Proposed plaque would mark Mpls. scene of 'Bloody Friday' strike

Police sprayed tear gas at strikers.
Police sprayed tear gas at strikers during the summer of 1934 in Minneapolis.
Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

A group that honors the memory of the Minneapolis Truckers Strike of 1934 wants to install a plaque at the scene of a bloody confrontation in the city's Warehouse District.

The 1934 strike is remembered as much for its violence — at least two strikers were killed and dozens were wounded — as for its success in breaking the de facto ban on large-scale union organizing in the city.

The movement grew out of a strike by a group of truckers trying to organize with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters against the wishes of city leaders and a pro-business group called The Citizens' Alliance.

"The Citizens' Alliance was the power behind the throne," said Keith Christensen, a member of the Remember 1934 Committee. "Basically, they dominated the town as a right-to-work environment, which depressed wages and made conditions really harsh — it was one of the worst in the country."

By summer, the unionization effort had attracted about 6,000 Minneapolis workers and successfully shut down truck traffic in the city.

But success didn't come without violence. In a confrontation nicknamed "Bloody Friday," on July 20, 1934, at least two strikers were killed and more than 60 strikers were wounded.

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The events of Bloody Friday helped lead to a final deal between employers and workers, negotiated by a federal mediator. The strike officially ended Aug. 21, 1934. It helped spur industrial union organizing across the country.

"There was a lot of sacrifice, but it demonstrates what can happen when people work together and really show resistance to the conditions at hand," Christensen said. "It made Minneapolis a union town."

A mock-up of the proposed plaque
A mockup of the proposed plaque that would be installed at 701 North 3rd St.
Courtesy of the Remember 1934 Committee

The proposed porcelain enamel and stainless steel plaque would be installed at the so-called Sherwin-Williams building at 701 North 3rd St. It includes historical images and a description of the strike and its influence on the labor movement. It's expected to cost between $3,000 and $5,000 in private funds.

"There hasn't been any recognition of this. There's nothing physical in the whole city, except for some minor images of the strike at a light rail station," Christensen said. "It's irked a lot of us that there's nothing recognizing this, and we hope that it shares this compelling story here."

The effort has the support of the building's owner, Clifford Bruber, who sent a letter to the group saying that he's "delighted to hear that the history of the Minneapolis Truckers Strike of 1934 is gaining presence in this modern day."

The proposal by the Remember 1934 Committee will be heard by the city's Heritage Preservation Commission next week. The group also organizes the One Day in July festival to commemorate the strike.