Commemorating Portland’s “Bloody Wednesday”

PORTLAND – On Saturday, July 11, the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association (PNLHA) will host a Commemoration of Portland’s “Bloody Wednesday,” the day when BloodyWednesdayPoster (2)police fired upon picketers near Pier Park during the 1934 West Coast Longshore Strike. The event features a guided walk through the park as local historians join union members and the community to discuss what happened that day, the meaning it had for those who were there, and reflect on the strike’s role in Portland’s history.

On the morning of July 11, 1934, a hundred policemen piled aboard a train headed to Terminal No. 4 with the intent of forcefully breaking the picket lines of striking longshoremen. Near the intersection of what is now Columbia Blvd. on the edge of Pier Park, picketers blocked the train’s passage with their bodies and makeshift barricades. Chief of police Burton K. Lawson ordered the officers to open fire upon the unarmed workers using pistols and shotguns. Four men were wounded in this incident, but the picket line held firm and the strikers won their demands a few weeks later.

Also see story in the latest NW Labor Press at  

Pier Park & Bloody Wednesday Podcast Episode

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PNLHA on Everett Massacre

Poster - Everett MassacreNovember 5, 2016, marks the 100th anniversary of the Everett Massacre. On the 70th anniversary, the PNLHA published a 24-page booklet documenting the terrible event that saw the shooting deaths of at least five people.

The booklet, by Scott Wilson, provides the details, including several photographs that depict the events that led to the deaths of several young members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and at least two members of the posse that was charged with stopping them from carrying on their free speech fight in Everett.

Everett Massacre – PNLHA booklet – 1986

For further details on the massacre, see Norman H. Clark, Mill Town: A Social History of Everett (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1970).

Fighting Fast Track and TPP

Working Families logoAshland member Wes Brain, a community organizer with Southern Jobs with Justice (, is urging other members to call Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and tell him to vote against the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the fast tracking of the deal.

The labor movement has worked hard to stall “this horrible corporate deal,” as Oregon Working Families (OWP) has called it, but if it survives a Senate vote workers will suffer the consequences. It’s “a terrible trade deal that ships jobs overseas and gives corporations the power to challenge our national laws protecting labor and the environment in court,” says OWP.

“Southern Oregonians are against Fast Track,” Brain said, “and we want Senator Wyden to represent us for a change!” You can help. Dial 855-712-8441 to call Sen. Wyden and tell him to vote NO on the Fast Track bill!

For more on Fast Track: Huffington Post: “Pelosi: No Path Forward On Key Trade Measure” . On Working Families: .

Trustees featured on KBOO July 6

Longshore strikers near Pier Park in 1934.

Longshore strikers near Pier Park in 1934.

On Monday, July 6, KBOO, Portland’s progressive radio voice, will feature Oregon trustees Norm Diamond and Nathan Moore in conversation on the Old Mole Variety Hour from 9-10 a.m.

Labor educator Diamond was a long-time host of the show. Moore is a member of the Eugene-based folk and roots band the Low Tide Drifters that will perform live during the broadcast.

“We talk about the power of music in reflecting and generating working class solidarity,” Diamond said, “and about the class and environmental sensibilities specifically in their music.”

The trustees also discuss an Oregon PNLH-sponsored event on the July 11 at Pier Park, Portland, to commemorate the 1934 police shootings of striking longshore workers.

Note that the July 6 program will stream live at and be available as a podcast.

A history of Oregon’s first police strike

Klamath-Falls-Police-CarsIn the aftermath of police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, and other communities, some commentators have suggested that police unions are part of the problem. While this article by long-time PNLHA member Marcus Widenor does not address the current situation, it provides insights through an examination of Oregon’s first police strike in Klamath Falls, OR, in the early 1970s.

The strike occurred just as the state legislature was negotiating the final provisions for a comprehensive public employee collective bargaining law. The article offers a narrative account of the strike itself, and an analysis of some of the organizational characteristics of the police officers’ union and its job action.

The strike is seen in the context of the history of police unionism, as well as in terms of the overall growth of public employee unionism in Oregon and the United States. It illustrated that militant police unionism was evident in smaller communities, like Klamath Falls, Oregon, as well as in larger, eastern urban communities, where it has been most carefully studied.

Klamath Falls police strike history – Widenor

Labor snarls the TPP

Labor made the front page of the New York Times in mid-June for its stand against President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, and it isn’t the first time the union movement has taken on big trade agreements.

“Labor opposition helped derail a measure necessary to clear a path for an up-or-down vote on a sweeping trade deal that the White House is negotiating with 11 other nations bordering the Pacific Ocean,” the Times reported on June 14.

From the early 19th century, when political economist David Ricardo proposed free trade, working people have seen the disadvantages. Ricardo also proposed the “Iron Law of Wages” that advocated workers be held at subsistence wage levels. As Ralph Nader argues in The Case Against Free Trade, today’s free trade proponents don’t seem to have advanced much from Ricardo’s thinking. They simply “ignore altogether the issue of wages and working conditions.”

In the 1980s, unions in Canada and the United States fought hard to stop the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries. Soon it was fighting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Unions declared that both deals would be bad for workers and they have been proven right. But they lost both those battles. Now, however, it looks like they might have succeeded in at least stalling the TPP.

Trumka on TPPWorking in coalition with “liberal activists,” Labor beat back the President’s deal, claiming that “whatever the overall benefits to the economy, the emerging deal would accelerate the loss of jobs for blue-collar workers that pay well.”

Observers credit the success with “movement’s unusual cohesion,” and with good reason. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, visiting Oregon in mid-May, bolstered the statewide movement’s resolve to oppose the TPP, saying that it would “affect the lives of working people more than any other piece of legislation out there right now.”

B.C. trustee to chair working-class history session



B.C. trustee Allen Seager will chair a session at the “Dissenting Traditions” conference this October in Peterborough, Ontario, and will comment on a session entitled “Canadian Working-Class History: As It Was, As It Is, As It Might Be.”

The conference, set for October 23-24, 2015, at Trent University will address the intellectual and political interests of noted Canadian labor and social historian Bryan D. Palmer. Seager’s session will feature presentations on the “origins and possible future on the new and now-old social history,” on Labour/Le Travail, Canada’s foremost labor and working-class journal, and the future of Canadian working-class history.



Other sessions include: “Perspectives on E. P. Thompson,” “Approaching the Revolutionary Left,” “Marginality as Historical Subject,” “Uprisings of the Dispossessed and Protests in the Street,” “New Perspectives on Labour Studies,” and “Socialism & Intellectuals.”

Rosemary Hennessy (Rice University) will deliver the conference keynote address: “Remembering Reproduction: Revisiting Radical Women Writers of the 1930s.” Gregory S. Kealey (University of New Brunswick) will offer closing remarks. And labor songster Bucky Halker (Chicago) will perform music to recall the 100th anniversary of the execution of Joe Hill.”

PNLHA 2015 Conference Report, Program Videos

2015 PNLHA Conference Wrap-Up by Tom Lux

Many of our members attended a very successful PNLHA conference May 1 – 3 in SeaTac, WA. If you were able to attend the conference this year I hope it met your expectations. If you were unable to attend I know Oregon is starting to plan for another successful conference for this time next year. Stay tuned for that and go to our website often to check for any updates.

We received several evaluation forms and the respondents rated the conference evenly between 4 and 5 (5 being the highest rating possible). The most interesting presentations were listed as Bill Fletcher (by far) and the Domingo/Viernes Cannery Workers film shown Sunday morning. There was also interest in the IWW Project, Al Bradbury, the Friday night social, as well as the banquet/send off for Ross, Remembering Salt, Love & Solidarity video, Seattle Labor Chorus, etc.

Annual General Membership Meeting

Our Annual General Membership meeting was held after the conference on Sunday, May 3rd with 51 members in attendance. In the two contested races Tom Lux from Lake Forest Park, WA was elected President to take over for Ross Rieder who retired, and Brenda Doolittle from Graham, WA was elected US Treasurer. All other positions were uncontested and all results will be posted on the PNLHA web site.

There were several proposed by-law changes, all of which passed with some minor changes. The by-laws and the meeting minutes are going through our review/edit process now and will be posted on our web site once they are approved.

PNLHA’s Future

As I campaigned for PNLHA President, I said one of our goals should be to grow our membership. We are all organizers. I suggest we all carry a few membership application forms and whenever we talk to anyone interested in labor history, hand them a form and a pen. I think we need to make a very concerted effort to recruit in communities of color. PNLHA should reflect all worker history and we should all be at the table.

We need to find ways to become more visible in the community, schools, and union halls. Your ideas and commitment to expand our programs are welcomed.

If we want to continue the labor history calendar as an outreach and education tool, and I think we should, we will need a smooth transition from Ross doing all the work to how we want to do it in the future. There are a few ways we can do this, whether we pay someone to produce and distribute it or we divide the work among a few people, etc. Again, your ideas on transition are welcome.

2015 PNLHA Annual Conference Report Back from Oregon–Labor’s Music Filled the Halls by Ron Verzuh

Musical events at the conference were numerous and varied, starting the first night with a moving rendition of The Ballad of Harry Bridges by his granddaughter, Marie Shell. Angelica Guillén followed with some stirring antiracist poetry. A local high school brass band rounded off the evening with several jazz tunes. On Day 2, Labor Notes editor Al Bradbury led us in song to begin her talk on youth and unions.
Rika Ruebsaat and Jon Bartlett, Canadian music historians who’ve attended many PNLHA events, sang several Joe Hill songs as part of the conference’s recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Wobbly songster’s death by Utah firing squad. On the final day, Seattle’s Labor Chorus sent us home with some rousing anthems from several labor troubadours, including a sing-a-long of The Internationale.

You can now view the conference video playlist on YouTube (See the descriptions of the content below)

Plenary Address: “What Makes You Think the Labor Movement Will Survive? How Must it Change and How is it Changing?”, Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Plenary Address Q & A, Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Panel: “Crisis of the Working Class and American Democracy: A Conversation on the Challenges of Our Time”, Mike Honey, Jack O’Dell, George Lovell, Megan Ming Francis, Moon Ho Jung

Evening Program

Lunch Program

PNLHA Oregon hosts historic event

Justice for all logoPNLHA Oregon will host the 1934 ILWU Remembrance Event in St Johns Portland on July 11, as agreed at the Oregon trustees’ meeting in Salem on June 6, 2015.

The meeting also agreed that PNLHA Oregon become an institutional member of Portland Jobs with Justice with an $85 donation from the trustees. Portland trustee Ryan Wisnor will be the PNLHA representative at the JwJ meetings.

The meeting also voted to have PNLHA Oregon become an institutional member of HealthCare of Oregon. McMinnville trustee Mike Sullivan will represent us at HCO meetings.

BC film depicts worker history

These Were the Reasons DVD coverB.C. filmmaker Howie Smith’s 28-minute documentary, These Were the Reasons, provides an event-by-event glimpse at “the struggle of working people of B.C. to win basic union rights.”

Smith offers “a window into a century of union history.” Using interviews with workers, social activists, and trade unionists recorded over the past 40 years, Reasons unfolds that history “as told by those who lived it.”

Historic photographs and film footage depict the fight for equity and social justice, peace protests, winning the 40-hour week, and child labor. Interview subjects comment on labor martyr Ginger Goodwin, the On to Ottawa Trek, health care workers’ struggle against government attacks, and teachers “standing up for learning conditions.”

The film is designed as a teaching tool that connects B.C. workers’ history with today’s issues. To order DVDs, contact Smith at .