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
THE amazing vitality of the strike of Local 574, and its ability to survive the heaviest blows and come back fighting, are evoking continued amazement and admiration in the ranks of the general labor movement. The prestige of Local 574 extends far beyond the borders of Minneapolis.
This was strikingly demonstrated by the enthusiasm of the International Convention of the Hotel and Restaurant Workers International Alliance and Bartenders International League, and its generous donation of $1,000. This is a lot of money to donate to the strike of a local union in another trade, and could not have been possible if the delegates, coming from all parts of the country, had not been deeply stirred by the magnificent fight of our union.
Trade unionists, including many labor leaders of a more or less conservative tendency, have paid tribute to the fighting abilities of Local 574 and its methods of conducting the struggle against the heaviest odds. Even those who have taken part in important labor struggles and studied the history of others, recognize something new and different in Local 574’s way of doing things, something which enables it to stand its ground and keep on fighting where an ordinary trade union would have folded up long ago.What is the secret of this remarkable vitality and resourcefulness? What is “different” about Local 574?
The answer is, that almost everything is different. By its constitution and affiliation, Local 574 is an ordinary trade union, indistinguishable from thousands of others. But within the framework of the old-line trade-union movement, represented by the A.F. of L., our Local has evolved methods of organization and forms of activity which go far beyond the traditional craft-union methods and ideas.
The outward form is old-fashioned and “regular, ” but the inner content is modern and pulsating with new vigorous life. In one sense of the word it can be said that Local 574 represents a fusion of the new and the old at the moment when the American labor movement as a whole stands before the prospect of great changes to meet the modern needs of the workers. No single one of the distinct features of our strike can explain the full significance of Local 574 as the herald of this new movement evolving within the formal framework of the old. The new features and methods of work fit and supplement each other. They are combined by a unifying idea, and it is this combination that gives Local 574 its power and fighting capacity.
Nevertheless, each of the distinct features brought out in this strike has its own separate importance and deserves special study. Trade unionists who want to get at the heart of the whole method of 574, and learn its secret, ought to devote attentive study to each of these features separately.
One of the many distinct contributions made by Local 574 to the labor movement is the organization of the womenfolk of the strikers and their direct participation in the strike through the Ladies’ Auxiliary. Even if this organization doesn’t function perfectly, and still suffers from the weakness that always goes with inexperience, it has shown itself to be a real power in this strike, as it already did in the May strike to a lesser extent. The Ladies’ Auxiliary is so much a part of the strike and carries such heavy burdens, that it is taken for granted as an indispensable part of the union. Nobody even thinks of going on without it.
It is hard to realize that other unions go into struggle without such a valuable ally. Yet this is what happens in nearly every case. Local 574 is one of the very few local unions that have understood the necessity of organizing the women and making their organization a vital part of the strike machinery.
There is an idea behind this, also. Local 574 doesn’t take any stock in the theory that capital and labor are brothers, and that the way for little brother labor to get a few crumbs is to be a good boy and appeal to the good nature of big brother capital. We see the issue between capital and labor as an unceasing struggle between the class of exploited workers and the class of exploiting parasites. It is a war. What decides in this war, as in all others, is power. The exploiters are organized to grind us down into the dust. We must organize our class to fight back. And the women are half of the working class. Their interests are the same as ours and they are ready to fight for them. Therefore: Organize them to take part in the class battle. This is the idea behind the wonderful organization of the Ladies’ Auxiliary, and its effective cooperation with the union in the struggle.
Of course, Local 574 cannot claim to be the pioneer in grasping this idea and carrying it into practice. There have been numerous examples of attempts along this line on the part of other organizations, although seldom has it been done as effectively. The greatest example of effective organization of women - one that did much to inspire us - belongs to the Progressive Miners of Illinois.
This organization carried on some heroic struggles during 1932-1933 and needed extraordinary resources to survive. One of these resources, which played a decisive part in keeping the union alive and beating back its enemies, was the. Women’s Auxiliary of the Progressive Miners. The great importance of organizing the women, even where they are not directly employed in industry, was brought out very clearly in this experience. The Women’s Auxiliary of the Progressive Miners set the pace for the whole labor movement and by right holds first place as the real pioneer.
Local 574 learned from this example and was influenced by it to encourage and assist the organization of our women. That, by the way, is another merit of our union and its leadership-they watch what is going on in the world of labor, and they study the experiences of other workers and learn from them.