Posts Tagged With: Unions




DSC07871 (Copy)Dale Toussaint, right, has re-energized the Alameda County Sheriff’s Archive. Gary Nelson stopped by and took a shot at identifying a photo Toussaint scanned into his laptop.

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Bill Selles and Dave Hoig pondered identities. Everyone who arrived knew everyone else, but some of the guys are new faces to me.

DSC07863 (Copy)In one of the display rooms is a sign left by protestors during the riots on the U. C. Berkeley Campus. Blue Meanies was a term coined by the protestors given to Alameda County Sheriff’s Riot Squad when they switched from regular uniforms and dressed in mechanics coveralls by request of the deputies. Their uniforms reeked of tear gas from one fracas to the next. Mechanics coveralls could be tossed in the washing machine after each shift.  In fact, the Sheriff’s Department didn’t have a so-called “Riot Squad”. The Civil Unrest that began in Berkeley was the first of it’s type. During worker strikes or mob situations of the 1920’s and 30’s, the deputies waded in and beat senseless anyone within reach,  and jailed anyone who fought back.  The right to civil protest was not respected. Oldtimer, George Wisner, told me the Sheriff’s Department and Oakland Police Department came down hard on union organizers and strikers. It was policy to always take the side of the company. Another requirement of those early times?  You had to be a Republican to be a cop. DSC07862 (Copy)Marc Thompson and a bunch of guys from squads one and two signed the Blue Meanie sign. He pointed to his name and I took his picture.

DSC07864 (Copy)If you recognize your name, come visit and I’ll take your picture with the now famous sign. Well, famous among the deputies, anyway. The riots were an important thing for deputies. They were never paid overtime, and wages were decided at the whim of the board of supervisors. Old Captain Creel would give you compensatory time-maybe. Many deputies worked side jobs to make ends meet. Sheriff Houchins had no choice but to go the board and ask for contingency funds to pay overtime for deputies who were on the streets for 10 to 15 hour shifts while others covered regular duties with equally long workdays. The riots brought wages up to par with the rest of society.

DSC07873 (Copy)People don’t think they can contribute anything of value to the archive. Behind Dale showing me this picture is a group looking at the Sheriff’s assignment board. We guessed it was from 1994. But the guys knew what year they were assigned certain shifts and they informed us the board was pulled off the wall in 1997. Everyone has knowledge of their time and place and can add to the history of the department in big and small ways. All are welcome on the third Thursday of the Month unless it is a holiday.

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Bill Smith.

Dale and Chris

A woman named Connie came in. I thought she might be a retired deputy.

DSC07877 (Copy)It turned out her husband was the retired Deputy. I didn’t remember either of their names but thanks to Pat Higgins, they are Richard and Connie Krimm.

DSC07870 (Copy)Ralph Streicher, one of the new volunteers, with Bud Harlen, one of the old volunteers. The place was humming. Remembrances of the past were flowing like water along with plenty of laughter. DSC07865 (Copy)And part of that hum was a busy Ralph Streicher. He kept saying, “I love this place.” He is the fastest talker I ever met. I know I’ve gotta get him to sit down for an interview some day. I’ve got three promised now. I keep telling myself life is getting easier with age and retirement.

DSC07868 (Copy)Dave Hoig. Tell your friends.

DSC07867 (Copy) Don’t wait. Get involved. Its fun to talk shop.

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Recent news about Volkswagen in Tennessee voting against organizing with the United Auto Workers Union surprised me. Union membership has fallen dramatically and Union Bashing is a favorite activity of the Republican Party, and corporate interests in general. I name the GOP because they traditionally support corporate America over labor, and especially unions. I don’t know if there was intimidation involved or not, but it worries me that young people, who have difficulty finding meaningful work to support a family, seem to have no remembrance of what Unions have meant to working people.  My surprise was augmented by watching the Triangle Fire on PBS, about the horrible working conditions women, men, boys, and young girls faced to simply feed themselves and pay for slum shelter.

[At the paper office, Bank Alley, 4 P.M.]  Location_ Syracuse, New York (State)

Corporate America thought it was their right to pay whatever they wanted while they collected millions in profits. Millions in the 1800’s was mucho big bucks.  No safety standards or any regulation of the thousands of factory workers who produced clothing, jewelry, pots, pans, you name it, existed. New York was the center of the garment industry.tff-sidewalk

The Triangle Fire, where 145 girls perished in a shirtwaist factory, kind of woke up the nation to the idea that working people should have some protections. The girls worked 7 days a week for 14 hours a day. They were not allowed to get up and get a drink of water, nor use the bathroom until lunch time, which they ate at their sewing machines. If they didn’t sew fast enough the boss would chastise them.  If they made a mistake,  it came off their meager pay. When fire broke out,  the door to the street was kept locked so no one could sneak out for a moment, and they were trapped on the ninth floor. The bosses got out on the first packed, slow elevator. New York City FD ladders could only reached seven stories high. Those that got out on the fire escape, (some escaped,)  until the fire escape fell to the ground under the weight.

The shirtwaist factories in NYC went on strike. The policemen who girls for striking, arrested them for striking, and falsely arrested them as prostitutes, were now faced with picking up the bodies of girls they had hassled before the strike was settled. The Triangle, did not go union like most of the other shirt waist factories, but Triangle did reduce hours and paid more money. No safety regulations applied to any of them.

I have a Free Riders Card which states:

I am opposed to all unions. Therefore, I am opposed to all the benefits unions have won through the years: paid vacations, sick leave, seniority rights, wage increases, pension and insurance plans, safety laws, workers compensation, Social Security, overtime, unemployment benefits and job security.  I authorize my employer to withhold the amount of the union-won benefits from my paycheck and donate it to charity.

Unions are still needed. In the early 1970’s, when the protestors on the streets of Berkeley, were screaming at the cops and calling them PIGS, they were secretly smiling because Sheriff Houchins went to the Board of Supervisors to plead for overtime pay for Deputy Sheriffs,  a first for the Department. The department later unionized and won modern benefits unavailable to them previously.

In the 1960’s, just before retirement, the company my father worked for, took many measures to get him to quit so he couldn’t collect his pension, including midnight phone calls to my mother, tacks under his tires, etc.  My Dad walked into the administration office with both of his Sons-in-law, dressed in suits and ties carrying briefcases. He asked them to make a formal statement in front of them, never revealing they were not lawyers. The company quit their harassment and he got his pension.

Do we really learn from the past?

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Three days ago, we visited Bisbee, Arizona.  Copper mining was the economical force in Bisbee from 1880 to 1975. In producing copper, the mines also brought up gold, silver, lead, zinc, and magnesium which doesn’t account for the beautiful and colorful minerals appreciated by rock hounds all over the world.

I don’t know what they do with giant pits after the riches of the ground are removed, but the area around the Copper Queen Mine is colorful to drive by.  The mine itself is available to tour, though we chose not to go. I’ve been on mine tours before and Jim doesn’t like to face 51 degrees for two hours.

The Historical Society Museum in town covered the mining operations very well and was very interesting.  They don’t allow pictures in their museum, but some of the same photos are available from other sources. Mining equipment out front  gives you look into the old style of hard rock mining.

They sent men down in these cages with candles and a lunch bucket. It was moist and cold; full of rats. The men didn’t kill the rats because if the rats vacated the mine, they knew the gas had reached dangerous levels. It was their signal to get out.

The main brewery in town sits at the head of Brewery Gulch and is still a brewery today. A 1906 Tuscon newspaper described brewery gulch as such:   The street is somewhat frightful from a sanitary point of view. It is covered in slime several inches deep and about four feet wide from which come a nauseating odor …it remains a disgrace to the city.

We teased Casey,from Kansas, the bartender, who served us a good IPA and a brautwurst.  The brewery also has a unique lime flavored beer that I liked. I got a taste, I didn’t drink more than one brew, just in case you suspect me of being a hard drinker.

We poked around town. Interesting old buildings are everywhere, like this triangular building. The streets are hilly; there is much to see and do. A person could easily spend two days exploring Bisbee. Keep that in mind when you go.

A rare sight, a Young Women’s Christian Association. We saw one in Douglas, as well. They were most likely needed in these rough western towns full of hard-working, swearing, fighting, swilling, gambling, tobacco chewing men.

I’d like a stairway just like this, except I don’t have a place to put it.

The elegant old Copper Queen Hotel is still in business.

The Copper Queen dining room.

And the bar with the traditional nude painting popular in those days. No self-respecting woman ever entered these doors.  Now, the bartender is a woman.

Now why didn’t I think to put cute little piggies in my windows?

I wouldn’t want a giant fly over my door, but, hey. If you have a business, this one certainly attracts your attention.

When we arrived in Bisbee, we had planned to stay at a VFW instead of Belle Starr’s Ranch. There I discovered a microbrewery.  It wasn’t open for lunch, and the VFW was not a suitable place to park. I was determined to find Electric  Beer before we left town, and I did.

They serve it at the oldest bar in town, St. Elmos.  Here we met Frances, an Indian woman who was born and raised in Bisbee and her picture was on the wall on her pony as a child. The place is loaded with pictures. The three women we talked with told us it was the friendliest and best hang-out in town where the locals get their brewskis.

I quizzed this guy about his tattoos. He said he has thousands of dollars invested in his body art. He took off his shirt and let me photograph him. He has a fabulous olive oil tasting bar, really posh and beautifully decorated with great art work. Nice place to stop.

I’ve painted the Bisbee miners as hard-drinking,gambling men, etc. But they were family men too, just earning a living with the brute strength of their bodies, with no health care and very little safety in the mines. It was hard, often crippling work. They had formed a union and asked for two men on an ore car, no blasting while men were in the mine, non-discrimination, and other safe working conditions. They were flatly refused and voted to go on strike. The mine owners contacted Federal authorities to put a stop to this strike. When refused, they met with Sheriff Wheeler who put out posters to gather a possee for 1,200 men who were told they were putting down an insurgency. It was the largest possee ever assembled. What the mine owners did was establish a group of vigilantes. They hauled the miner’s out of their homes and gathered them in a baseball field. One man resisted and was killed. They were beaten and questioned and if someone could vouch for their non-union participation, they were allowed to return to their homes and jobs. The rest, about 1,300 of them, were loaded onto train cars, without food, water or money and taken on a 16 hour ride and dumped in the desert. This happened in America the land of the free. I was astounded. A part of history I had never heard before. A reporter followed the train and got them help from the Sheriff of the neighboring county who gathered them up, set up tents for them, and gave them three months to do whatever it took to get their lives back in order. Not much happened to the mine owners or the sheriff. To read an account of this deportation check the link below:

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