Events July 17-20 to commemorate 80th anniversary of 1934 Teamsters strike

Events planned for four days July 17-20 will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Minneapolis Teamsters strikes of 1934. considered the most significant single labor event in Minnesota history.

Films, music, speeches, a march, a street festival, a picnic and a lecture by the author of a new book about the 1934 strike will be featured. Event organizers also have reached out to descendants of 1934 strikers to include them in 80th anniversary events.

All events will be free and open to the public, except as noted below.

July 20 is the 80th anniversary of “Bloody Friday,” when Minneapolis police shot 67 strikers in the Warehouse District, killing two. The Minneapolis Labor Review reported 100,000 people turned out for the slain workers’ funeral procession. A commission of inquiry appointed by Governor Floyd B. Olson later found that the strikers were unarmed, at no point posed a threat to the police, and were mostly shot in the back. Days later, Governor Olson called out the National Guard and declared martial law.

Nonetheless, in late August an agreement was reached between the trucking employers and Teamsters Local 574, recognizing the union as the collective bargaining agent for workers in the industry and granting substantial wage increases, and, in the view of most observers, “making Minneapolis a union town.” The Minneapolis strike was one of the key struggles that led to passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.

July 17: Author and panel
“A Fresh Look at the Minneapolis Teamster Strikes After 80 Years”
Minneapolis Central Library
Labor historian Bryan Palmer will discuss Revolutionary Teamsters, his new book about the 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters strikes, Thursday, July 17, at 6:30 p.m. at the Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Ave.

Palmer is a prize-winning writer and editor focusing on the history of labor and the left. He is Canada Research Chair in the Department of Canadian Studies at Trent University in Ontario.
In his new book, Revolutionary Teamsters, Palmer tells the story of how a handful of revolutionary Trotskyists, working in the largely nonunion Minneapolis trucking sector, led the drive in 1934 to organize the unorganized and built an industrial union. What emerges is a compelling narrative of class struggle, a reminder of what can be accomplished, even in the worst of circumstances, with a principled and visionary leadership.

Joining Palmer to present their commentary will be well-known Minnesota historian Mary Wingerd, who wrote the introduction to a new edition of American City, an account of the strikes by Charles Rumford Walker, first published in 1937; historian William Millikan, author of Union Against Unions, the story of the virulently anti-union Minneapolis Citizens Alliance; and David Thorstad, a friend and colleague in the 1960s of V.R. (Ray) Dunne (1889-1970), the central leader of the strikes.

The July 17 program is sponsored by the Friends of the Minneapolis Central Library and Haymarket Press. Revolutionary Teamsters is published by Haymarket Press (May 2014, paper) and by Brill Publishers (August 2013 hardback.)

July 18: Documentary films
“Remembering ’34”
Bell Museum, U of M
AFSCME Local 3800’s monthly “Labor Movie Night” will offer a special presentation of clips from several documentary films about significant 1934 strikes: the West Coast Longshore Workers, Toledo Autolite Workers, Minneapolis Teamsters, and Southern Textile Workers. This event will begin at 6 p.m. at the Bell Museum of Natural History, 10 Church Street SE, Minneapolis, on the University of Minnesota campus.

The evening will include remarks by Joe Burns, author of Reviving the Strike and Strike Back, and Bryan Palmer, author of Revolutionary Teamster.

July 19: March
Saturday July 19 at 3 p.m., the public is welcome to join Teamsters Local 120 for a march to the “Bloody Friday” site from a staging area near the Star Tribune printing plant at 800 North 1st St., Minneapolis. Teamsters Local 120 is the successor local to Teamsters Local 574, which waged the historic 1934 strike. Earlier in the afternoon July 19, Teamsters Local 120 will host a rally and picnic for its members at Boom Island Park. For more information, contact Paul Slattery at 651-343-1714.

July 19: Street Festival
“One Day in July”
Minneapolis Warehouse District
Music, food and speakers will be featured at the “One Day in July” street festival Saturday, July 19 from 4:00-10:00 p.m. at the corner of 7th Ave. No. and 3rd St. No. in the Minneapolis Warehouse District (near the “Bloody Friday” site). Speakers will commemorate the 1934 strike and discuss contemporary labor struggles.

The event will include performances by hip hop musician I Self Devine, Tall Paul, Steve Kaul & the Brass Kings, Shannon Murray, and the Kalpulli Ketzal Coatlicue Aztec Dancers. This event is sponsored by the Remember 1934 committee.

July 20: Picnic
“Honoring the Descendants”
Wabun Picnic Area, Minnehaha Park
Descendants of participants in the 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters strikes will be honored at a picnic planned Sunday, July 20, from 12 noon to 4:00 p.m. at Wabun Picnic Area at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis (follow Godfrey Parkway north from Minnehaha Falls, turn right into Wabun Picnic Area). The event will feature brief speeches, a free picnic lunch, children’s games, and music by folksinger Larry Long and others.

Read some of the stories of the strikers' descendants.

To contact the planners of the July 19 street festival and July 20 picnic, e-mail remember1934mpls [at] gmail [dot] com or phone 612-802-1482. A facebook page, www.facebook.com/remember1934, also provides updates and posts featuring “this week in strike history.”

Video: This 18-minute video by the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service, Minneapolis Truckers Make History, connects the struggles of 1934 to today.

1934 Teamsters Strike 80th anniversary

07/17/2014 (All day) - 07/20/2014 (All day)

"Events planned for four days July 17-20 will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Minneapolis Teamsters strikes of 1934. considered the most significant single labor event in Minnesota history." -Minneapolis Labor Review

  • I was required to join Teamsters 120 recently in order to accept a part-time job driving for Metro Mobility. At age 60, this was my first experience joining/being part of a union and I was not impressed one bit. 1) The pay was a measley 12.50/hour. 2) The union required me to pay the same initiation fee ($250) and the same monthly dues ($30) as full time workers. Those two fees were 31% of my first paycheck, and on subsequent checks, 12% went to the Teamsters 120. 3) When I had a conflict with management and asked Joe Battaglia a union rep to represent/advise me, he was so unprofessional, I dismissed him. I am now looking for a new driving job and make sure the position is not unionized. - by Katherine Werner on Tue, 07/15/2014 - 12:31pm
  • Bryan Palmer will also be speaking Sunday nightat 6 pm at Mayday Books, 301 Cedar So., on the West Bank in Minneapolis. We will be selling his excellent new book at 15% off. Palmer will discuss his book, take questions and sign copies. Feel free to add this to your list of events if at all possible. - by Kristin Dooley on Wed, 07/16/2014 - 7:51pm

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Steve Share's picture
Steve Share

Steve Share is the editor of the Minneapolis Labor Review.