Celebrating Labor History: Ten Years That Shook the City

“March for Peace April 24” • Artist: Unknown • Publisher: National Peace Action Coalition, Labor Support Committee • Year: 1971 • Medium: offset

During the 1950s, having purged most of the Left-wing critics of US foreign policy, organized labor had benefited greatly from the cold war economy and was almost universally supportive of US government military actions. As historian Philip Foner noted, “Labor spoke with a Neanderthal voice. In May of 1965, George Meany declared that the AFL-CIO would support the war in Vietnam “no matter what the academic do-gooders may say, no matter what the apostles of appeasement may say.” But as the war ground on, and working-class soldiers came home in body bags, support began to crumble and labor began to change.

First, independent locals spoke up, and in 1969 the Alameda County Central Labor Council (CLC) came out against the war, the first CLC in the country to do so. The following year trade unionists ran full-page ads in the Washington Post and the SanFrancisco Chronicle against the war. The April 24 demonstration in San Francisco, even though not endorsed by the CLC, was a groundbreaking show of anti-war solidarity by major trade unions.

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From Ten Years That Shook the City: San Francisco 1968-1978 edited by Chris Carlsson, published by City Lights.

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