Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934
by Beth Goodrich, Assistant Program Coordinator, Minitex
Think Like a Historian
Observe a Primary Source Item and Record Your Thoughts
- What is happening in the photograph or letter, diary, etc.? What just happened, or what is about to happen?
- Describe the people you see in the image. How do they relate to each other and to the photographer? If there are no people in the image, what is the subject of the photograph?
- Look for details that show when the photo was taken – time of day, season, and year. Do the people in the photograph look different than people today? How are their clothing, shoes, and hair styles different? Also look for differences in things like transportation, housing, equipment, and general infrastructure.
Think about the Creator, Audience, Context, Relationships
- What is the author/creator's point of view? What was the author's purpose?
- Who is the intended audience for this primary source material?
- Explain how the source tells its story.
- What was happening locally, regionally, or nationally when this primary source material was created?
- How does this item relate to other content in this Primary Source Set and/or the rest of the Minnesota Digital Library collection? Compare and contrast two resources.
Finally, using the clues you have observed, try to figure out why the source was created. By asking these questions, you have begun to understand the what, who, where, when and why of the primary source material – and ultimately, the story it tells.
Discussion Questions & Activities
1. The Truckers’ Strike in Minneapolis occurred in 1934 at the height of the Great Depression. Unemployment in the United States at the time was over twenty percent. How do you think the economic situation might have played a role in the working conditions that led the truckers to strike?
2. Look at the illustrations on the front pages of The Organizer. Think about how various characters are depicted and whom they represent. For example, in the Victory newsletter dated August 22, the employer is depicted as a portly man in a suit and top hat, while the worker is dressed in overalls and appears young and very strong. What does this tell you about the writers’ attitudes toward the different people involved in the conflict?
3. The photo on the front cover of the July 25 edition of The Organizer shows the funeral of Henry Ness, one of the strikers killed on “Bloody Friday.” It was estimated that 40,000 people took part in the funeral procession. Why would so many people choose to participate in this ceremony?
4. The photograph of the Theater Stage Hands shows a group of men in identical dress and carrying a union banner. What would be the purpose of the union having a uniform? What purpose do you imagine the union banner would serve?
5. What are the people in the photograph of the Labor Protest at Gambles Shopping Center protesting? One of the signs states “This is a protest not a strike.” What is the difference between a protest and a strike? Why would these protesters want to make the distinction that they are not on strike?
6. Look at the photograph of the Newspaper Guild Strike in Duluth. What is the atmosphere in this image? Why do you think the police used tear gas in this situation?
7. The two men in the center of the teachers’ strike photograph are professors at St. Cloud State University, not members of the striking teachers’ union in St. Cloud District 742. Why do you think these men would be picketing along with the striking teachers? What does this tell you about the relationships between members of different unions?
8. Imagine you are a member of a group that is being treated unfairly. Your organization might be a labor union, a student organization, a neighborhood group, or any other type of group with a common purpose. How would your group stay informed and communicate with its members? Design a newsletter for your organization. What kind of information would be included in the newsletter? How would the newsletter be delivered to the members of the organization?
9. Review the entire collection of The Organizer in Minnesota Reflections. Consider the purpose of the newsletter and the intention of the writers. Answer the following questions.
- Who is the intended audience? What does the writer want from the reader?
- What devices does the writer use to persuade the reader? Are there photographs or illustrations? How do the images serve to persuade the reader?
- How would you describe the writing style? How does the style serve to reach the audience?
- Notice that The Organizer began as a weekly publication, then became a daily once the strike began in July of 1934. How does the frequency reflect the purpose of the publication? Does the purpose change over time?
eLibrary Minnesota Resources (for Minnesota residents)
1. Hudson, Carlos. "Minneapolis - One Year Later." Nation 141.3669 (1935): 512. MasterFILE Premier. Web. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.
2. "Wagner Act." Britannica School, Encyclopædia Britannica, 27 Apr. 2018. school-eb-com.content.elibrarymn.org/levels/high/article/Wagner-Act/75846. Accessed 17 Jul. 2019.
3. Rodman, Selden. "A Letter From Minnesota." New Republic 80.1028 (1934): 10. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
4. Ross, Anne. "Labor Unity In Minneapolis." New Republic 79.1025 (1934): 284. Points of View Reference Center. Accessed Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
5. Ross, Anne. "Minnesota Sets Some Precedents." New Republic 80.1032 (1934): 121. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
Additional Resources for Research
1. Alam, Ehsan. "Minneapolis Teamsters’ Strike, 1934." MNopedia, Minnesota Historical Society. http://www.mnopedia.org/event/minneapolis-teamsters-strike-1934. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.
2. Goff, Lila Johnson. "Oral History Interview with Vincent Raymond Dunne." 27 Apr. 1969. Minnesota Historical Society. http://collections.mnhs.org/cms/display.php?irn=10446082. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.
3. Korth, Philip A. The Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934. Michigan State University Press, 1995.
6. The Organizer. Minnesota Reflections. http://reflections.mndigital.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16022col.... Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.
7. Palmer, Bryan D. Revolutionary Teamsters: The Minneapolis Truckers' Strikes of 1934. Haymarket Books, 2014.
8. Quam, Lois and Peter J. Rachleff. “Keeping Minneapolis an Open-shop Town.” New Republic, Fall 1986: 105-117. Web. www.libcom.org/files/v50i03p105-117.pdf. Accessed 06 Mar. 2017.