1946 Oakland General Strike:
by Mary Kuan
It is the intention of this paper to examine the events that unfolded during the 1946 Oakland General Strike. The clerks at Hasting’s were refused union recognition by the Retails Merchants Association. It began as a simple walk out by the clerks at the Hasting Department store, who was later joined by the neighboring Kahn’s Department store. Strikes continued as others also pledged to walk out of their jobs as an expression of solidarity. The nation expected a continuation o f prosperity that they experienced during theWW2. Expectations did not materialize as the war came to a close. The city of Oakland experienced labor shortages when many shipyards had closed after the war. It also felt the burden of accommodating an influx of worker immigration coming from places such as Oklahoma. There were also no-strike pledges and wage freezes that were implemented during the war in the name of patriotism. Housing shortages was also rampant as well as inflation. Meanwhile, corporate profits were at an all-time high and continued the wage freezes even after the war ended. The conflict soon erupted between workers and business elites in what was to be the greatest strike wave in American history.
The importance of this event can be seen through its social and economic impact in Oakland. The tradition and the sanctity of the picket lines were preserved by both men and women. Racial barriers were erased, where both Blacks and Whites joined together in carnival-like atmosphere. It pitted the working class against the powerful corporations of the city. Demands for increase in wages, better working conditions, and union recognition reverberated throughout the streets of downtown. Many as veterans felt cheated as they found themselves without income as soon as they return home from fighting enemies abroad.
The Oakland Strike of 1946 became a model for modern unions to follow as labor movements have become an ongoing battle. Unions have kept the memory alive, and even today, the sacredness behind the picket line is still honored.
“1946 Oakland General Strike.” OaklandWiki. Last modified
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