Why America’s most radical union shut down ports on Juneteenth
Play • 35 min

“The origins of the word strike goes back to the port of London in 1768, when dock workers and sailors struck. When sailors stop work, they take down the sails of their ship and that's called, nautically, striking your sail. And that term becomes the de facto word for all work stoppages.” Peter Cole, professor of history at Western Illinois University and author of two books on dockworkers, Wobblies on the Waterfront and Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area, talks with Ben Blake and Alan Wierdak about the historic Juneteenth strike by dockworkers this year, and the long history of dockworker activism. Plus, Arlo Guthrie sings “The Ballad of Harry Bridges” and Elise Bryant reads “Ready To Kill,” Carl Sandburg’s poem about who should be memorialized in our statues.

Produced by Chris Garlock. Alan Wierdak (George Meany Archives) produced the Peter Cole interview. To contribute a labor history item, email laborhistorytoday@gmail.com

Labor History Today is produced by the Metro Washington Council’s Union City Radio and the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University. Links: The Most Radical Union in the U.S. Is Shutting Down the Ports on Juneteenth (In These Times, June 16, 2020) Your Rights At Work radio show (WPFW 89.3FM) Labor Heritage Foundation Arlo Guthrie: The Ballad of Harry Bridges

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