Irish Patriotic Strike and Fire on the Black Mountain  

So, what brought me over to Fire on the Black Mountain? It was the story on the Irish Patriotic Strike.

Please go and read the entire piece.

Strikes are largely economic by nature, so much so, that there is a perception that those are the only kind. Which of course is what's so interesting about the Irish Patriotic Strike, from Fire on the Mountain:

Strikes are usually economic in nature; union labor in a particular industry goes on strike to demand higher wages, better working conditions, a stop to layoffs, etc. Few labor actions in U.S. history have the broad political implications of the Irish Patriotic Strike of 1920. A strike on U.S. docks in support of a national liberation movement was unusual in its own right. The support the walkout garnered outside the Irish community, and across the so-called "color-line," was truly significant.

It wasn't just significant in that it wasn't economically motivated but the kind of meetings that came out of this also shows one of the reasons that the longshoreman's unions divided into East and West in the early part of last century. It also shows how far sighted Harry Bridges was when he worked to integrate the union. The lessons from this strike must have been on his mind. Again, from Fire on the Mountain:

After Garvey sent the Rev. J. W. Selkridge, one of his chief lieutenants, to the docks urging the Black longshoremen to honor the strike, a contingent of Irish American longshoremen visited Liberty Hall in Harlem, seeking closer cooperation with the UNIA. A four-way meeting the next day brought together representatives of the UNIA, the American Women's Pickets, the Black longshoremen and the striking Irish longshoremen. When the African American dockworkers asked for promises that they wouldn't be banned from the piers after the strike, the striking workers refused to agree to this basic democratic demand. This decision sealed the strike's fate. It collapsed two days later.

Is it any wonder about why the Longshoreman's strike of 1936 was a successful strike? One answer, integration. When we all work together, we all win.


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