Strikers Grind Sugar to a Halt

A century ago, New Orleans longshoremen fought for better conditions along the waterfront and won.

Sending goods overseas is not a new practice. Boats being used to transport goods has been a constant in human history. This procedure naturally includes having people load and unload the goods from the boats. These workers are given the title “longshoremen.” They are very important to cities that rely heavily on water transportation, such as New Orleans.

In November of 1919, the much needed longshoremen of New Orleans went on a strike. The strike began because two New Orleans groups were unwilling to submit their case to the Adjustment Board. Ultimately this led to the agreement between the United States Shipping Board and the International Longshoremen’s Association. This however, only meant the two New Orleans locals opposed the agreed policy. Unfortunately, the disagreement and refusal caused an unneeded sugar famine. Said famine costed the community an extra five thousand dollars fee to its food bill a day. Even with the strike, the longshoremen were continuously offered their jobs back; they continued to refuse.

George François Mugnier, Roustabouts, 1920 1885, Photograph, George Francois Mugnier Collection, Louisiana State Museum.

When newspapers write of the longshoremen’s strike, it was not in an approving manner. The newspaper continuously called the strike foolish and even evil. The writer is not on the side of the workers because he was experiencing this famine himself. The strike only caused unneeded stress on all those not involved or invested. Of course the writer would talk poorly of the longshoremen strike, from his point of view the longshoremen should make it easier on everyone and just agree.

Due to the longshoremen’s relentless strike, the National Adjustment Board came to their terms.  The final decision was to give the workers an eight hour work day. It was also agreed upon that the workers would be paid 80 cents an hour. Along with this, each longshoreman who worked overtime would be paid a dollar and twenty cents each hour worked. And they would be paid two dollars each hour on holidays and Sundays. On holidays and Sundays, no man could work for more than four hours unless it was for an emergency. 

Works Cited

“Longshoremen Accept. Award of National Adjustment Board Is Deemed Satisfactory.” Times-Picayune, 28 Nov. 1919, p. 10. 
“Settle The Strike.” Times-Picayune, 7 Nov. 1919, p. 8. 
Justin Nystrom, “The Vanished World of the New Orleans Longshoreman,” Southern Spaces, March 5, 2014.

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