1919 Labor Temple Article

08 Mar

S. F. Labor Temple Among Nation’s Finest
Building Pays for Self and Earns Money

San Francisco Chronicle
March 30th, 1919

1919-temple pic

Council is One of the Oldest Workingmen’s Organization in Country, Dating From 1849, When Pacific Typographical Society Came Into Existence.

San Francisco not only has one of the finest Central Labor Temples in the country, but, as shown by the fourth annual report of the Hall Association, it is one of the few which is a financial success.  The report shows that after paying interest, taxes and insurance, repairs and all other expenses the building ears $1,000 a month.  This includes an assessment donated by the Labor Council for the redemption of bonds.

The Hall Association is incorporated, and the San Francisco Labor Council owns 51 per cent of the stock.  The building is financed by a bond issue of 4  per cent twenty-year bonds, held by various unions.

The Labor Temple is situated at the corner of Sixteenth and Capp streets, and is one of the most commodious and best furnished and arranged of the big labor temples of the country.  It represents an investment, including the site, of nearly $200,000.

Entrance on 16th Street

The building is a three-story-and basement steel frame and brick structure.  It is entered from the Sixteenth Street side through a spacious vestibule and lobby, from which access is gained to every part of the interior.

In the basement there are a large hall and checkrooms and election booths for the use of the various unions.  On the first floor is the main auditorium, which will accommodate 1000 persons.  On this floor is also a large assembly hall, with pool billiard and card tables, together with the ladies parlors and cloakrooms.

The second and third floors contain the office headquarters, and large halls and twenty-two offices.  On the second floor there is a large lodge hall, which can also be used as a dance hall and for social affairs.


James W. Mullen, a delegate to the council from the Typographical Union, No 21, and editor of the Labor Clarion, the official publication of the council, is president of the Hall Association, and labor leaders say that it has been through his careful management that the building has been built and successfully financed.

William P. McCabe has been superintendent of the building since the day of its opening, for years ago.  McCabe has been identified with the labor movement of this city for many years and has been president of the Iron Trades Council and secretary of the Labor Council.

In the annual report of the president for the past year, filed with the Labor Council last week,  Mullen said:

“It is gratifying to be able to report that during the four years we have occupied the building, the indebtedness has been reduced at the rate ofa little more than $1000 a month, in spite of the fact tht we have been paying a large amount of interest to the unions each month. ”


“The assembly-room has continued to be the greatest asset of the association.  The actual proceeds from the assembly-room for the past year were $3780.20.  This is a falling off from the previous year.  This is offset, however, by the fact that we lost $1200 through closing up on account of the influenza epidemic.”

The Labor Temple is the first permanent home of the San Francisco Labor Council and its affiliated unions, built and owned by the council.  After the fire of 1906, the council established a Hall Association, and George Bell was its first president.  Under his direction a temporary structure costing $10,000 was built on Fourteenth street near Valencia.

Prior to that time the council met at various places and hat its offices and meeting places in separate halls.


The San Francisco Labor Council, in which the title of the building will be ultimately vested, is one of the oldest labor organizations in the United States, having been organized several years before the foundation of the American Federation of Labor.

Union labor made its first appearance in San Francisco in 1849 with the organization of the Pacific Typographical Society.  A gradual progress can be traced from that time until the present, when organized labor is recognized as one of the important factors in the life of the community.

In 1878, after several years of agitation, a central body was formed in San Francisco and was named the Representative Assembly of the Trades and Labor Unions.  The records of this organization are meager, the date concerning its activities having been destroyed in the fire of April, 1906.


During the year of 1885 the principle of federation took permanent root among the trades unions of San Francisco and the Federated Trades and Labor Organizations of the Pacific Coast was formed.  The organization of this body, which was generally known as the Federated Trades, marked the first step towards the federation of the various trade unions on the Pacific Coast under a central authority and upon purely trades union lines, a process which has continued down to the present time.

As the name suggests, the Federated Trades was designed to embrace all the unions throughout the Coast territory. The body for a time was the only one of its kind on the Pacific Coast.

It chartered sub-councils in San Jose, Sacrament, Los Angeles and other cities.


At this period the American Federation was in its infancy, so that the duty of organizing and federating the workers on the Coast developed entirely upon the central body in San Francisco.  Many unions formed at about this time were, in fact, Coast organizations, having headquarters in San Francisco and branches in various other cities.

In 1887 the unions so affiliated numbered thirty-five, including four local assemblies of the Knights of Labor.

In 1888 the Federated Trades applied for and received a charter from the American Federation of Labor, thus establishing a relationship which has existed ever since between the central body of San Francisco and organized labor throughout the country.  At this time it was estimated that the organized workers throughout the state numbered 25,000, of whom the far larger number were located in San Francisco.


There was great industrial depression in 1891.  That year the Employers Association of San Francisco was organized and opened up a vigorous warfare against the unions.

The Federated Trades lost its influence for a time, but in 1892 reorganization took place and began business as the San Francisco Labor Council.  Old scores were wiped out, harmony reigned, and officers and delegates alike went to work with a clean slate.

Since that time the history of the council has shown a steady growth, and at the present time the affiliated unions in this city number 150 locals, with a membership of 65,000 workers.

The following comprise the board of directors of the Hall Association who are charged with the duty of administering the affairs of the Labor Temple:

James W. Mullen, president; John P. McLaughlin, vice-president; William P. McCabe, Secretary-treasurer; J. H. Hannigan, J.J. McTiernan,  W.D. Davis, George W. Bell, W.F. Randolph, T.P. Garrity O.A. Anderson, C.C. Childs, John Driscoll and Miss Sarah Hagan.

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