Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Today in Labor History

March 26

San Francisco brewery workers begin a 9-month strike as local employers follow the union-busting lead of the National Brewer’s Association. and fire their unionized workers, replacing them with scabs. Two unionized brewers refused to go along, kept producing beer, prospered wildly and induced the Association to capitulate. A contract benefit since having unionized two years earlier, certainly worth defending: free beer - 1888 ~DE

JUNE 1886: Brewery workers union formed among mostly socialist German workers, to resist the prevailing 16-18 hour workday. On July 22, 1886 breweries admitted defeat and gave in to union demands for FREE BEER, the closed shop, freedom to live anywhere for brewery workers (who had up until then typically lived in the brewery itself), a 10-hour day, six-day week, and a board of arbitration.

MARCH 26, 1888: Having broken the union everywhere except San Francisco during the previous two years, the National Brewer's Association issued a manifesto against unionism. The national organization ordered its affiliated San Francisco members to fire union workers and replace them with scabs, which led to a 9 month strike. During the strike, two union breweries, the Fredericksburg of San Jose and another in Sacramento, were prospering wildly, which helped the San Francisco boycott to hold and induced the Brewers' Association to capitulate on June 5, 1889.

The great success of the strike led to many others by the militant young union that would eventually be called the International Union of United Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Soft Drink and Distillery Workers of America (BFCSD). The BFCSD even used their abilities to assist workers to organize in other sectors. They successfully organized the Retail Clerks International Protective Association in 1890, and the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America in 1897.

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