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On 75th Anniversary Of SF General Strike:An Affront To San Francisco, an Assault On Organi
by Brad Wiedmaier & Ralph Schoenman
Wednesday Mar 11th, 2009 3:42 AM
On the 75th anniversary of the SF general strike property developers plan to destroy the former headquarters of the ILA where the general strike was organized in 1934.
On 75th Anniversary Of SF General Strike:An Affront To San Francisco, an Assault On Organized Labor and Working People Everywher-Destroying the ILA Hall of Harry Bridges

An Affront to San Francisco, an Assault upon Organized Labor and
Working People Everywhere
Bradley Wiedmaier and Ralph Schoenman
A landmark building, emblematic of a defining moment in the history of organized
labor for San Francisco and working people across this nation, faces vandal-like desecration.
On Tuesday, March 17th at 4:00 p.m., the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has an
opportunity to prevent this from happening
The International Longshoremen’s Association Local 38-79 Hall from 1933 through
1935 at 113 Steuart Street is targeted for demolition. The agenda item is camouflaged, listed
as 110 The Embarcadero - the address to be assigned its intended replacement, a ten-story
office building that is part of an illicit over-development planned in its place.
The Board of Supervisors can overturn the “Negative Determination” of the Planning
Commission and save the ILA Hall at 113 Steuart Street.
We call upon all friends of labor to show up on March 17th and urge them to do so.
A Negative Determination
The key document on which the Planning Commission has based its “Negative
Determination” [Case Number 2006. 1294E] regarding the appropriate survival of the ILA
building and Hall was prepared by the architectural firm of Page and Turnbull, Inc., a firm
retained, revealingly, by the developer, Hines Interests Limited Partnership, that presents
itself as follows:
Hines is … involved in real estate investment, development and property management
worldwide … (and) includes more than 1,100 properties representing … 457 million square
feet. … With offices in more than 100 cities in 16 countries and controlled assets valued at
approximately $25.6 billion, Hines is one of the largest real estate organizations in the
Hines and his Hired Hands
Hines is a contributor to the Democratic and Republican parties, depending on who is
in power, in cities across the US. and has enjoyed a major role in the profiteering resulting
113 Steuart Street — page 2
from the high-rise development of San Francisco, the runaway cost of housing in the city
and, inevitably, the current capitalist crisis that has engulfed the nation and the world.
The developer’s political consultant and lobbyist, David Looman, set up meetings with
each Supervisor to lobby him or her individually for the destruction of the ILA building and
the Hall at 113 Steuart Street. Looman’s mandate was to secure the replacement of labor’s
historic site with a huge development at 110 Embarcadero, re-packaged by this hired lobbyist
as “the GREENEST building in the world.”
Hines’ hired hands, Page and Turnbull, Inc. prepared dutifully a study entitled
“Historic Resource Analysis.” In setting forth its criteria for preserving an existing building,
the Page and Turnbull, Inc. document asserted baldly “neither the building nor any of the
early tenants contributed significantly to … the development of the San Francisco waterfront.
It added, inter alia, the following coup de grace:
“None of the early owners or tenants associated with the building appear to have
played a significant role in the development of San Francisco.” (emphasis added)
The Class Agenda
Nothing so clearly manifests the agenda of the forces behind this classical speculators’
undertaking, their manipulation of the Planning Department and Commission and, by
intention, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. The “development” of San Francisco and
those who “contribute to it” is meant literally. Language, no less than history and the needs
of the people who inhabit our city, has been perverted by speculators.
It is real estate speculators who “develop” our cities and “contribute” to the political
parties in office to do so. The destruction of an affordable living environment for working
people is the cost of “development,” rapacious profiteering the criterion for “progress.”
If ever the class issues that define the significance and history of 113 Steuart Street and
the plot to destroy it were crystallized for all with eyes to see, it is in this cynical assault upon
the lives and struggles of working people and upon the “labor town” of San Francisco.
Whose History — Theirs or Ours?
Whose history is embodied by the ILA Hall at 113 Steuart Street and what is the social
and historical replacement that Hines has engineered with the Planning Department and
Commission, pursuant to the Board of Supervisors meeting on March 17?
113 Steuart Street — page 3
The ILA Hall (now ILWU) was the nerve-center of the 1934 Maritime Strike from May
9, 1934 through the General Strike of 1934. This building and this very Hall on the second
floor served as the headquarters of the ILA and of the Strike Committee that prepared,
coordinated and led these seminal struggles.
It is the site where Harry Bridges displayed his leadership of the ILA (ILWU) to which
he devoted his life. It is in this very Hall that working people across the West Coast found
their voice.
From it emerged Harry Bridges, Henry Schmidt, Dutch Dietrich and John Schomaker.
It was in the Hall that they honed their leadership and coordinated the workers’ response to
State repression. It was here that the General Strike was born.
ILA Hall as Ground Zero for the Struggle
The Hall was the center of the month-long Waterfront Maritime Strike. It was ground
zero on Bloody Thursday (July 5, 1934) when police and deputies shot on orders scores of
union members, where Howard Sperry was martyred in front of the adjoining building.
The bodies of Brothers Howard Sperry and Nick Bordoise, killed in the next block, lay
in state in the Hall for four days. The massive Funeral Procession of the ILA Martyrs on
Monday, July 9th led from the Hall to Market Street and across the city.
Electrifying Working People, Galvanizing Labor
This great silent march electrified working people across the world. It galvanized
organized labor and the broadest support for the General Strike. The march did not begin
until the personal funeral service for the families and friends of labor’s martyrs was
concluded in the Hall.
Word of these solemn services spread everywhere by word of mouth and the vast
outpouring that led to the General Strike served, as well, to abort police plans to shoot down
strikers en masse in San Francisco as the Hearst and established press urged in hysterical
and thinly veiled language.
The Hall was the birthplace of the seminal struggles that impelled the bitter, bloody
and ongoing quest for workplace justice and organization for workers in every walk of life. It
began on the Waterfront. It was nurtured by the ILA (now ILWU) and it was enacted in the
113 Steuart Street — page 4
Bloody Thursday and 113 Steuart: Fierce Battle Rages All Day
On July 6, 1934, Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner ran a front-page headline: “Fierce
Fight Rages All Day Over Length of Waterfront.”
“Two men shot to death. One near death from bullets. Twenty-seven suffering from
gunshot wounds. Forty-five beaten, clubbed and gassed. A woman and two other passengers
shot as they met on a streetcar.
“Such was the toll yesterday in the marine strike as the bloodiest and most widespread
rioting and fighting in the recent history of San Francisco raged all over the waterfront.
“The riots raged from early morning until after dark. They raged from the Third and
Townsend streets station to Fisherman’s Wharf, from the Embarcadero several blocks
uptown. The strikers numbered as high as 5,000 infuriated, slugging, rock-throwing, clubwielding
“The rioting crowds were opposed by practically the whole police department of more
than 1,000 men, led personally by Police Chief Quinn. And for the first time since the strike
began, the police poured solid lead into crowds as they emptied their revolvers time and time
again into mobs of strikers who refused to fall back, refused to obey any police orders,
attacked police automobiles and buried bricks and scrap iron back at the police bullets, gas
shells and tear-gas bombs.
“The rioting grew in intensity as the day aged … then the police poured lead from their
revolvers into the jammed streets. Men fell left and right.
“Both police and State troops will employ a newly developed type of gas today
recommend to them by Ignatius McCarthy, chemical warfare expert. The new gas … affects
its inhalers violently and renders them immediately unfit for action and leaves them ailing.
Center of the Battle, Eye of the Storm
Where was the center of the battle, the eye of the storm?
Here is the Examiner fixing the location:
“The most terrific part of the battle raged about Mission and Steuart Streets. The ILA
Hall is at 113 Steuart Street and reinforcements for the brick-throwing army came
continually out of the hall as the police jammed them back up Steuart toward Market and out
113 Steuart Street — page 5
Mission Street. Police finally threw several long range shells through the windows of the hall
and it was reported several shots were fired through the windows.
“At lease two and possibly more strikers were later carried out of the hall to the street
wounded. One striker was placed in a police car, but when he saw where he was, despite his
wounds, he snarled defiance of the police. …”
Later in this gripping account, sanitized as it is by the San Francisco Examiner, the
central role of the ILA Building and Hall at 113 Steuart Street is manifest:
“Police poured volleys of tear gas projectiles through the windows and doors until the
strikers swarmed out.
“The fight was carried up to the doors and inside of the International Longshoremen’s
Association headquarters. Several strikers were shot down at the door and were carried
“Tear gas shells were fired into the building. The choking fumes drove the men out.
One striker, stripped to the waist, staggered from the door carrying a wounded man in his
The Hottest Part of the Battle
The Examiner’s irrefutable documentation of the pivotal and heroic role in these
historic events of the brothers and sisters centered at ground zero: the ILA Building and Hall
is amplified by the Los Angeles Times account of July 6, 1934:
“Here’s the hottest part of the battle from now on, along Steuart Street from Howard
to Market. No mistake about that. It centers near the ILA headquarters.
“See the Mounties ride up toward that front of strikers. It’s massed across the street, a
solid front of men. Take a pair of opera glasses and look at their faces. They are snarling and
jeering the on-coming Mounties.
“This is war, boys”
“The men in front are kneeling like sprinters at the mark.
“Clatter, clatter, clatter come the bricks. Tinkle goes a window. THIS IS WAR, BOYS,
113 Steuart Street — page 6
“Crack and boom! Sounds just like a gas bomb, but no blue smoke this time. Back
scrambles the mob, and two men lie on the sidewalk. Their blood trickles in a crimson stream
away from their bodies.
“Over it all spreads an air of unutterable confusion. Sirens keep up a continual
screaming in the streets, you can hear them far away.
Many Men Shot
“Now it is 2 o’clock. The street battle has gone on for an hour. How many are shot, no
one knows. Maybe they dragged some of the wounded up to ILA headquarters. Yes they did
exactly that. … Police consolidate their position at Mission and Steuart. …They still have the
machine guns. … Perhaps the troops will come. All afternoon the militia has been
mobilizing. (emphasis added)
Win or Die Decision
“Now it is apparently win or die for the strikers in the next few hours. The time from 2
o’clock to 3 o’clock drags for the police; it goes on the wings of the wind for the rioters.
“At 3 o’clock they start again, the fight surging once more about Steuart and
Mission Streets.
“Here is a corner the police have to hold. It is the key to the waterfront, the strategic
key, and it is in the shadow of ILA headquarters. The rocks start filling the air again. …
(emphasis added)
“The police start firing again, pistol shots, rifle shots … a blast or two from a shotgun.
Again men fall in the streets. Again blood trickles slowly down the slanting sidewalks.
“Panic grips the east end of Market Street. The ferry crowds are being involved. The
troops are coming. …”
The Cloud-Cuckoo Land of the Planning Department
Neither the Planning Commission nor, it must be noted, the Board of Supervisors can
ignore properly the documentary record of Harry Bridge’s association and that of the entire
leadership of the ILA Local 38-73 9 with 113 Steuart Street. Harry Bridges appeared in the
local Press for the first time in the San Francisco News on May 19, 1934. By the end of June
1934, Harry Bridges and those associated with him in the Hall were household names in San
113 Steuart Street — page 7
In the Press and in the minds of the public, Harry Bridges’ name was synonymous,
both with the ILA and with the great strike.
Nothing is more graphic in this regard than the article in the San Francisco Chronicle
of July 7, 1934. It was accompanied by a map delineating the events of “Bloody Thursday,”
July 5, 1934. It is highlighted by shading “THE AREA OF CONFLICTS DURING
The sole buildings labeled are the Ferry Building and the ILA Headquarters. The
“cross” indicated is placed exactly at the ILA Headquarters on 113 Steuart Street.
The description of the passion and intensity of emotion infusing the outrage over the
slaughter of the martyrs of the Longshoreman and Maritime Workers Strike is captured by
the description of the key meeting of the Teamsters Union on July 11, 1934:
Bridges, Bridges, Bridges
“A deafening chant of ‘Bridges, Bridges, Bridges’ brought Harry Bridges onto the
program and the platform to speak.”
Harry Bridge’s speech was met by a tumultuous response from the assembled
Teamsters. It led not only to the Teamsters joining the General Strike but appealing to other
major unions to follow their example.
Three years later, on July 17, 1937, Harry Bridges full page photo appeared on the
cover of Time Magazine under the caption “Labor’s Harry Bridges: A Trotsky to Lewis’
The long article was the focal point of the issue and addressed his “rise to national
fame” and his entry “to the C.I.O. high command, taking rank with men like Philip Murray of
the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, Sidney Hillman of the Amalgamated Clothing
Workers, Harvey Fremming of the Oil Field, Gas Well & Refinery Workers, Charles P.
Howard of the Typographical Union.”
Time Magazine, detailing Harry Bridges’ rise to leadership and of the premier role of
the ILA under his inspiration at 113 Steuart Street, added:
“So great is his prestige among the rank and file of insurgent maritime labor that he
towers above both rivals and loyal allies. Nor is his power confined to the West Coast. Even
tall, tattooed Joe Curran and his Atlantic Coast deck hands take orders from dour-faced (sic)
Harry Bridges. … Harry Bridges’ position in the new C.I.O. drive was clearly indicated …
113 Steuart Street — page 8
when John Lewis closeted himself with the San Francisco leader for an hour just before the
Maritime Conference assembled.”
The Continuing Role of 113 Steuart Street
In 1935, the ILA moved into a larger space at 27 Clay Street. The importance of the 113
Steuart Street ILA Hall space to San Francisco’s labor movement continued. It housed other
maritime unions, including the Shipwright, Jointers and Boat Builders Local 1149 and the
Ship Caulker’s Union Local 554.
Right next door, moreover, the historic Audiffred Building had a legacy of being the
headquarters of waterfront workers on its second floor. Both 150 Steuart and the adjacent
building housed waterfront union offices. The history of the entire site that the Planning
Commission would reduce to rubble is tied intimately to the maritime unions and the
waterfront workers of San Francisco.
It is, moreover, across the street from the Waterfront Historic District and the
building next to it is already “landmarked” as the Landmark Audiffred Building, the latter the
location of the International Seaman’s Union offices and hall.
Thus, the report of the developer’s hired hands is false, not merely by omission, but in
failing to note that the buildings adjacent had already been granted Landmark status and,
hence, the exclusion of 113 Steuart from such protection is at once specious and contrived.
The Planning Commission Embraces Deception
The Planning Commission failed not only to make the most elementary inquiry into
the accuracy and credibility of the claim in the Historic Resource Evaluation Report that the
ILA Hall lacked historical significance.
The Report outright fabricates the nature of 113 Steuart Street:
“The project site building is located immediately to the right (south) from where the
strikers were gunned down on July 5, 1934. … The project site building was not a union labor
hall, but was a restaurant and marine supply shop which was frequented by the
longshoremen during this period. Although the building was part of the backdrop for the
‘Great Strike of 1934,’ it does not appear to have a strong association with this historical
event. …”
113 Steuart Street — page 9
The Planning Commission deployed improperly its baseless negative finding
regarding historical significance for the site. It aborted the required Environmental Impact
Report stipulated by the California Environmental Quality Act.
The significance of this sleight of hand is that Environmental Impact Reports are
more meticulous and thorough in assessing the issue of historic significance.
The Physical State of the ILA Hall Today
The Planning Commission “determined that there is no historic, social or cultural
significance” to the structure itself. It claims falsely, as well, that the building is so altered
that there are no historic resources present.
In fact, the current state of the 113 Steuart Street ILA Local structure, contrary to the
Planning Board’s baseless assertion, possesses a high degree of continuity and integrity with
regard to its period of significance. The exterior 0f the second floor and the parapet match
the way the building appeared in 1934.
The second floor is where the ILA Hall was located at the level of the existing second
story windows. The following features comprise a virtually unaltered record of the building
as it appeared in 1934 during the Great Maritime and General Strike: the window opening
dimensions, the number of openings, the depth of the glazing from the wall surface, framing
and pilaster wall detail, and the crowning silhouette of the parapet.
The ground floor alone, containing the door to the stairs going to the second floor ILA
Hall and has been slightly altered. This modest walk-up to the upper floor of the humble
initial accommodation of the fledgling ILA Local – the very Local and location that made
labor history and led a struggle that resonated throughout the city, state, nation and the
world – is wholly preserved by the 113 Steuart structure.
It is, in any event, a bogus criterion, since the ILA Hall remains in situe; but even that
criterion is met fully, contrary to the determination by the Planning Commission and the
Report on which this conclusion is based.
Falsifying the Architectural Record
The abiding issue, of course, is the falsification by the Historic Resource Analysis
Report on page 6 of the importance of the ILA Hall for organized labor and working people.
This glaring fact exposes the real purpose of the Report, as it does the Developer who paid for
it: it is to remove the ILA and its heroic leadership from living memory and from history.
113 Steuart Street — page 10
What then of the developer’s project that would wipe off the map the ILA Hall at 113
Steuart? It entails a ten-story office building that fronts on 110 The Embarcadero – and will
continue throughout the block, removing the entire structure of which the 113 Steuart ILA
Hall site is but a portion.
The Planning Commission, in approving a ten-story building on this site, has, without
authority or explanation, sanctioned a structure that violates the San Francisco City Plan
Height Limit for this location. These height restrictions, designed to preserve the integrity of
historic sections of San Francisco, apply with particular force to the abutting Waterfront
Historic District and the Landmark Audiffred Building.
The Most Important Historic Site in San Francisco
The entire area comprises one of the most important historic locations in San
Francisco, the reason why San Francisco is regarded still, in spite of all the developer
predation, as a city of historic beauty that has preserved its past and its own integral
The Planning Commission has thus betrayed its legal mandate on two counts: it has
sanctioned the decimation of an icon of the struggle of working people and of organized
labor, betraying the legacy of San Francisco as a “labor town,” and it has ignored the City’s
very standards for preserving the integrity of an irreplaceable resource and legacy.
The San Francisco Maritime Strike that forged the General Strike of 1934 is a decisive
moment in the history of San Francisco, like the Earthquake and Fire of 1906. The Maritime
Strike and the General Strike that emerged from it are more important than the events of
1906, for these extraordinary struggles represent a historic coming of age of organized labor
that became an epiphany for working people across the world.
It had global impact. It has international significance. It is a defining moment in the
class struggle in America. The glorious battles of 1934 are featured in every subsequent book
on labor history.
We must preserve and celebrate our past. May it be prologue to the future.
113 Steuart Street — page 11
Funeral Preparations, Morning, July 9, 1934, 113 Steuart St.,
flatbed trucks to carry caskets being prepared (source: Bancroft Library)
Noon, July 9, 1934, Spectators looking down from inside the ILA
Headquarters while the flag draped caskets are moved to the truck from
the draped entry. (source: Bancroft Library)
113 Steuart Street — page 12
San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday, July 7, 1934
113 Steuart Street — page 13
San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday, July 10, 1934
113 Steuart Street — page 14
We call upon the ILWU and all of organized labor in San Francisco to
rise in defense of our fallen martyrs.
Let us learn the lessons that our greatest leaders taught us by example.
The financial speculators, developers and exploiters of society have
created a crisis only working people can resolve.
Never more than now do our martyrs and leaders of 1934 summon us to
draw the balance sheet of these past 75 years.
In the words of our anthem, we are approaching the final battle and we
had better wage it to win.
We can turn the tide. It is not too late to save Labor’s Historic ILA Hall at
113 Steuart Street and to demand that the Board of Supervisors act
appropriately in this matter.
Bradley Wiedmaier
Ralph Schoenman
Bradley Wiedmaier is an architectural historian and a long time activist in the workers’
movement. He has uncovered and identified countless long-lost San Francisco and Bay Area
architectural treasures.
Ralph Schoenman is co-producer with Mya Shone of the national radio program Taking Aim,
heard internationally. He was communications director of the Million Worker March,
initiated by ILWU Local 10 and is a life-long activist in movements for social justice.
While we all respect the milestone of the 1934 general strike, this preoccupation with old buildings is nonsense and an outrageous waste of time. The beauty of San Francisco is the people who live here and the natural environment: the salt water on three sides, the steep hills and the moderate climate. The achievement of the general strike is not the old buildings but the example of class struggle that made possible Social Security and unemployment insurance in 1935, and the legalized the right to organize labor unions. For those of us who have to live and work in old buildings, they are an outrage and essentially slums even if up to code, with their constant repairs, bursting pipes at all hours, steep staircases, and often inadequate facilities, despite the upgrades, which are many and expensive. We can require that the new buildings be aesthetically pleasing on the outside; they are all a vast improvement over the old on the inside, with the exception of the idiots who designed the new federal building on 7th street, who deliberately made a mess. Preservation of labor history can only occur with the renewal of the struggle mandated by economic necessity, and the sooner, the better.
by Douglas MacDonald
Sunday Mar 15th, 2009 8:02 PM
The great strike of the working class eminated from the ILA organizing center in the ILA hall in SF. It is one of the great monuments of working class history in the US. Moreover, the entire world takes great heart in remembering this struggle of the now nascent working class fight back in the US. Just as the capitalists emblazen the skylines with their triumphs of modern sculpture composed of glass and steel and protect their former lands and buildings of historic import, so should we preserve the ILA hall as a rememberence of the once and future fighting spirit of American working class independence. Plans are in the works for a museum and meeting space. Nothing more could be appropriate for this structure - it lending its voice of historic knowledge combined with the promise to incubate and birth further working class victories. Defend and support this vital institution. Long live Harry Bridges, the ILA and the working class victory of SF's yesteryear and tomorrow.
by Gregory A. Butler
(GREGORYABUTLER [at] Thursday Mar 19th, 2009 6:01 PM
At a time when there are great class battles going on in the real world, these fools are fussing and fighting about AN OLD BUILDING?

Buildings are nothing more than inanimate piles of brick, concrete and steel, it's PEOPLE who make history!

So, Brother Ralph and Brother Brad, forget the building, and pick up a picket sign for single payer, Employee Free Choice or the end of the war in Afghanistan!!!!

Please, brothers and sisters - stop the insanity and let's keep it real!!!!
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