Author Archives: Metro Council

Seattle General Strike 1919

3:46-minute excerpt from Witness to Revolution: The Story of Anna Louis Strong contains original film footage from 1919, the only known footage of the strike. Produced and directed by Lucy Ostrander. The excerpt is part of an award-winning documentary film biography of Anna Louise Strong, Seattle’s most famous radical.

The General Strike began February 6 and ended February 11, 1919. It was called to support the shipyard workers demands for higher wages after a World War I ended.

The shipyard workers were represented by different crafts that composed a “Metal Trades Council” that had been on strike since January 21, 1919.

The Seattle Central Labor Council called the General Strike in support of the Metal Trades unions. The strike ultimately failed and many labor leaders were jailed and the only labor newspaper in Seattle was shut down.


600,000 Miners Strike Led by John L. Lewis (1919)

1:54; U.S.

Synopsis: “In November, 1919, Acting President John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers led 600,000 miners in a five week strike that crippled the bituminous coal industry and the nation as well. The strike was in direct defiance of a court injunction against such action and Woodrow Wilson denounced Lewis as a dictator. This was John L. Lewis’ first clash with a United States president; he missed battle with no other president from then on up to Eisenhower.

On December 11, President Wilson and Attorney General Palmer presented Lewis with a proposal that would send the miners back to work: a 14% wage increase (they were getting $2.00 per day) and a commission to work out other questions in the dispute such as hours, health and safety standards. Lewis accepted immediately and the men returned to work, proving their loyalty to their country, he said. Attorney General Palmer commended Mr. Lewis for his wise and patriotic action.

The coal operators, however, charged Palmer with surrender and said that he feared a terrible situation if the government had been forced to jail the miners. A Congressional Committee decided to investigate the strike.”



1934 San Francisco Longshore Strike

1:39; U.S.

Synopsis: Newsreel footage on the 1934 longshore general strike in San Francisco which helped to birth the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Union (ILWU).




Strikebreaking During the Depression (1934)

5:06; U.S.

Director: March of Time newsreel

Synopsis: Newsreel footage about Pearl Berghoff, the owner of the Berghoff Agency which was one of the premier strike-breaking companies through the 1930s.  The newsreel both gives an overview of Berghoff, and looks specifically at his company’s involvement in strikes in Georgia in 1934.


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The Creation of the CIO (1935)

7:18; U.S.

Director: March of Time

Synopsis: Newsreel documentary focusing on John L. Lewis and accounting for the reasons behind and early conflicts over the split of the American Federation of Labor in 1935 and the creation of the rival federation, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).  Film is clearly pro-CIO and contains fantastic footage of Lewis, Sidney Hillman, and other major organizational leaders of labor in the Depression years.



Labor Unrest in Coal During and After World War II

4:16; U.S.

Director: United Mine Workers of America

Synopsis: Newsreel about the UMW’s fights with the Roosevelt administration during World War II.



The Brotherhood of Man (1946)

10:36; U.S.

Director: Robert Cannon

Synopsis: An animated short film sponsored by the United Autoworkers which breaks down various racist ideas of difference among peoples.  In some ways the presentation will seem awkward to a modern audience, but considering when it was made and the intended audience (rank-and-file white workers), it is an impressive document.