Thanks to the historians at the Minnesota Historical Society for help in locating the The Daily Strike Bulletins of General Drivers Local 574 and other documents from the 1934 Truckers Strike
VARIOUS sources, including direct statements of individual employers themselves, indicate a widespread revolt during recent days in the ranks of the firms affected by the strike. The staggering financial losses incurred as a result of the strike already far exceed what the cost of the modest wage increases demanded by the union would amount to over a long period of time. A settlement has become a practical necessity for the employers. The real force that has stood in the way of a settlement long ago has been the financial dictatorship of the Citizens’ Alliance.
It has been disclosed that this gang of financial pirates, which howls so loudly and piously for “democracy” and “secret ballots” in the union, does not allow the employers who want to settle with the union the right even to attend the sessions. of the committee which speaks in their name, to say nothing of having a voice as to what the decisions of this committee should be. The financial Hitlers who want to smash every labor union in town, even though the attempt in the single case of Local 574 is driving half the firms involved to the point of bankruptcy, have confronted these firms with the alternative of a ruination of their business in further attempts to break the strike, or a settlement with the union and the resumption of normal business. The result has been a revolt against the strangulating grip of the Citizens’ Alliance clique.
In these new developments all workers can see the tangible results of militant struggle combined with a reasonable attitude toward settlement terms.
The whole country knows and marvels at the unparalleled militancy of our union. Every worker worth his salt has been inspired by the heroic example of the men of 574 who boldly fought for their rights in the face of Bloody Johannes’ murderous police terror and Olson’s military tyranny. Many a poor slave of this infamous social system, beaten down into the dust and deprived of the benefit of organization, has witnessed this example and felt his own heart beat with aspiration to follow it. The story of our magnificent struggle is first-page news everywhere. Our fellow workers throughout the country are watching our fight with sympathy and hope. Local 574 stands in the very vanguard of the American labor movement today. By our will to battle and our sacrifices we have put it there. And by that fact we have taken upon ourselves an obligation to fight to the end in the same spirit. We shall not fail in that obligation, come what may.
And who can deny the justice of our cause, or the reasonableness of our demands? Even the Minneapolis Journal, mouthpiece of the Citizens’ Alliance, had to admit in its Sunday editorial that it could not undertake “ to say that the strikers are wrong and the employers right”. Yes, indeed, it is impossible for anyone, even the Journal, to say that we are wrong. For, in the present struggle, we are demanding no more than the right to organize, without which we are slaves; a piece of bread, without which our families cannot live. That is our minimum. All hell shall not beat us down or make us agree to less.
They can’t say that we are wrong. But this has not stopped them from trying to beat us out of our just demands by every means of violence and tyrannical oppression; to cheat us out of them by every trick and subterfuge. They shot 50 pickets down and killed two of them in cold blood. They whitewashed the murderers and defamed the victims. They raided our headquarters, with full military force and equipment, as though it were an enemy fortress in time of war. They imprisoned our leaders whom they couldn’t buy and couldn’t terrorize. They even confined our union doctor in their stockade for the crime of attending to our sick and wounded free of charge.
They try to trick us in the negotiations. They lie about us. And -worst of all-they give us lectures about “violence” and want us to agree to a blacklist against the best members of our union, the leading spirits of our picket line!
Do they want to talk about violence? Do they want to speak of bodily injuries and intolerable indignities to the human spirit? Do they want an accounting of the dead? Let Henry Ness and John Belor answer them from their martyr graves. Let the scores who were shot in the back, who were arrested and imprisoned and persecuted-let them be called as witnesses.
At this present moment, while negotiations for a settlement are pending, we do not allow ourselves for one moment to forget that 130 members of our union, our pickets-the best men in the labor movement of Minneapolis-are penned like wild animals in the stockade at the Fair Grounds for no crime but the courageous exercise of their constitutional rights. They have been put there by military force under the direction of the Farmer-Labor Governor, Floyd B. Olson. What a shame! What an outrage! The 130 pickets in the military stockade are 130 silent witnesses who accuse Floyd B. Olson of treachery to the labor movement. If there is to be a hearing about “violence” be sure to take their testimony!
It is our stubborn resistance to all this violence, this tyranny, oppression and murder, that has brought us to the point where a settlement on favorable terms is in sight. Without this resistance our union would have been smashed long ago and our members would have been driven back to work like beaten slaves, without organization and without even a prospect of gains. Let us not forget that, especially now, as they are trying the last desperate trick to get us to agree to a blacklist against the most active pickets under cover of a “violence” clause in the settlement.
They want to discriminate against those “known” to have used violence. They, who shot and killed two members of our union; they, who flung 130 of our members into the military stockade; they, whose hands are still wet and still red with the blood of our martyrs-they dare to ask us to agree to a blacklist against the victims of this violence, that is, against those who are still alive. Never! We shall not make the peace of slaves! Rather a thousand times the peace of Henry Ness and John Belor! Rather the peace of dead men than such a shameful truce!
Guarding ourselves against the tricks and crooked maneuvers of our enemies in this crucial hour, let us also beware of illusions. Our strength is in ourselves - nowhere else. The most fatal illusion that could seize us now would be the idea that the new military orders of Governor Olson, limiting truck permits, can win the strike for us and that we can passively rely on such aid. It was Olson and his military force that started the truck movement in the first place. There is no guarantee that he will not turn about and do the same tomorrow. The federal injunction sought by the employers may very well serve as the ground for such a shift. There is no power upon which we can rely except the independent power of the union. Trust in that, and that only.
“Eternal Vigilance” is the motto of the hour.