Framework

Melee during U.S. Motors strike

Jan. 17, 1946: Tear gas canisters explode as police break a barricade of picketers massed in front of the U.S. Motors plant on E. Slauson Ave. CIO electrical workers are grouped on right, while newsmen and spectators run for cover. Twenty-five strikers were arrested and two policemen were injured.

On Jan. 11, 1946, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers walked off their jobs and began picketing U.S. Motors.

A front page story in the Jan. 18, 1946, Los Angeles Times reported:

In a wild melee of trailing fists, the boom of exploding tear-gas and the clang of steel helmets, police yesterday broke up a riot by 500 striking C.I.O. electrical workers at the U.S. Motors plant, 200 E. Slauson Ave., and arrested 25 persons on charges of rioting.

Two policemen were treated at George Street Receiving Hospital for bruises and contusions suffered in struggles with helmeted and gloved pickets.

Chief among the prisoners booked at City Jail were Philip M. (Slim) Connelly, secretary of the C.I.O. Industrial Council and central executive of the organization in Los Angeles; Carl Brandt, regional director of the C.I.O. union and Mrs. LeRue McCormick, onetime Communist party candidate for Congress….

The strike from which the riot stemmed began last Friday when the United Electrical and Machine Workers, C.I.O. struck the U.S. Motors plant, where electric motors and other equipment are produced and which is the head office of a nation-wide company. The union and company have been negotiating over a contract for several weeks.

Last Monday, when strikers massed around the plant, police opened a lane for the 100 office workers not involved in the strike to enter. The same occurred Tuesday.

Yesterday, the strikers, supplemented by strikers from the General Motors plant in South Gate, formed picket lines six abreast in front of the plant. A sound truck was parked near by to amplify orders to the well-disciplined demonstrators.

Shortly after 8 a.m., as the office workers stood across Los Angeles St. waiting for an opportunity to enter the plant, a police officer read Superior Judge Henry M. Willis’ temporary order restraining the strikers from mass picketing, from violence, and from interfering with the going and coming of company officials and employees.

Throughout the reading of the lengthy document, which named various union leaders, the massed pickets booed.

There was a pause when the reading was finished. Then, under the leadership of Capt. Clyde H. Tucker, chief of metropolitan police division, 50 helmeted and gas-masked officers marched across the street.

As they approached Connelly and Brandt exhorted the massed pickets to stand firm. Both were seized and hustled into a patrol wagon despite protests they were “union executives.”

As the police clashed with the hundreds of pickets, a squad armed with tear-gas guns lobbed shells into the struggling mob.

Indicating detailed preparations for battle by the strikers, various pickets, wearing asbestos gloves, picked up the sputtering shells and hurled them back among the police.

Within five minutes it was all over, except for the desultory scuffles. Police cleared the block around the plant of pickets and shortly afterward permitted traffic blocked from Slauson Ave. during the riot, to resume…

The strike lasted 124 days. A May 15, 1946, Los Angeles Times article reported the strike ended and workers received an 18-cent-an-hour wage increase.