1934 Truckers' Strike (Minneapolis)
This strike, also known as the Minneapolis Teamsters' Strike and, alternately, sometimes called "a police riot," was one of the most violent in the state's history, and a major battle in Minnesota's "civil war" of the 1930s between business and labor. A non-union city, Minneapolis business leaders had successfully kept unions at bay through an organization called the Citizens Alliance, but by 1934, unions were gaining strength as advocates of workers for improved wages and better working conditions. By early May 1934, one of the worst years of the Great Depression, General Drivers Local 574 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) had organized 3,000 transportation workers of the trucking industry into an industrial union. When employers refused to recognize the union, or its right to speak for all of its members, union leaders called a strike. Trucking operations in the city came to a halt.
When police and National Guard were called in to guard trucks, and the Citizens Alliance activated the local militia, strike leaders countered with "flying squads" of pickets. To inform the public of the strike's aims, and to keep workers informed of developments, strike leaders published a daily newspaper. They sought farmers' cooperation. Conflict escalated daily throughout May and reached a peak late in the month, at the city market, where strikers clashed with police, who were trying to open it for farm produce to be brought in. The police force was increased for the battle. Many women strike supporters joined the strikers and were severely beaten. Hundreds of strikers were arrested. In support of the truckers, 35,000 building trades workers went on strike. The battle raged on violently for two days. The strike ended on May 25, when the union was recognized and their demands settled. Its toll: 200 injured; 4 dead. The strike marked a turning point in state and national labor history and legislation. The strike opened the way for enactment of laws acknowledging and protecting workers' rights.
GET STARTED WITH SECONDARY SOURCES:
- American City: A Rank-and-File History, by Charles
New York: Arno, 1971 [reprint of original 1937 edition].
MHS call number: F613.M3 W3 1937a.
- Behind the 544 Suit: The Truth About the Fink Suit Against the
Minneapolis General Drivers Union, forward by Miles Dunne.
Minneapolis, Minn.: Northwest Organizer, 1940.
MHS call number: HD8085.M6 N6.
- "Father Haas and the Minneapolis Truckers' Strike of 1934,"
by Thomas E. Blantz.
In Minnesota History, vol. 42, no. 1 (spring 1970): pp. 5-15.
MHS call number: Reading Room F601.5 .M66 v.42:1, or view an electronic version of the article (PDF).
- Floyd B. Olson and the Teamster Strikes of 1934, by
MHS call number: HD5325.T7 1934 .M643.
- "The Great Minneapolis Strikes," by James P. Cannon.
In Fourth International, vol. 5, no. 5 (May 1944): pp. 140-148.
MHS call number: HD5325.T7 1934 .M635 1944.
- "Keeping Minneapolis an Open-Shop Town: The Citizens' Alliance
in the 1930s," by Lois Quam and Peter J. Rachleff.
In Minnesota History, vol. 50, no. 3 (fall 1986): pp. 105-117.
MHS call number: Reading Room F601.5 .M66 v.50:3, or view an electronic version of the article (PDF).
- The Labor Wars: From the Molly Maguires to the Sitdowns,
by Sidney Lens.
Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1974.
MHS call number: HD5324 .L38 1974.
- Mass Strike in Minneapolis, 1934.
Oral history interviews with strikers.
In Red Buffalo (Buffalo, N.Y.: 2 & 3, [1971?]).
MHS call number: D16.1 .O72 1971.
- "The Strike is On."
St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Public Radio, 1984.
This program examines the formative years of the modern labor movement in Minnesota. Topics covered include the Minneapolis Truckers Strike of 1934. Broadcast Sept. 3, 1984.
MHS call number: Audiotape no. 44 (in the A-V Collection; 1 56-minute cassette).
Union Against Unions: The Minneapolis Citizens Alliance and Its Fight
Against Organized Labor, 1903-1947, by William Millikan.
St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2001.
MHS call number: Reading Room HD6519.M6 M55 2001.
- Citizens Alliance Records.
Clippings, reports, bulletins, printed materials, and some correspondence kept by John W. Schroeder, executive director of the Citizens Alliance, formed by a group of business and professional men in 1903 to promote "industrial peace" and steady employment, and to support the "open-shop" principle. The Alliance also ran a free employment service from 1919 to 1936. The records consist primarily of topical subject files of newspaper clippings and printed ephemera on labor-related topics (1920s-1930s): unions, strikes, political activity, political parties and radical movements, personalities, employment, legislation, government agencies and policies, and other businessmen's organizations.
MHS call number: M465; see the green Manuscripts Notebooks for more details (there are 22 reels of microfilm).
Note: Microfilm may be borrowed on Interlibrary Loan.
- Vince A. Day Papers.
This collection (1906-1945) includes correspondence, speeches, clippings, printed materials, scrapbooks, and other papers of Day, who was private secretary to Minnesota Governor Floyd B. Olson (1931-1935). Day's papers as Governor Olson's secretary provide data on many aspects of labor problems and strikes, especially the Minneapolis truck drivers' strike in 1934.
MHS call number: A/.D275; see the green Manuscripts Notebooks for a detailed list of boxes (there are 4 boxes of material plus 29 oversize items, but not all relate to this topic).
- Socialist Workers Party, Minnesota Section, Party Records.
This archival collection (1914-1980) includes campaign literature, scrapbooks, form letters, bulletins, issues of party newspapers, pamphlets, and other materials generated or collected by the Socialist Workers Party. Included are data on many subjects of concern to the Socialist movement; political campaigns, efforts to protect the civil rights of persons dismissed from positions because of party membership; and labor unions, particularly the Motor Transport and Allied Workers Industrial Union, Local No. 544, which was involved in the Minneapolis truck drivers' strike in 1934. Information is especially full on the trial, conviction, and appeals (1941-1944) of Local No. 544 officers accused of sedition, including Grant, Miles, and Vincent Dunne, Grace Carlson, and Carl Skoglund. Part of these materials is on microfilm.
MHS call number: M145 (microfilm); For boxes, see the green Manuscripts Alpha notebooks – filed under Socialist Workers Party – for the locator number (there are 7 boxes and 1 reel of microfilm), or use an electronic version of the inventory.
Note: Microfilm may be borrowed on Interlibrary Loan.
- Charles R. Walker Papers.
Research and interview notes, chapter drafts, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and other printed materials compiled or created by Walker for his book American City: a Rank-and-File History (1937), which deals with the economic, political, and social conditions in Minneapolis culminating in the truck drivers' strike of July, 1934.
MHS call number: See the green Manuscripts Alpha Notebooks — filed under Walker, Charles Rumford — for the locator number (there is only 1 box of material), or use an electronic version of the inventory.
- Newspapers that may be useful for this topic:
- Minneapolis Journal
- Minneapolis Labor Review
- Minneapolis Star
- Minneapolis Tribune
- Minnesota Union Advocate (St. Paul)
- St. Paul Dispatch
- St. Paul News (Daily)
- St. Paul Pioneer Press
- Visual Resources Database subjects that may be useful for this topic:
- Check the library catalog for other materials.