Notorious SF: Bloody Thursday

"All I want to do is get a decent wage, get the cockroaches out of my food, and the bedbugs out of my bunk. And I can't make a living and I want to work. There was massive unemployment in 1934 - a lot of people out of work. A lot of people starving. A lot of people destitute. A lot of people desperate for any kind of job to support their families. They put out the word in Arkansas and Kansas: 'Seamen on Strike - Jobs on the Pacific Coast.' They came out here, were given police escorts, and they took our jobs. We formed a peaceful picket line. The mayor ordered them to stop us at all costs." Captain David Saunders, 3rd Mate, 1934.
On Thursday, July 5, 1934, San Francisco police shot and killed longshoreman Howard Sperry and a cook, Nick Bordoise, near Steuart and Mission Streets in what became known as Bloody Thursday. In May of that year, City dock workers walked off the job, joining a coast-wide strike for better hours and higher pay for longshoremen, as well as protection against cronyism and graft. With ship crewmen and Teamsters joining, the strike was effective and threatened to further cripple the already depressed California economy. Businesses attempted to circumvent strikers by moving cargo from a rented warehouse on King Street to Pier 38 with the protection of hundreds of SFPD officers on July 3. Fighting between police and strikers sent 25 to the hospital. Two days later, the fighting continued at Rincon Hill where the killings took place and more than a hundred were injured. Following Bloody Thursday, the City was beset by a general strike that completely halted commerce here for three days. After federal arbitration, a system was created for fair selection of dock workers. A union dispatcher and hiring hall were also formed. Also as a result of the strike, longshoreman Harry Bridges was elevated to prominence as a labor leader. A marker along the Embarcadero with a timeline of events commemorates the general strike and Bloody Thursday. The renovated Ferry Plaza is named in honor of Bridges.

Copyright 2001 Hank Donat home