Fighting to Work

Seventy-five years ago, San Francisco was brought to a standstill after police fired into a crowd of striking longshoremen and their sympathizers. “Bloody Thursday” turned the once-radical dream of a general strike into a reality: movie theaters and nightclubs shut down, trucks stopped in their tracks, nothing but food came in or out. Panic set in, and a state of emergency was declared. The National Guard “patrolled” the Embarcadero with machine guns while vigilantes sacked union halls, “Reds” were kidnapped and beaten, and a noose appeared in downtown Hayward. But the workers held fast, and ultimately all West Coast ports were unionized. In celebration and remembrance, the month-long Laborfest, featuring more than 60 events, explores labor from a variety of angles, from the artistic legacy of the New Deal to the plight of ship dismantlers in Bangladesh. Today, labor historian Louis Prisco leads the Mission Walk — Labor, Art, and the Politics of the Mission District. It begins at the historic San Francisco Labor Temple, the flashpoint of the strike. Vivid murals depict pivotal labor moments such as the 1966 murder of Dow Wilson, the San Francisco Painters Union leader, and the picket line held by the Chinese Ladies Garment Workers Union Local 341. Prisco’s constitutional is but one of today’s events, which also include a bus tour, an ironworker-led bridge walk, a film festival, and a poetry reading.
Sun., July 12, 2 p.m., 2009

 
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