Category Archives: Uncategorized

Labor Resources: Oral Histories

In an example of some of the labor history resources starting to come online, has been posting oral histories of bay area labor activists that were done during the 1970’s by Lucille Kendall of the California State Historical Society.  Nearly all of these recordings were done with women involved in the labor movement here in the bay area.  A few listed below were not done by Kendall, but represent the current list of labor related oral histories online.  Kendall was active in the SF local Hotel union.

Kendall’s style of questioning is embarrassing for men, when it comes to the personal details and women in labor.  For example,  Lucille goes into excruciating details of Sonia Baltrun’s private life, to the point of taking her to tears on many occasions.  Yet these details also speak about what it meant to be a leftist during much of the 20th century and in Sonia’s case, her involvement in the garment industry on the east coast and the east bay.  Many of these stories, like Sonia’s are about workers once considered “trash” by Samuel Gompers, an example of why so much labor organizing was done outside of the confines of the AFofL.

The recordings bring out the simple, but good nature of these organizers that were radicalized during an era when attacks against unions were at a peak across the country as barely scratched upon by the Lafollette Committee on Education and Labor, Subcommittee Investigating Violations of Free Speech and the Rights of Labor between 1936-1941 that exposed the massive scale of industrial spying taking place by corporations on unions.  For example, the Pinkertons alone had over 1,228 operatives working within literally every union in the country, with thousands of more spies being hired by other companies as well.

These oral histories, are better than a good book.  With a bit of work a copies could be put on a thumb drive and listened to while sitting in one of those horrible traffic snafus…

Rene Battaglini oral history

Rene’s 7 hour conversation (6 parts) covers the labor movement between 1930-40 focusing on organizing the city’s Hotels.

Phyllis Foley oral history

Phyllis was secretary-treasurer of local 283 and 2 of the Hotel & Restaurant Employees and Bartenders International Union in San Francisco during the 1970s.  – 6 parts – 3 hours

Mildred Edmondson oral history

Women in bay area war industry and the trade movement between 1935-45 – 10 parts – 4 hours

Louise Todd Lambert oral history

These document Lambert’s early years as an official for the Communist Party in California, including her participation in major labor actions and strikes of the 1930s; her involvement in local and statewide elections as a Communist Party candidate and campaign manager; her arrest and imprisonment in the Tehachapi correctional institute for women (1935-1938); her experiences “underground” as a member of the national Communist Party’s reserve leadership (1950-1955); and, finally, her resignation from the Party in 1958. The final portion of the interview is devoted to Lambert’s memories of fellow activist Anita Whitney.   1934-1955   – 39 parts – 18 hours

Sonia Baltrun Kaross oral history

These recordings documents Kaross’ activities as a Communist activist and United Textile Workers (UTW) organizer and representative in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and California, from the 1910s to the 1970s. Sonia was originally born in Lithuania but moved shortly after birth to upstate New York, moving to Oakland in the 1930’s.  8 Parts – 14 hours

Clemmie Shuck Barry oral history

Barry’s activities as an organizer for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA) in the 1930s, her involvement in the Communist Party in San Francisco in the late 1930s and 1940s, and her efforts to integrate housing in Marin County, Calif., in the 1950s. 10 parts – 14 hours

Violet Orr oral history

Interviews with Violet Orr, including a brief interview with Violet’s husband Paul Orr. The interviews document Violet Orr’s childhood and marriage; her trip with Paul Orr to the Soviet Union in the 1920s; her activities as a Communist Party organizer in the 1930s and ’40s in California, including her involvement in the San Francisco laundry workers’ union and work for the radical newspaper, the People’s World; and the Orrs’ experiences during the post-war Red Scare. 24 parts – 12 hours

Caroline Decker Gladstein oral history

Caroline Decker Gladstein documenting her experiences as a Communist Party activist and labor organizer in the 1920s and 1930s across the United States. Topics include: the 1931 Harlan County, Kentucky, coal miners’ strike; Communist organizing campaigns in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and California; the Cannery and Agricultural Workers Industrial Union; and farm workers’ strikes in California. 14 Parts 7 hours

Helene Powell oral history

African American labor activist Helene Powell covering her involvement with the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU), Local 6, in San Francisco as a steward and member of the Legislative Committee and Executive Board. The interview also covers Powell’s appointment as the ILWU’s International Representative to Los Angeles in 1943. 17 Parts – 9 hours

Elaine Black Yoneda oral history

The interview documents Yoneda’s activism with the International Labor Defense, International Longshoremen’s Association’s Defense Committee, Communist party, and various other labor and civil rights movements in California. 25 Parts 24 hours

Louis Goldblatt oral history

labor organizer Louis Goldblatt documenting his involvement in the labor movement of the 1930s and 1940s in San Francisco, Calif., and throughout the Pacific Coast, as well as the history of the San Francisco hotel strikes of 1937 and 1941-1942  1 Part 1.2 hours

Upton Sinclair oral history

Recording of Joe Toyoshima’s 1966 interview with Upton Sinclair in his Monrovia home documenting Sinclair’s literary and political career, mostly in Southern California. Notable topics include: Sinclair’s role in the Liberty Hill strike in San Pedro and the formation of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California; the End Poverty in California (EPIC) plan and Sinclair’s 1934 campaign for governor; the cooperative movement in California; the motion picture industry and Sinclair’s relationships with studios, filmmakers, and actors, including Sergei Eisenstein and Charlie Chaplin; and the Los Angeles newspaper and literary worlds. 3 parts 2 hours 15 minutes

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Posted by on March 15, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tenants Association History

Redstone tenants came together in September 1999 to save the Redstone/Labor Temple from the building’s sale to a Texas developer that wanted to turn the building into a server farm.  The boom was an attempt to drive artists and low-income people out of the Mission District and supplant them with wealthy computer techies.

The tenants formed the Redstone Tenants Association (RTA) whose immediate goal was to preserve the building for its non-profits, artists, and other low income tenants. The tenants were able to stop the sale, but also took steps to purchase the building.

The RTA’s “Save the Redstone” campaign generated media attention and funding to hire an organizer by the end of 1999.  The campaign had several goals, to buy the building and slow down possible sale of the property by getting historic status for it.

The RTA obtained a grant in March of 2000 that eventually led to historic landmark status in 2004.

With the help of the Mission Economic Development Association (MEDA), tenants secured a grant from the Mayor’s Office of Community Development on the feasibility of the tenants purchasing and preserving the building. The RTA explored the potential of the city purchasing the building but decided against such an option.

In May of 2001 the Financial Feasibility Study was completed.  The study suggested that with the partnership of a non-profit developer it would be possible to do.  Sadly, the owner’s asking price was far above the Market estimate made by the RTA.

The RTA’s next goal was to obtain non-profit status which it did, but changed its name the Redstone Labor Temple Association (RLTA) as part of that process.

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Posted by on March 13, 2015 in Uncategorized


2001 – LaborFest at the Labor Temple

“Welcome to the Redstone Building”

– By Ruach Graffis

presented July 7, 2001 and edited and revised 4/16/2002

Welcome to the historic, and hopefully soon to have Landmark status, Redstone Building. Designed by Matthew O’Brien, it was built to house the San Francisco Labor Council. There were over 130 member unions in the council at that time. Although the cornerstone is dated 1914, the weekly union newspaper, The Labor Clarion, proclaimed it opened to the public February 27th, 1915. Room for about 24 union offices, it included seven lodge halls for meetings, plus a buffet in the basement. The May 1916 Union Directory shows 54 unions using this building for their meetings. We are in the main auditorium tonight.

Today when we ask someone “What do you do?” We don’t expect the answer “Waitress, cab driver, cashier…” to define that person, because the job is likely to be transitory: today I work in a coffeehouse, tomorrow I might be a bank teller. But a hundred years ago, when travel was much more difficult, people couldn’t move every five years or change jobs on a whim. As a result, families and communities were much more stable. People were born and died in the same town, and generally in the same part of town. People identified more closely with their jobs because they probably did the same thing their whole life. Which was probably the same thing their parents had done, and the same thing they expected their children to do. Sons of carpenters became carpenters, daughters of seamstresses became seamstresses. To say “I am a teamster,” “I am a bookkeeper,” “I am a farmer,” told a lot about the speaker.

In that culture, the phrase “working class life” had real meaning: you hung out with people in your neighborhood, went to the same entertainments, to the same churches/ synagogues. Fathers walked to their jobs together, mothers did the laundry, together. There was a working class identity and culture.

But there was an overlay of the ruling class everywhere workers turned. The boss controlled you on the job, and the town’s richest families probably ran your place of worship. Beside the 3 R’s, schools, then as now, were designed to teach obedience to arbitrary authority, preparing students to accept the authority of a boss at work. Teddy Roosevelt and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act notwithstanding, in the early decades of the 20th Century, American capitalists had an almost religious fervor for business. Office buildings were built to resemble gothic cathedrals (look at the Russ Building at 235 Montgomery, sometime). In that atmosphere this building was designated as a haven from the boss, and it was called The Labor Temple. It was the place where workers could come, away from the boss, and the boss’ culture. A place where workers could help each other understand the world through working eyes, with a working sensibility. It was the one place the boss couldn’t come.

To facilitate this, the Labor Temple had pool and billiard tables, as well as reading rooms, and on the south side of the auditorium, a ladies parlor. On the second floor, the west hallway was the hospital, and the north hallway, the dentist’s offices. Medical care at prices workers could afford. In those days, a worker’s union membership might be as important as their church or synagogue membership, and the Labor Temple was the center of working class life in San Francisco. Here workers had space for family gatherings, picnics, holiday parties, benefit dances, sports leagues, and theatrical events. The seamstresses might have a dinner with the webpressmen, or the Women’s Bindery Union might have a dance with the plumbers. (I saw a dance card from just such an event at the Labor Archives many years ago. The dance card had a silken cord still attached to a slim, tiny golden pencil. The card was partially filled out in a lovely flowing hand.)

Susan Sherwood from the Labor Archives showed me an article from the Labor Clarion dated May 19, 1916 which reported that “…a ball for the benefit of a disabled (laundry worker) …was a financial success, more than $300 was raised. $300 – in a time when union machinists were striking to get $4.50 a day. Now that’s solidarity.

As unions got larger, stronger and more numerous, the Labor Temple expanded to meet the need, and sometime between 1935-40 the building got an addition, reaching its current size with room for 40 union offices.

But as times changed, the culture changed. The very moment that seemed to presage a golden age for unions was simultaneously sowing the seeds of disaster for the Labor Temple. As unions got richer, it became fashionable for them to build their own – separate – union hall. In the ’50’s, offices in the Labor Temple went vacant and even though the Labor Council renovated it in 1959, the building had become a financial drain. With only 10 unions still in residence, it was sold in 1968 to repay bank loans and other bills.

Renamed the Redstone, it struggled along for a number of years, barely paying its way. The ’70’s merged into the ’80’s and life struggled on. The owner hired an ex-Vietnam Vet with a lot of handyman skills, and life began to look up for the building. Roger is still here, taking care of the building, encouraging a sense of community. Life continued to evolve and now that the building had some help, things began to look up for the Redstone. As the ’90’s unfolded, rents began to skyrocket. Prices in the Mission lagged behind the rest of the city, so the Redstone became a haven for artistic and social action groups. Among them were: Catholic Charities, a Central American refugee underground halfway house, Global Exchange, Sex Information Center, Suicide Prevention, Gay Historical Society as well as many Central American refugee organizations in the basement. My personal favorite was an underground radio station with their antenna on the roof. They had a program on Saturday nights favored by the Mission Street “low riders.” They cranked up the music real loud and drove some of the other tenants crazy, especially the theater groups trying to have a performance.

Once again, the Redstone became a focus for a rebirth of community activity in the area. A sense of shared consciousness and solidarity began to develop within and from these groups, and in the late 1990’s, the Clarion Alley Mural Project, named for the Labor Clarion Newspaper, spent six months doing research which culminated in the murals you see in the lobby today. Aaron Nobles, a student of Tim Driescher (a Humanities professor at SF State), led the project. Muralists included other students from State as well as kids from the area: a lighthearted mural by a local teenager portrays the concerns of young girls in the area, while Twist, a spray can artist, did a sepia toned mural showing the darker side of life. A haunting depiction of lives lost to alcoholism, it is a social commentary of current life right outside our doors. Across from it, a water mural by Rigo, brings to mind the many streams that used to run through the Mission. I’m sure you have seen some of Rigo’s building-sized murals around town – the 40′ one-way signs painted on buildings: ONE TREE – pointing at the one tree by the freeway entrance at 10/Harrison, SKY/ GROUND pointing in appropriate directions at 3/Mission, and CAR/BIRD at 16/Bryant.

The Filipino culture of the Mission is portrayed with a couple, dressed in their finest, dancing down the main hallway, a remembrance of the times when the Filipino Senior Center was located in the Redstone auditorium and the tenants were serenaded daily with live music. Susan Green’s mural over the elevator on the ground floor celebrates the Bindery Women’s union. Going up the stairs and into the main hall you’ll see the 1948 Emporium strike by the saleswomen of Local 1100, and the Chinese women’s garment workers strike in 1938, marking their entrance into organized labor in San Francisco. In the main portion of the lobby is the dramatic depiction of Dow Wilson throwing out the corrupt Secretary of the Painter’s union in 1966. Unfortunately that wasn’t the end of the story: next to Dow is the newspaper article, dated April 5, reporting Dow’s murder just around the corner on South Van Ness, days later. The inside front wall honors the original Native American inhabitants of this area, the Ohlones, with a bone harpoon tip being uncovered by a construction worker as he digs the foundation for this building. You know he was a union worker.

The most prominent murals as you walk by on the street, are scenes from the 1934 General Strike, probably the most famous incident in San Francisco labor history. The longshoremen and seafarers lived on the fringes of society in conditions, that even for those times, were abominable. The longshoremen had to pay for their jobs on the dock, the seafarers were little more than slaves on the ships. They wanted no more than any worker wants: dignity on the job and off, justice, a living wage. (Sound familiar?) They were willing to strike because their conditions were so bad, they had almost nothing to loose. In the mural look for Vincent Hallinan, Harry Bridges, an African/American man (whose name I am trying to track down) and Garment Workers’ organizer Jenny Matyas. An inset reproduces a picture of two men shot at Steuart and Mission Streets on July 5, the day known as Bloody Thursday.The longshoremen and seamen had been out on strike for weeks without much success, few other unions had joined them in sympathy, but the strikers hung on. The shipping companies were determined to bring the strikers to their knees and stop the strike. They had hired armed guards as well as San Francisco police to do their dirty work. For several days there had been fighting on Rincon Hill. On July 5, just outside of the strike kitchen at 113 Steuart, an unnamed policeman fired into a crowd of longshoremen and their sympathizers, shooting several of them. Two died. The deaths of Howard Sperry and Nick Bordoise stunned the public and galvanized the rest of the unions to support the struggle.

On July 9, a funeral procession bearing their bodies walked down Market Street. Estimates range from 15,000 to 50,000 in the procession. More thousands lined the sidewalks. Fearing that sight of police on the streets would incite workers further, City Hall agreed that the strikers would be in charge of crowd control. There was no talking… no sound except a quiet funeral dirge, and the tramp of feet… but the air was electric with that sound. Their deaths – and that march – forged the solidarity that became the West Coast General Strike.

The march ended at 17th and Valencia at the mortuary, just two blocks away. (Possibly Duggan’s, which is still there.) No doubt many mourners walked over to the Labor Temple afterward to be together. To try to make some sense of what was happening. To decide what to do next.

We are once again, trying to figure out what to do next. For a while, we lost our identify as workers, but after all these decades, a union sensibility and working class culture is returning to the Redstone, to the Labor Temple. The IWW has its office on the 2nd floor, as do the taxicab workers, of which I’m a member. The Organizer newspaper, voice of the Labor Party, is on the second floor. Mission Agenda helps tenants of the residential hotels in the area, giving away free food every Tuesday. (Supervisor Chris Daly made his bones with this group.) Youth Credit Union, run by and for kids is on the third floor. A credit union for all local residents shares the same space. If you were to sit and have a cup of coffee at Chile Lindo some afternoon, you would see the need for The Homeless Children’s Network and Coalition on Homelessness, also headquartered at the Redstone. The need for these services has become ever more acute with the simultaneous sky high rents and “.com” evictions.

And when the world gets too much for you, we have Spiritmenders in the basement. An environmental consciousness is visibly represented by the Green Party and Abalone Alliance, probably the oldest groups in the building. The group “Art and Revolution,” on the first floor, may most perfectly embody the spirit of our unifying force: they make the huge 15′ “puppets” you see at many rallies these days. Reasonably priced health care is still on the second floor: Dr. Yeh runs an acupuncture clinic and April, one of the artists on the third floor, has a part-time massage-therapy business. Our motley crew also includes three theater groups, several artists, and even a few small businesses. You get the picture: the Redstone derives its unity from its diversity, and gives back to the community from the strength which results.

As I look around tonight at our diversity, I see a perfect marriage – the LaborFest at the Labor Temple.

It’s begun to warm up in the Mission again, worker energy is rising. Coalitions are forming. We are building a worker sensibility here on 16th Street, developing our Workers Culture, making contacts, making friends, forging alliances in the building and beyond. Local merchants gave money or provided food for us tonight. Many of us are active in the drive to create a MUD in SF. If we each had a little office in a little separate store front, isolated, alone, how long would it take to create the same energy? Would we ever?

That’s the point of buildings like this: they create community. Forge solidarity. Together we support each other and become stronger than we could ever be fighting alone.

We’ve formed a tenants organization, and meet regularly. The hallways have become friendly places. We share paint to make protest signs, and go to each other’s rallies. An elevator ride can help keep two people up-to-date on each other’s issues, and maybe even produce a suggestion on how to lobby city hall about a problem. Members of the United Taxicab Workers help Mission Agenda with organizing the food bags on Fridays, we give them free cab rides and they let us use their big room for our meetings. Dr. Yeh, the acupuncturist, has a built-in client base. Members of the Green Party and Abalone Alliance work together on projects, and are spearheading our work to create a MUD. Charles is our security guard – no small task in this neighborhood! – and hand delivers the mail to each office, stopping to chat and check on everyone in the building. He is a one-man community connection. And so is Roger, the Redstone’s manager, who hosts the building internet server. We couldn’t live without it – or him.

Almost every group in the building is a member of the Redstone Tenants Association. We got a small grant and have hired Betty Traynor, the longest tenant in this building to be our organizer. We want to buy this building, we want save this precious piece of workers culture from destruction. We need your help.

We are here tonight, in the hall where the strike vote was taken in 1934 that sent the 175 unions of the SF Labor Council out on strike in support of the Longshoremen and Seafarers. The Strike Committee had already written up the motion. You would recognize many of the names on that strike committee: Jack Shelly, A. Noriega, Mike Casey, and of course, Harry Bridges. The meeting was held on Saturday, July 14, with the strike to commence on Monday, July 16, at 8 AM. A hod carrier, by the name of Joe Murphy, made the motion.

I tried to find out where Joe was standing when he made that fateful motion, but he is dead and no one else seems to know. It could be any where in this room. You could be sitting where Joe was sitting that night. Are you ready to help carry that tradition forward?

I know you have given as you came in the door, but we’re asking – if you can – open your wallets, purses, pockets and checkbooks. There is a furry box coming around that would be warmed by your contribution.

The community of the Redstone Labor Temple thanks you.


I would like to thank Archie Green for deep background filled with the minute details of the labor movement that makes it live, Roger Herried for wonderful long talks about the building we both love, and Susan Sherwoood who shared her extensive knowledge and sent great faxes!

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Posted by on March 12, 2015 in Uncategorized


Labor Temple – Redstone Building Historic Status

On January 8th 2004 the San Francisco’s  Board of Supervisors voted to make the Redstone Building, formerly known as the S.F. Labor Temple a history landmark (rs-status Leg Final). After four years of work the Redstone Tenants Association’s dream of obtaining historic status had come true.  

Copy of 2004-9-7-90th-RTA-2

The idea of getting historic status started in late 1999 after an attempt to buy the building by a wealthy Dallas millionaire expressed interest in turning the building into a computer data server center.  After a couple of meetings a $2,000 grant proposal was won by March of 2000 that started the process.

Betty Traynor, the RTA’s president would walk Proposal-LM238 through the city’s complex process starting with the Landmark Board in May 2003.


In August of 2004, the tenants would hold a 90th birthday party for the building, as well as celebrate the historic status with a spectacular bash.  The highlight of the event came when the Labor Council’s Secretary Treasurer Walter Johnson presented the Historic Landmark – Number 238 – to Betty Traynor and Roger Herried.

2004-event 13


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Posted by on March 10, 2015 in Uncategorized


Labor Movement Resources

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Posted by on March 10, 2015 in Uncategorized


Labor Temple Construction Timeline

The following documents can be opened to review the historic timeline for the city’s Labor Temple.

[wpspoiler name=”1900 Temple Proposal ” ]1900-8-5-temple-meeting-1[/wpspoiler] [wpspoiler name=”1904 Temple Proposal ” ]1904-8-29-temple-plan[/wpspoiler] [wpspoiler name="1906 - 14th & Mission Labor Temple Construction Announcement" ]1906-8-24-CALL-SFTEMPLE-clean1906-10-12-pt1[/wpspoiler] [wpspoiler name="1906 - New Temple celebration by Labor Council" ]1906-11-29-TEMPLE-DEDICATION[/wpspoiler] [wpspoiler name="1910 Plans Announced for larger Labor Temple" ]1910-4-15-clarion[/wpspoiler] [wpspoiler name="1910 Site for New Temple Purchased" ]1910-8-27-call-temple-land[/wpspoiler] [wpspoiler name="1912 New Labor Temple Design " ]1912-21912-design-announced-small1912-8-17-SFCALL-temple[/wpspoiler] [wpspoiler name="1914 Construction Starts" ]1914-4-18-temple-construction-started[/wpspoiler] [wpspoiler name="1914 Labor Day Cornerstone Celebration " ]1914-9-4-Clarion1914-9-4-Clarion-temple-small[/wpspoiler] [wpspoiler name="1915 Grand Opening of SF Labor Temple" ]1915-grand-opening-small1915-2-28-new-temple[/wpspoiler] [wpspoiler name="1940 New Wing Added to Building" ]25a-1940-2-5-ANNEX-DONE[/wpspoiler]

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Posted by on March 9, 2015 in Uncategorized


1919 Labor Temple Article

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on March 8, 2015 in Uncategorized


History of Organized Labor In California

1904-cal-headerThe origin of labor organization in California is contemporaneous with, if it does not actually antedate the discovery of gold. Among the numerous fragmentary records of that early day we find suggestions of concerted action among the printing trades as far back as 1846, in which year the first newspaper was issued in the State.

The precarious conditions of journalism at that time are illustrated by the fact that in 1848 a half-sheet, issued by the California Star, announced the suspension of publication owing to the cry of “gold, gold, gold,” which had lured all hands–printers, subscribers, etc.–to the scene of the “diggins.” Prosperity killed it!

In 1849 an article appeared in the Boston Guide, announcing the formation in San Francisco of an American printers’ union. This was probably an allusion to the Pacific Typographical Society. At this time printers’ wages averaged $2.50 per 1000 ems, as compared with the present rate of about 40 cents. Time hands received $12.50 per day, and overtime at the rate of $2.50 per hour. Even the office boy, it is said, received $30 per week. These figures represented boom rates, and they did not last long.

As a result of the downward tendency, we find notice of a meeting, held in 1850, by the printing fraternity for the purpose of devising a plan to establish a general system of time work. Already the rate of printers’ wages had dropped to $2 per 1000 ems. Immediately after the great fire of 1853, wages fell to the comparatively low point of $1.50 per 1000 ems.

Evidently the latter figure represented what was then regarded as the “subsistence limit.” At this period, 1851, we note that the first strike in the printing trades, against a reduction from $1.50 to $1.25 per 1000 ems, proposed by the publishers of the Alta newspaper. A “stay away” notice was issued by the printers, advising the members of the craft in the “States”– that is, in the East–to refrain from coming to California. The strike was successful, and wages remained, for the time at least, at the rate of $1.50 per 1000 ems.

The Pacific Typographical Society was merged into the Eureka Union, which body was chartered by the National Typographical Union in 1855. In 1872, when the International Typographical Union was formed, the title of “Old Eureka” was changed and the union became known as Typographical Union No. 21 of San Francisco, which designation has since been held by that body. Thus the local Typographical Union enjoys the distinction not only of the longest consecutive existence but of being the first trade union in the State to form a national craft at large.

Although always conspicuous among the organized crafts of the State, the printers did not long enjoy sole honors in the work of organization. The excitement attendant upon the rush to the gold fields had hardly begun to abate when the enormous immigration of Chinese began to attract the attention of the pioneers. Anti-Chinese agitation spread throughout the State. Legislative measures of a local character were proposed and evidently with some success, since we read that in March, 1852 a bill to enforce contracts to labor was defeated upon the representation that it was a measure designed to facilitate the importation of cheap labor from Asia. About this time a commission was formed for the purpose of crystallizing public sentiment against the Chinese, which body may be regarded as the parent of all the subsequent agitation which culminated in the Chinese exclusion act of the present day.

The decade of 1850-60 was characterized by the growth of the organization among the various trades and callings then established as a result of the development of industry in the State. An interesting sidelight is thrown upon this phase of the State’s growth by the figures of the United States census for 1860, which give the professional and industrial callings and the numbers of persons engaged therein, as follows: Herdsmen, 801; innkeepers, 1404; laborers, 25,394; laundresses, 1918; lawyers, 894; lumbermen, 1051; mariners, 3078; mason, 533; merchants, 5087; miners, 82,573; packers 679; painters, 1023; physicians, 1122; printers, 621; ranchers, 751; refectory keepers, 1859.

In 1863, immediately after the publication of these figures of the State’s industries, we find unmistakable evidence of further rapid growth in the existence of a powerful union of tailors. In the same year a strike of tailors took place, against the large amount of fancy work put upon the coats of the period. This strike was successful at the end of several weeks. In other respects the Tailors’ Union demonstrated its ability to protect its members in the various matters of interest to the craft.

The first evidences of the organization in the building trades are found in the records of the House Carpenters’ Eight-hour League, organized in 1867. This bodywas formed, as its name implies, primarily for the purpose of establishing the shorter workday. In this connection it is interesting to note that much of the “spirit of the organization” prevailing among the working classes of those times was inspired by the same general purpose, to with., the reduction of the daily hours of labor.

The work of the House Carpenters’ Eight-hour League was not confined, however, to a single object. From the newspapers of the day we learn that this body met at Dashaway Hall on July 12, 1870, and adopted a resolution approving the course of the Knights of St. Crispin (presumably the forerunner of the Boot and Shoe Workers’ Union of today) in opposition to Chinese labor. Other measures were acted upon at this meeting which are of more than passing interest to the present generation. The league expressed itself upon certain political matters, declaring that the “only hope for justice is through the ballot; that individuals can be of little service to each other, except by uniting in associations and pledging ourselves to stand by and help in various efforts of reform.” Another resolution was adopted condemnatory of the course of the Messrs. Canovan, Winkle and Story in opposing the appropriation of $250 per month for the Mechanics’ Eight-hour Labor Exchange and declaring that the members would not in the future support either of these gentlemen for any public office.

The Clerks’ Early Closing Association was organized in 1870. At first this body met with much success. It was able shortly to report that merchants had determined to abide by the early closing rule. However, the movement met with a reverse two years later, due largely, according to all available records, to indifference and lack of harmony among clerks themselves.

In 1870 the Workingmen’s Protective Union was formed. This body adopted resolutions on the subject of Chinese; also petitioning the Southern Pacific Railroad to employ free white labor.

At this point we note a marked change in the condition of mining, as illustrated by a strike of miners in Amador County in 1871. The members of the Miners’ Labor League struck for the abolition of the prevailing system of dividing labor into four or five classes, and for the establishment of two rates of wages, i.e., $3and $2.50 per day for first and second class miners, respectively, and for the abolition of Chinese competition with white labor. The result of the miners’ strike is highly suggestive of the saying that “history repeats itself.” The militia was called out and the strike was compromised. A contemporary newspaper report informs us that “the San Francisco militia companies engaged in maintaining the peace and dignity of the law at Amador are deserving of credit.” From the same source we learn that the strikers “gained little and lost much.” although they “had the satisfaction of knowing that the mining companies were placed under heavy expense.”

The general conditions of the Stat at this time were described by the New York World as a “singular combination of circumstances–labor forever on a strike as it were, and land held almost in feudalism.” This condition, according to the World, “is quite enough to account for the decadence of California which for some years past her electoral figures present.”

In 1871 a branch of the National Labor Union League was formed. This body had political ambitions. It indorsed George W. Julien for President of the United States. A State convention of the same body met in June, 1872, but the records at hand do not show what if any action was taken to further the candidacy of Brother Julien.

The latter gathering was probably a phase of the politico-labor agitation that swept over the State in the year 1872. At this time a body known as the “Labor Party of the Pacific Coast” came into prominence. A State convention was held and a platform adopted, among the provisions of which were these: Eight-hour system of labor; anti-Chinese legislation, and the “disenthralment of labor by the equalization of the wages of labor with the income of capital.”

Another organization of this period, which seems to have had more practical, if less ambitious objects, was the Mechanics’ State Council, formed for the purpose of perfecting the eight-hour movement. All mechanics were eligible for membership upon signing the pledge, which read as follows:

“I have signed my name to this pledge and thus become a member of the “Eight-Hour League. I do pledge my sacred honor that when the Mechanics’ State Council shall fix a time for my trade to commence working eight hours a day. I will quite working at my trade until my employer shall accept eight hours for a day’s work, or until the council shall release me from this obligation. I will promptly attend all general meetings of the league that may be called by the council and will abide by and support its rules, regulations and by-laws.”

The year 1878 marks the beginning of the epoch of organization and federation upon purely labor lines. It will be noted that up to this time most of the labor bodies were formed as much for political as for economic purposes. In the latter year the Representatives Assembly of Trade and Labor Unions was organized. It was understood and ultimately declared that no subject of the political or religious nature should be discussed or acted upon at the meetings.

During the ten years preceding the establishment of this body a number of crafts had been organized upon distinctively trade union lines, among which may be mentioned the ironmolders, organized in 1869, and the cigarmakers, organized in 1874. A large number of these bodies affiliated with the assembly, which did much effective trade union work during the few years of its existence.

In 1885 a new central body was formed in San Francisco under the name of Federated Trades Council of the Pacific Coast. As indicated by its title, the new body claimed jurisdiction throughout the coast territory, a position which was justified by the then existing condition of labor organization in the Pacific Coast States. San Francisco was the headquarters of a number of unions having branches extending throughout the locality named. Among these were the Sailors’ and the Brewery Workers unions. Practically, therefore, the Federated Trades Council formed during the first years of its existence, the sole means of uniting the widely scattered labor bodies of the coast under one directing head.

Like its predecessors, the Federated Trades Council had its ups and downs. It carried on a persistent and in the main successful campaign for the advancement and protection of the white union labor interests, particularly in the cigarmaking and boot and shoe industries. A notable legislative achievement due to the work of the Federated Trades more than to any other body was the passage of the Australian ballot law. In general the Council of Federated Trades exercised a marked influence upon the character of the factory and other forms of industrial legislation enacted since the period of its establishment. In 1888 the council affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, a relationship which has been maintained continuously ever since.

Under the pressure of various circumstances the strength of organized labor now began to decline. The year 1891 was signalized by the establishment of the Manufacturer’s’ and Employers” Association, which body waged a vigorous warfare upon organized labor. In 1893 this body publicly announced that it had destroyed every trade union in San Francisco with the exception, namely Typographical Union No. 21. This claim, although an exaggeration, was justified in the sense that the labor movement had been forced to assume the defensive.

As a means of rehabilitating the unions the reorganization of the central body was determined upon. Accordingly in 1892 the present Labor Council was established. The history of that body is well known to the present generation of readers. Inheriting, as it did, a rich fund of experience, the Labor Council has sought, and with marked success, to avoid the causes of failure on the part of its predecessors, with the result that it is today probably the most effective central labor body in the United States. At present there are 122 unions affiliated with the Labor Council. These bodies contain membership of 40,000 and are represented by 365 delegates. These figures are of course, exclusive of the unions unaffiliated with the Labor Council, which probably number 100 or more, the membership of which would bring the total up to 60,000.

This sketch being primarily a review of the early stages of labor organization in California is necessarily confined in the main to the records of San Francisco. A detailed account of the conditions in this respect as they now exist or as they have existed for say twenty years past would, of course, include every considerable city and town in the Sate. The leading trades in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Oakland and other localities have been organized for many years. The number of unions in the leading cities and the total membership of organized labor throughout the State is estimated by the State Bureau of Labor Statistics as follows: Number of Unions–San Francisco 272, Los Angeles 68, Sacramento 72, Oakland 50; total number of unions in the state: 305. The total membership of unions in State: 110,000.

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Posted by on March 6, 2015 in Uncategorized


2-27-15: 100th Anniversary Celebration Announcement

[wptabs mode=”horizontal”] [wptabtitle] Event[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]The Redstone Labor Temple Association invites you to:

100th Anniversary of the
San Francisco Labor Temple
Redstone Building
February 27th 2015 6:00 PM
2948 16th Street — Free
click on below tabs for more information
[wpspoiler name=”The Lab/or Play by the Lab” ]Be prepared for some Brechtian Theatre created by the Lab as the opener for our one hundredth anniversary event. The Lab invites workers throughout the Bay Area to come together and take stock, albeit with some tongue in cheek humor.[/wpspoiler][wpspoiler name=”Slideshow – History of the Labor Temple” ]shortThis special 40 minute Slideshow presentation of the building’s history Covers extensive historic details of the property and its construction. Hundreds of archival images are woven together with news stories that led to the construction of the San Francisco Labor Temple, and the unions that constructed and lived in it. [/wpspoiler][wpspoiler name=”Tour of the building” ]BinderThe tour will start with images of the building’s changes over the last century.  In a building designed for meetings large and small, we’ll walk you through the building with images of the past and murals on the first floor that include highlights its labor history. [/wpspoiler][wpspoiler name=”Guest Speakers” ]Office of Supervisor David Campos, San Francisco Labor Council, former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano.  Frank Martin del Campo, president of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement will emcee the event[/wpspoiler][wpspoiler name=”Rockin’ Solidarity Labor Heritage Chorus” ]
The Labor Heritage/Rockin’ Solidarity Chorus is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and is made up of workers from many unions, as well as students and independent folks who love to sing. We are dedicated to building more democracy and representation within our unions and we come together to celebrate our love of music and workers’ culture.[/wpspoiler][wpspoiler name=”Puppet theater by Bob and Jill Owen”]
“The Birth of the Building:”  Big birds Zeke and Wanda take us through the
history of the Redstone Building. Our story includes such events as the
Creation of the World (two versions), the founding of Mission Dolores and
the Redstone Building, the Great Earthquake, and the SF General Strike.
With musical accompaniment by the SF Rockin’ Solidarity Labor Chorus.
[/wpspoiler][wpspoiler name=”Francisco Herrera” ]Theologian, Cultural Worker, Singer-Songwriter, Francisco Herrera brings together different styles of music to promote human rights and Social Justice Latest album Honor Migrante crosses physical and musical borders.

Growing up in the border town of Calexico, Francisco  always straddles two worlds. “My siblings and cousins and I used to sing rancheras and some mariachi at family parties, and when we got a little older we started some garage rock bands,” he recalls of his early musical exploits. But as he became more involved in the church and social issues, in particular with the Latin American  Herrera began exploring ways to use music to further his goals of social justice.[/wpspoiler] [wpspoiler name=”100th Anniversary Booklet” ]The 40 page booklet will include images and highlights of the buildings hundred years of operations. [/wpspoiler]
There will be refreshments



[wptabtitle] Press Release[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]The Redstone Labor Temple, AKA the Redstone Building

WHAT: 100th anniversary Celebration

WHERE: 2948 16th Street (at Capp), Mission District, San Francisco

WHEN: Friday February 27th, 2015 6:00 PM

CONTACT: – Roger Herried (, Rick Gerharter (, Gary Gregerson (


Entering the 100 year old Redstone Labor Temple is like taking a walk through local labor history. Colorful murals depicting memorable moments in labor fill the two level entrance lobby. One is of striking workers dressed as horses outside the Emporium Department Store. Another shows the 1938 strike against the National Dollar Stores and the creation of the Chinese Ladies Garment Workers. Or the 1964 murder of Dow Wilson, an up and coming leader in the painters union ordered killed by a corrupt East Bay unionist. Other murals depict contemporary and community issues.

The Redstone Labor Temple, once home to the San Francisco Labor Council and nearly 100 union locals and labor support organizations, is celebrating its centennial anniversary. Construction started in 1914, with an addition in 1940. Major organizing activities during the San Francisco General Strike of 1934, 80 years ago, were centered in the building. The Labor Council called it home until 1968. Present tenants the United Taxi Cab Workers, and the Living Wage Coalition continue this labor tradition. The building was designated in 2004 as one of only two labor related San Francisco Historical Landmarks (#238).

Since the 1970’s the Redstone Building has continued this tradition of representing the progressive values and history of the Mission District. Over nearly 40 years, many community organizations, individual artists, theater and art spaces, community meeting rooms, and social service organizations such as Catholic Charities have called it home.

The Redstone was a center for anti-nuclear organizing against both nuclear weapons and the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. Organizations housed in the building played a major role in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. The LGBT Historical Society had its first office in the building and other LGBT organizations and artists continue to have offices in the building. Theaters include Theater Rhinoceros, Mojo Theater, Luna Sea, Teatro Esperanza, Teatro Ng Tanan and Kulintang Arts. The Lab has been resident since 1995. For more history check out the building’s wikipedia page.

Today the Redstone Building is at ground zero in the continuing displacement crisis in the Mission. Market rate, community-disrupting development is threatening the Redstone from all sides. We are facing upward pressure on commercial rents, changing demographics of the audience and service base of tenants, and pressure that threatens the commercial zoning of the building. But true to our history, Redstone tenants are joining with neighbors to demand deeply affordable housing and development that serves the neighborhood rather than destroys it.

From the colorful entrance murals depicting labor scenes to the many groups and progressive causes based in the building to its role in the North Mission today, there are many stories to tell and we hope you will help us tell them as the Redstone Labor Temple celebrates 100 years.
[/wptabcontent] [/wptabs]

This is the official online community for the Redstone Building in San Francisco.

It is hosted by the Redstone Labor Temple Association, and the tenants of the Redstone Building. Go here,  or to our wikipedia page for history of the building.

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Posted by on February 17, 2015 in Uncategorized


Minutes of Redstone Labor Temple Meeting of 11/19/14; NEXT MEETING DEC. 10 5 TO 6PM

Present: Karl Kramer, Peter P. (Mojo), David Grace, Gary Gregerson, Rick Gerharter, Oliver Mains, Dena Beard (The Lab)

– Lab benefit: They raised $57,000!
– Feb. 27 Redstone Anniversary event: Lab has agreed to host. Roger will make presentation, open house, also suggested to have a play or reenactment of events related to the building history.
– t-shirts for ongoing fundraising: Karl has 2 different designs – will get final images.
– Building update: combo lock still in negotiations with landlord. Owner agreed to energy audit of the building after Thanksgiving.

Karl proposed our meetings be the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month from 5 to 6pm.

Next meeting: Weds. Dec. 10, 5 to 6pm room 302 of the Redstone. Please send any agenda items to Gary Gregerson (RLTA Secretary-Treasurer) care of

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Posted by on December 2, 2014 in Uncategorized