The Rural Observer

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San Francisco at Bay

To California Farmers . . . .

The Rural Observer office is down here at the foot of Market Street in San Francisco. Just below us is the waterfront, San Francisco harbor, still as death. Not a ship is moving, hundreds of workers are milling around wondering how they can have a merry Christmas with no work, no money to buy your turkeys, your fruit, your products.

Out in the valleys you are looking at increased freight bills that show the cost of shipping clear down to San Pedro instead of just to the Bay here. You have read in the papers that "radicals" have taken over the San Francisco harbor and that your produce can't be shipped to market.

And up Market Street a bit, in the post office building, is the answer to it all. There the United States Senate Civil Liberties Committee is looking into the dirtiest mess of big business manipulation that you and the workers alike have ever suffered from.

Do you know what? You were hired by the San Francisco Industrial Association, by the Southern Pacific Railroad, by PG&E, by the Canners League, by the Bank of America to break up the unions in San Francisco!!!!



A few of the so-called farm leaders collected $178,542.91 from big business and agreed to use you to break up the unions.

It's a long-standing deal that started back in 1934, but the best example of it all is the tie-up on the waterfront right now.

What's Happening Down on the Waterfront?

Well, that's a good question to ask. The unions have proposed that a giant town meeting be held here in San Francisco to let people know just what is going on. But Mayor Rossi and the waterfront bosses have refused. A group of San Francisco ministers asked that the meeting be held. STILL IT WAS REFUSED.

The joint publicity committee of the Maritime Federation sent out a statement to the papers explaining the union position, but it wasn't published.

You know it is the same old stuff. If you own a bank, you get your side in the paper, if you don't, you just have to whistle.

It was the same way in the prorate fight.

But, darn it, the unions have a side to this business, and that's why THE RURAL OBSERVER is sending you this story for Christmas.

A Few Weeks Ago . . . .

you opened your paper and read, "WATERFRONT CLOSED AGAIN." You read that Harry Bridges was dictating again, that the unions wanted to take over the shipping industry, the docks, half the ocean, and a few acres of the moon.

You also read that YOUR leaders (they said they were your leaders), Watson, Strobel, Bancroft, and the Associated Farmer crowd had announced to the world that YOU were all indignant about it and that you were going to move into the cities to do away with the unions once and for all.

THAT WAS ALL PART OF THE $178,542.91 DEAL THAT WAS MENTIONED. We'll get back to that later.

So the Associated Farmers told you that the waterfront was closed, that your crops would rot, that the revolution had come, and so forth.

Now Here Is an Interesting Thing . . . .

The port is open right now, and has not been completely closed since 1937.


You see, there are 56 shipping companies on the front. Twenty-nine of them are open today, and have not been closed. You could ship all the products raised in the last ten years out of those docks in two weeks' time.

And that is only half of it. The Port of Oakland (just across the bay) handles nearly 90 per cent of the farm products that are shipped. It has been open all the time, and the workers are standing on the docks this moment anxious and ready to work. There has been no dispute there.


For, you see, the employers have announced that no ship will be allowed to enter the bay until the unions are on their knees.

What About the 27 Companies That Are Closed?

That also is a good question.

There is a strike on those 27 docks, a strike of dock clerks, and it is their story we want you to hear. You'll never get it out of the papers, you know.

Dock clerks check, record, tally and supervise shipments. They have a union. They are a small group compared to the other workers, only 650 of them; but they have families, just like you and I, and so they want to protect their union.

Their contract with the employers association said that either group had the right to open up the contract at the time it expired. Well, the contract expired at the end of September, and both the union and the employers offered some changes.

The union listed the things they wanted to talk about on a piece of paper and sent it over to the bosses' office. The employers sent back a letter saying, "Sorry, we're awfully busy today."

Day after day after day the union got the same answer. The employers just wouldn't meet to talk about things.

What Did the Union Want?

There were four points the union wanted to talk about, and when you read them in the paper they either sounded like revolution or so jumbled up that Solomon would stumble a little. But when you look at them straight, they are a cinch.

  • 1. Preferential hiring for monthly checkers.
  •     Does this mean that Moscow will pick out the men to do the work? NO! It means just that
    the clerks' union will get back what it had in 1937, just what San Pedro clerks have right now, just what Seattle has.
    Some clerks are hired by the month, and work full time for the same company. Others work steady for one company, but are hired by the day. Still others work for any company, on call.
    Those who work on call, and those who work on a day rate, do exactly the same work the monthly clerks do. Many of them are supervisors over the monthly clerks; all of them have been on the docks for years and know the business inside and out. And they were all hired by the employers.
    But the shipowners singled out the monthly clerks to use in discriminating against the other workers and the whole union. You see, the union had no way of protecting the monthly clerks, though they were part of the union membership.
    The employers gradually began hiring more monthly clerks and laying off daily clerks. But they didn't hire men who had been working for them for years and years. They went outside and got non-union men to take the jobs and left old-time workers standing on the dock out of a job.
    So the union asks that if any more monthly clerks are put on that the employers pick them out of the ranks of experienced and qualified clerks, the union men.
  • 2. Registration of Checkers.
  •     All the workers in the industry are registered, and have been since 1937. The union asks that when either the employers or the union take on new men that these men be mutually acceptable to both employers and the union, that these men be registered as acceptable.
  •     Right now, the monthly dock clerks work 30 hours in excess of other checkers, and are not paid for those hours. Monthly clerks work more hours than the law requires. The union asks that the company comply with Federal laws.
  •     Many checkers work day and night; others get no work at all. The union asks that extra work be rotated among the qualified and accepted workers.

I guess those points weren't as simple as I thought. It did take a couple of pages to explain them, but you can see now what the whole trouble is about.


Not one of these issues is going to cost the employers a cent, but it is a matter of life and death to the unions. And that is why the employers are driving now to break the unions once and for all.

What About Getting This Settled?

The union wanted peace right from the first. They stalled off calling the strike for several days but the employers refused to arrive at an agreement with the union. That means they refused to sit down and settle the deal.

So the United States Maritime Labor Board, in the interest of the public welfare, called the two sides together and requested arbitration. The union was willing; but the shipowners flatly refused.

The shipowners were out to break the unions, and nothing was to be gained by letting the government help bring peace.

But the workers down on the front wanted to work. It was Christmas time and the kids wanted fun, wanted food. When there is no money in the pocket Christmas becomes pretty hollow.

So the union said, "We will compromise. Give us the same agreement that the dock clerks have in San Pedro."

"No," said the shipowners. "We'll give you what the clerks have in Seattle."

The union men thought it over.

"All right," they said. "We will accept that."

Then the shipowners withdrew their offer. They offered no explanation. They just said, "No."

So the union made proposal after proposal. In all they made 17 offers of compromise. To each one the employers answered, "We refuse."

And the port stayed closed, and the workers started eating beans, nothing but beans.

Your products started going down to San Pedro. Southern Pacific was happy. The shipowners were losing nothing—they own the business down there, too.

Meanwhile, the Associated Farmers kept up the drone of "Break the unions, break the unions," and the papers carried the song of hate far and wide. That was the story that landed in your lap.

In San Francisco many a hearty laugh is heard in palatial offices, clubs, mansions, "We've got them where we want them. Let 'em crawl."


It was a great plan, a long time in the making—a long time in preparation. It's working fine. You out on the farms have been told that Harry Bridges has closed the port and is causing all the trouble. The union men are out in the street hungry and needing work. And the port is closed tight.

Finally, Governor Olson entered the picture.

You see, keeping the port closed affects all California, as you know, so the Governor appointed a committee to find out what it was about. When the committee reported, the Governor made his recommendations.

Here is what he suggested:

  1. That the strike be called off and work resumed under the same status that prevailed before the walkout.
  2. That the questions of preferential hiring and registration of regular employees be set aside for the present. That's the main stumbling block, and the Governor proposed it be set aside and that the other issues be negotiated, mediated, arbitrated, or whatever may be necessary to keep the port open.
  3. That a committee be appointed by the Governor consisting of three members, one to be nominated by the employers, one by the union, and a third by the Governor, agreeable to the union and the employers. That this committee make a thorough study of the whole question of preferential hiring and registration of employees, and that a report and recommendation be made.
  4. That the findings and recommendations shall not be binding on either party but will merely serve as an aid in achieving a peaceful relationship.

The union accepted this proposal.

The employers turned it down flat.

This was the eighteenth proposal the employers had turned down. They've turned down all proposals of the union, all proposals of the United States Government, and all proposals of the State Government.

Turning down the Governor's proposal is particularly significant since the proposal completely circumvented every objection previously raised.

The only thing they could possibly object to in the Government's proposal is an investigation of the question by a responsible Government committee—an investigation that would bind them to nothing. Yet they object.


As far as the union is concerned—there is nothing left for them to concede. They have given every point. They are standing on the front bare-headed and bare-handed.

Their single request is that the port be reopened, that they be allowed to go back to work.

The employers sneer out: "No. No, the port will stay closed. There will not be a ship in this harbor until the unions are broken. We don't give a damn about the issues. We don't care what you will give or take. The unions are going to be broken!!!!!!

Governor Olson could do no more. He did not want to get into this business. He has enough troubles, with the Associated Farmers snipping him on every side, with the Legislature sabotaging his program. But Governor Olson entered the waterfront dispute with the single proposal that the strike be called off and that study be made of the issues involved.

Even this the employers would not grant.

What can you do with guys like that?

Well, Governor Olson sent a telegram to President Roosevelt. This is what it said:

"It is apparent that employers are determined not only to refuse any consideration of union requests but because of the same are boycotting San Francisco, Oakland, and Stockton harbors. It appears American President Line of United States Maritime Commission is joined with private lines in this purpose.

"I earnestly recommend that the President Line show cooperation, which the private lines refuse, so that the strike of union and boycott of steamship companies may be terminated and operations at these harbors immediately resumed."

Governor Culbert L. Olson.

Where Do the Farmers Come In?

Well, that harks clear back to the 178 thousand dollar deal.

The LaFollette Committee has dug pretty deep into the Associated Farmers and have discovered what we have already known. That the Associated Farmers belong to the big corporations—that the big corporations use them to serve their own purposes.


Out on the farm you get the squeeze from a certain group of guys. The banks that hold your mortgage and collect the interest. The railroads that ship your stuff and hook you for big freight costs. And the canners, processors and dealers who pay you nothing for your crop and sell for plenty to the city workers.

Your customers in the city, the ones who actually eat the things you raise are not bankers or shipowners, they are the workers. The workers who eat beans, and fruit, meat and milk. They are the fellows you live to serve and they work to buy your food.

But wedged in between you are the corporation big shots who call themselves the Associated Farmers. Under their own names they kick you in the face, then under the name of the Associated Farmers they rush out to kiss you on the cheek and try to lead you into the cities to break the backs of your customers.

Now here is a partial record of the contribution a few corporations made to the Associated Farmers:

  • Industrial Association (San Francisco)
  •     $14,400.00
  • Southern Californians, Inc.
  •     6,500.00
  • Railroads
  •     17,170.00
  • Canners League
  •     13,700.00

This is just a part of the list that the LaFollette Committee revealed to the public for the first time at the hearings in San Francisco last week.

But are you hearing about it? No, because CalPak, Bank of America, S. P., and a few others own the papers, own the canneries, own the railroads, the waterfront, and YOU.

Yes, it is high time the farmers of California did something about the waterfront in San Francisco. They should stretch out a hand of help and understanding that would say . . .

"Merry Christmas to you, fellow workers. We will stand behind you now and we'll expect you to help us when our mortgage is foreclosed."