California Educator

April / May 2019

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 57 of 73

T H E S T R I K E O F militant longshoremen, sail- ors and oil workers in the Los Angeles harbor at San Pedro is part of the forgotten history of California. Many writers were sympathetic to the struggles of organized labor in California, but few put themselves in harm's way, as Sinclair did at Liberty Hill. In the spring of 1923, the Wobblies (members of Industrial Workers of the World, IWW) in San Pedro called a general strike to pressure for the release of state political prisoners, to protest "Fink Halls" (anti-union employment offices) and to agitate for higher wages for dock workers. At San Pedro, some 3,000 longshoremen tied up the port. e local police began mass arrests of strik- ers, raiding IWW halls. Sinclair lodged public protests from Pasa dena on behalf of jailed radicals and kept them sup- plied with books. In her memoir, his wife Mary Craig described a visit from a longshoreman's wife who "vividly described atrocities when a hired mob raided a meeting, beating workers, throwing a little girl into a receptacle of boiling coffee, scalding her almost to death." Longshore- man Art Shields, who knew Sinclair from the picketing of Rockefeller headquarters after the The Activist Writer Upton Sinclair's full life included the labor movement Upton Sinclair: California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual, by CTA/NEA- Retired member Lauren Coodley, underscores Sinclair's place in the American story as a social, political and cultural force who disrupted and documented his era in the name of social justice. Her book chronicling his life — and the fascinating times he lived in — is a good read for high schoolers. Sinclair was a prolific writer, film- maker, labor activist and women's rights advocate. In the 1920s he moved from the East Coast to Southern California, where he became embroiled in a local labor struggle, described in the excerpt below. Sinclair wrote Singing Jailbirds based on his San Pedro strike experience; pictured are the play's cast and stage set. "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." —Upton Sinclair 56 Teaching & Learning

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of California Educator - April / May 2019