On this day in labor history, the year was 1929.
That was the day 1800 streetcar drivers and motormen walked off the job at New Orleans Public Service.
The Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees, Division 194, had been in contract negotiations for months.
They demanded higher wages, a closed shop and an end to arbitrary discharges.
The company was looking to bust the Amalgamated with the creation of a company union.
For the first few days, the strike was quiet.
But then on July 5, the company brought in strikebreakers
10,000 union members and their supporters gathered to stop scab service.
The company attempted to run a lone streetcar down Canal Street.
Immediately it was pelted with bricks and stones.
The scab driver bailed.
Another four cars attempted to leave the car barn.
Pitched battles raged for hours with police and scabs.
Two union men were shot and killed by scabs and hundreds more injured.
Trade unions throughout the city threatened a general strike.
The strike raged on for two months.
Throughout the summer, trolleys were burned to the ground, tracks destroyed, switches cemented in place.
As the weeks wore on, conditions became more desperate.
That’s when Clovis and Bennie Martin, former division 194 conductors, decided to help out.
They had since left public transit to open the Martin Brothers’ Coffee Stand and Restaurant.
They declared to their former union brothers, “We are with you heart and soul. We are with you till h—l freezes over.”
They offered free super-sized sandwiches for the “poor boys.’
The strikers would eventually win some of their demands.
The sandwiches would become a standard in New Orleans cuisine, better known as the po-boy.
Signup for email updates from this Contributor help