Musicians' Union, Local No. 6, was neither the largest nor most radical of San Francisco's unions in the 1930s, but it was one of the more influential. The bulk of its membership of 2500 was employed by the San Francisco Symphony, passenger ships, or by radio stations with large orchestras. Other members played in vaudeville houses or large theaters, though talking pictures had severely reduced the number of musicians employed in those venues. The remainder of its membership was either unemployed, or did piecemeal work in Barbary Coast and Tenderloin dives, taverns, and beer halls that reopened following repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment which ended Prohibition.

Local 6 joined the "sympathetic strike" in mid-July 1934, after rioting broke out during the San Francisco maritime union's strike. The deaths of two unionists, on Steuart at Mission streets, during a clash with police, triggered the General Strike which closed San Francisco and surrounding cities, and caused Gov. Frank F. Merriam to send thousands of National Guard troops into the City.

The November 1934 issue of "The Musical News" carried this report to the membership on the events surrounding "Bloody Thursday," written by the Local's financial secretary-treasurer. Other delegates were Karl Dietrich, the union's San Francisco business representative and Eddie B. Love, secretary of the Local. Clark Wilson and James G. Dewey were members of the board of directors.

Report of the Delegates of General Strike Committee

The delegates from the Musicians' Union, Local No. 6, consisted of five members — Eddie B. Love, Karl Dietrich, Clark Wilson, James G. Dewey and Clarence H. King.

This Committee attended all sessions of the General Strike Committee and voted for, what they thought were the best interest of Organized Labor, the Musicians' Union, Local No. 6, and the General Public.

The Musicians' Union was honored by the selection of one of the delegates, Eddie Love, as a member of the General Strike Executive Committee. This committee handled all the detail work of the General Strike Committee.

Organized labor is to be congratulated for its magnificent stand taken in defense of justice and in behalf of democracy as it is exemplified and guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. It is a well-known fact that Organized Labor stands for peace and fair dealing.

Let us analyze the conditions surrounding the late Longshoreman's Strike and the sympathetic strike which followed: The issue was the right of labor to organize and bargain collectively for better working and living conditions, a right guaranteed by Congress, and glorified by our President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

It would not be amiss to state that the position of the Longshoremen and Maritime Unions was set forth at a public meeting held in the San Francisco [Civic] Auditorium, eagerly attended by 10,000 citizens. The grievances of the Unions were made manifest by the officials of their respective organizations. A high public official implored these men to accept arbitration, but it is a lamentable fact that at the same time he hinted at the possibility of bullets and guns, in lieu of peaceful settlement. That this statement was resented by various classes of people was proven by the hisses which followed.

It was also noted that another element of extremists was present who were radically opinionated as evidenced by their mutterings and songs, and over the din and tumult an outstanding voice cried, "We want bread, not bullets," a familiar expression from those trained in the school of communism.

Meanwhile, Red literature was being circulated throughout the audience as well as in and around the building. Such groups do not intend to compromise with our government, their supreme desire being to destroy the capitalistic system by force and force alone, even to the extent of gnawing at the vitals of the American Federation of Labor on the one hand and capitalism on the other.

One of the greatest American institutions in the United States today is the American Federation of Labor with its thousands of unions and its millions of members throughout the country, standing first and always in defense of our government and its institutions, fighting for all the best standards of living. Without organized labor, nothing can prevent an onslaught on our institutions, with the probable destruction of our government by extremists, working determinedly and definitely towards one end.

If we are to survive under our present system of government, organized business representing capital and organized labor, which is the true labor movement in our country, must join in fellowship and coöperation and must share to a greater degree, but financially and economically, in the wealth and well-being of our country.

The Musicians' Union, Local Six, is proud to have taken its place in the great sympathetic strike and demonstration in San Francisco and the Bay Cities, in a successful endeavor to bring order out of chaos, and lend its support to the constructive solution of these controversies. To these ends we are proud of the results accomplished. History repeats itself. Arbitration has always been and always will be the final factor in all controversies. Troops, disorder, contempt for law and order, and violence, always has and always will tend to destroy equilibrium and delay solution of any controversial dispute.

With approximately ten thousand troops in San Francisco, six thousand of which were of the State Militia stationed on the waterfront, and the remainder government troops within the Presidio, ready for call, it is a great credit to the city that the only persons killed in the whole strike were two innocent men belonging to labor organizations. It is generally understood by labor that these men were unarmed and were shot in cold blood.

These martyred men were escorted to the grave by the greatest demonstration in the history of San Francisco. They were followed by fifteen thousand heavy-hearted mourners, and at the front of this funeral were five hundred men in uniform, representing veterans of foreign wars.

One of the men killed was a member of the Stevedores' Union, and had worn the uniform of the United States Army and participated in foreign wars. At his bier were sentinels, a man and a woman, standing at attention, representing the veterans of our country. Around the bier were hundreds of floral pieces, a silent tribute to these men by public sympathizers. The killing of these men did more than anything else to enrage the people of San Francisco and all members of organized labor, in bringing on the sympathetic strike of its one hundred thousand members in the Bay Cities and San Francisco in a massed demonstration.

To . . . the actions of the so-called Industrial Association and it is supposed they were financed by selfish banking business and shipping interests, plus certain press statements which were not fair, tended to further aggravate the general situation.

The five delegates of the Musicians' Union, Local Six, composed a part of the General Strike Committee, were happy to take part during the debates of this great convention. It was my pleasure as a member of the committee to offer a resolution, pertaining the Municipal Railway situation, which sent the employees back to the service of the city and to the people who should not be penalized through the general strike situation. The resolution was adopted, and is quoted herewith:

"It is the sense of the General Strike Committee that we thank the Municipal Railway employees for their sympathy and assistance in this strike, and ask them to return to the services of the city of San Francisco of which we are all a loyal part. And it is also the sense of the committee that we deplore any attacks or violence by any citizen upon this municipal property of which we are all a part."

Edward D. Vandeleur, president of the Municipal Carmen's Union and chairman of the General Strike Committee, said this resolution was equivalent to an order for the immediate resumption of Municipal Railway.

I again offered a resolution, which was adopted by the convention. It read:

"It is the sense and opinion of this general labor committee that in the interests of peace and good will to all of our citizens of our metropolitan area, that all State troops be removed from our cities without further delay by the governor of California.
I am also happy to state that the present governor of California acted without any undue delay and the National Guard of California was withdrawn from the waterfront.
"It was also the sense of this convention that the Executive Committee of the General Strike Committee be not dissolved until such time as the president of this body so decides, that the president is empowered to recall the general committee if he so desires, on behalf of organized labor and their interests."

In due time the shipping interests agreed to arbitrate, then followed the action of the Teamsters' Union in returning to the docks, and the moving of heavy accumulation of freight, which had lain on the docks for the period of this strike. The Teamsters' action was based on their faith in the action of the resolution adopted by the General Strike Committee which place this whole controversy in the hands of the National Longshoremen's Arbitration board appointed by the President of the United States. Due to organized labor, and all other constructive interests our city, normal conditions are again the rule, and the goal of all the people of San Francisco.

The Musicians' Union, Local Six, of San Francisco and the Bay Cities, composing twenty-five hundred members, congratulate the General Strike Committee, its officers, the President, Vice-President, Secretary, all committees and delegates, also the Oakland Labor Council and all affiliated unions and members on the greatest orderly demonstration and sympathetic strike in the United States.

In contrast to certain Big Business interests, Organized Labor has rather paved the way for arbitration of all labor disputes, and has acted in accord with the policies of President Roosevelt, in the great crisis which, we hope, has been brought to a successful conclusion.

After all is said and done, let us summarize. . . . This much will go down in history as a proclaimed fact. The mobilization of troops with fixed bayonets, airplanes, tanks, plus unnecessary hysteria caused by the press which, in innuendoes, advocated martial law, a condition which would stifle all business by sheer fright and disfranchise every citizen and, most of all, give to the entire world the thought that we were all starving, deserted, marooned and damned, which no doubt substantially pleased some of our rival cities.

Among the outstanding blunders on the part of Industry was at the time when the Laborites were doing their utmost to release gasoline to the general public. The petroleum companies, it is understood, refused to sell gasoline to unionists that they might be embarrassed in the delivery of milk, bread and ice.

During the melee, identification cards in the form of "permits" were issued by the Laborites. These permits were placed on all trucks that might be identified by other labor men and not molested. This event was grossly misinterpreted and capitalized on by the Industrials.

What would have proven to be the greatest blunder of all was the final effort, by the taxpayers' group, to stampede Mayor Rossi into signing the proclamation resulting in martial law.

Since we must all coöperate, the only successful way to stamp out Communism is through the unions, as proven, and not through capital, because it is a fact, the unions had to eliminate the extremists and also has to keep a step ahead of Industry to save industry from itself.

Let us take Lincoln's thought to our hearts:

Let the nation take hold of the larger works, and we, the smaller ones, and this working, the country may be put on that career of prosperity, which shall correspond with its natural resources and the intelligence and enterprise of its people.
Respectfully Submitted,

Eddie B. Love,
Karl Dietrich,
Clark Wilson,
James G. Dewey,
Clarence H. King.

A recording of this report was made and radio cast all over the country.

Preferred citation: King, Clarence H. "Report of the Delegates of General Strike Committee." Musical News Nov. 1934. (17 Sept. 1995)
Return to the Museum's General Strike Page.

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