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Twin Cities labor activists mark 80th anniversary of historic truckers strike

by staff |
July 21, 2014
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Posters at event commemorating 80th anniversary of Minneapolis truckers strike. (FightBack!News/Staff)

Minneapolis, MN - Trade unionists, historians, community members and descendants of strikers held several events in Minneapolis this past weekend, July 18 -20 to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the historic strikes by truck drivers and helpers, members of Teamsters Local 574. The three successive strikes in 1934 resulted in the defeat of the Citizen's Alliance, an anti-labor group of employers that controlled city government. The strikes established the industrial form of union organization for the first time in the trucking industry and set the stage for the organization of over-the road drivers throughout an 11-state area, eventually transforming the International Brotherhood of Teamsters into a million-plus member union.

The weekend of events to commemorate the strike were organized by the Remember 34 Committee, which brought together unions, labor activists, community members and descendants of the 34 strike. On July 17, Bryan Palmer, author of the book Revolutionary Teamster, spoke at the Minneapolis Central Library, reading from his new book on the 1934 strike.

On July 18, 110 people attended the Twin Cities Labor Movie Night to see documentary footage of three historic strikes from 1934 - the West Coast Longshore Strike, the Southern Millworker Strike of 400,000 workers and the Minneapolis Truckers Strike. After the films, presentations were given by Bryan Palmer and Joe Burns, author of Strike Back: Using the Militant Tactics of Labor's Past to Reignite Public Sector Unionism Today.

On July 19, a street festival was held on the Minneapolis Warehouse District site where on July 20, 1934, 67 unarmed striking workers were shot, mostly in the back, by police. Two men, Henry Ness and John Belor, died of their wounds. A number of bands performed at the street festival, as did a traditional Aztec dance group and a Native American youth drum circle. Organizers paid tribute to two Native American leaders of the strike, Hap Holstein and Ray Rainbolt.

Earlier in the day, Teamsters Local 120, which has its historic roots in Local 574, held a picnic for members and their families, then marched to the site of Bloody Friday, where Teamsters joined descendants of the strike in placing a wreath on the street corner where Henry Ness was killed.

On July 20, there was a picnic in a Minneapolis park. Several dozen family members of the strikers were in attendance and a special tribute was given to them. Speakers from a number of current labor struggles spoke and the event ended with over 100 labor activists, community members, and supporters in attendance joining a sing-along led by labor troubadour Larry Long, Madison, Wisconsin’s Solidarity Singers and the Twin Cities Labor Chorus.

The Remember 34 Committee is raising funds to place a permanent historic marker on the site of the Bloody Friday battle between strikers and police. An event will be held next year when the historic marker is permanently placed on the site.