In December 1946, 100,000 union members participated in a 54-hour general strike that effectively shut down Oakland, California.
Since November,425 non-union retail clerks at Kahn’s and Hastings department stores
had been picketing for several weeks, attempting to organize as the Retail Clerks (Local 1265). On December 1, after Teamsters refused to deliver merchandise to the stores in solidarity, the Retail Merchants Association, sent in 12 trucks driven by non-union strikebreakers, supported by a 300-member police escort
[PDF]. The next day, "the bus drivers," remembers Secretary of the Alameda County Central Labor Council Robert Ash, "told the police that the carmen had never crossed a picket line, and so long as that cop picket line was across the street, they were not going to take the streetcars or the buses through.
Two days later, on December 3, the Alameda County AFL Labor Council, representing 142 member unions, called its members to join in a solidarity strike
that they termed a "work holiday." So cohesive and serious was the action that crossing a picket line required police protection
. Virtually every aspect of commercial and public life, barring essential services, was halted by
. (These photos show a General Assembly called at Latham Square
, about two blocks from Frank Ogawa Plaza
, the current site of Occupy Oakland. Fearing violence and overthrow, national Teamster leadership, who called it "more like a revolution than an industrial dispute," demanded an end to the strike two days later. Through negotiations with the County Labor Council, the city agreed, Ash remembers, that they "would not in the future use cops to break strikes."
A short documentary includes
original footage of the strike. This version
of the archival footage includes alternate voiceovers from the California Federation of Teachers.
TheOccupy Oakland General Assembly
has called for a new general strike
. Recalling the last U.S. general strike, organized just blocks away, may offer some opportunity for reflection on the evolution of labor and organizing tactics
over the past 60 years.