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The Story of San Francisco* By James A. Emery, Counsel, National Council
for Industrial Defense
There are battles of peace no less than those of war, and more difficult to fight because the circumstances of every day industry arouse neither the inspiration or the patriotism or the enthusiasm of the soldier who fights for a cause beneath the flashing flag of his country and with the guns of a foe sounding in his aroused ears. The issue presented in San Francisco today is no less important than any issue fought upon the field of battle. It is an issue for the preservation of those principles of government in the every day life of this nation that made it what it is and gave it not only an original, striking personality because of their moral worth, but demonstrated in 150 years of the most extraordinary material development, their economic and practical value, realized in each individual's life, as the driving power of a successful people. Are the American people becoming so blind to these principles that they cannot be trusted in an issue where they are clearly raised, to still express faith in their abiding value? I say no, because we have demonstrated again and again, when the issue was. clear, that the people are still to be trusted in their decision upon the vital principles involved, and the story of San Francisco gains its significance because it is a striking illustration of that fact, not because it represents a municipality that has undertaken to revive her drooping civic spirit and has successfully won out in a renaissance of vital things in civic life. You
Address to the Twentieth Annual Convention of the National Founders' Association, New * York, November, 1916.
know the reputation which that city has enjoyed as a center in which industrial organization had been so successfully fashioned by one faction in the community that organized labor had secured dominance in the industrial and in the political life of that city. We could see it clearly because it stood out from the great centers of population like a city on a rock. Its history has been so romantic, its accomplishments so remarkable that, less in population than many of the other municipalities of the United States, it has attracted to it by its striking and unique personality, an attention and consideration that cities many times its size have not received in this world or that across the water. Why, to the man who knew its industrial history, it seemed as though San Francisco had been turned over to class domination and control; not always perhaps nominally or officially expressed in its city government, but so strongly organized that it had become the custom to accept the condition as men did the other inconveniences and objectionable things of surrounding life, and to accept it with resignation, if not content. From time to time there had been sporadic movements in the City of San Francisco expressive of resentment or indignation or a passing determination to change those conditions, but each had risen to a certain height and failed, because none had ever successfully appealed to the community as a whole, but had gained rather the adherence of individuals or groups of individuals from time to time under the inspiration or the resentment of some fresh affront. I would be taking too much from your indulgence if I were to undertake any extended reference to the circumstances of the past decade that had illustrated that condition; but within six months, circumstances came into being that brought that situation more strikingly than ever to the attention of the business men of the community.
Strike of Stevedores In December of 1915 an employers' organization on the water front of that city entered into an agreement with the stevedores local respecting hours and wages and working conditions, and their agreement contained a clause that this con
tract was to remain in effect until due notice was given by either party, and that either party must give 60 days notice of his intention to change or cancel it. It went into effect on December 31, 1915, and three months later, between May 1st and 11th, the district organizations of the longshoremen's union, of which the San Francisco local was a member, held a convention at which they arranged for the presentation of new terms and conditions to their employers and in the middle of May the San Francisco local, among others, gave 11 days notice of the termination of its existing contract, in flat defiance of the existing agreement for a 60 day notice. The attempts upon the part of the water front employers to secure reconsideration of their action were in vain. A telegram addressed by the Chamber of Commerce to the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of Labor brought a strong wire of protest from the Secretary of Labor addressed to the recalcitrant union pointing out
Violation of Agreements to them that they were violating their agreement and that the good faith of labor organizations was at issue, but it produced no result, and in conferences which were held on the first of June and the seventh and eighth of June, the local itself withdrew from the field and left the decision in the matter to the representatives of the executive board officially representing the coast organizations. In the meantime, greater and greater difficulty was being experienced in loading and unloading shipping, not only in the port of San Francisco, but in all the large coast ports. Pickets were established; it became practically impossible to secure ingress and egress from the wharves of the city without running the gamut of a picket line as vigilant and as efficient and quite as willing to use deadly weapons as any established between the rival armies on French battlefields.
Shipping Paralyzed—Disorder and Violence Not only was it impossible to load shipping in the port of San Francisco, but it became increasingly impossible to unload ships that had come from other ports because it was alleged that they had been there contaminated by non-union hands, and finally the shipping of the port found itself absolutely paralyzed, disorder and violence broke out all along the water front, and after a temporary truce had been arranged and the men had temporarily gone to work, a shooting caused a renewal of the whole difficulty in a more serious and intense form. The city administration utterly failed in the performance of its duty, there was no protection for life and property; those who had ships to load and succeeded in loading them at all, did it with the written permission of the master of the pickets and the minted coin of the Treasury of the United States was carried
United States Government Requires Special Permit
From Union to the steamers upon which it was to have transit under a permit issued for the use of the streets of the city by the president of the local union. The autocratic powers of government itself were being exercised by the representatives of the labor organization in an endeavor to compel obedience to their demands and in a determination to stop the commerce of that port until they had been granted all they were asking, in deliberate and open violation of an existing agreement.
Chamber of Commerce Takes a Hand On the 22nd of June the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce met and took a decided action that found its public expression in a massmeeting. The members of the Chamber called a meeting on the 10th of July and 2,000 of the most representative business men of the City of San Francisco, under the inspiration and leadership of an exceptional personality of courage, balance and ability, Mr. Frederick Coster, and the President of the Chamber, pledged themselves to three principles, that the Chamber would exert itself to the full extent of its financial and moral influence to secure the integrity of contracts in industrial relationships, the preservation of law and order, and the recognition of the open shop; and upon this simple platform it appealed to the support of its fellow citizens in the City of San Francisco. It made every one of its 2,200 members a missionary, and in a week, they had added to the membership of that remarkable body more than 5,000 new
members and secured for it an annual income of approximately $300,000, and besides had openly and publicly pledged for the performance of the Law and Order Committee, created of five representative members of the Chamber, the sum of $800,000, which has doubtless been very considerably added to by this time, and that in addition to $40,000 which had been placed in the hands of the officers by subscription among its members for the making of an industrial survey of the city. Now, money has been raised before, resolutions have been passed before, not only in San Francisco, but in other cities. It would not be the first time that the performance had not been up to the proclamation if the Chamber had resoluted a new condition into the city and adjourned and gone home in the belief that their expression had established it. But they were not made of that kind of stuff. The men who had rebuilt, out of the chaos and wreck and trash of worlds a new city upon the site of an old, and who, while struggling under the debt of that great disaster, had contributed to the world a new architecture in the most wonderful exposition that was ever fashioned by the hand of man for his ephemeral satisfaction, like the sons of the old pioneers that they were, had made up their mind that the time had come when that community would change itself; they had a confidence in their ability to successfully appeal to the civic spirit of their fellow citizens and they entered upon the task, not of crushing labor organizations in the City of San Francisco, but of educating their fellow citizens, employer and employee, to the results that must necessarily flow from the conduct in which the labor organizations of that city were now engaged. They publicly announced that they were as ready to protect the union man in his right to make a contract for the sale of his labor through his organization as they were to protect the individual who chose to make one by himself; they undertook, through a legal staff, not only to give immediate and practical protection to life and property in the City of San Francisco endangered in labor disputes, but to bring home to the thoughtful and intelligent trade unionist, that if he made himself the partner of the irresponsible and reckless and the criminal, that