This website of the Comintern (SH) was created on occasion of the 110th anniversary of the Pressed Steel Car Strike in Pennsylvania

The strike lasted eleven weeks.

1909- 2019

 

Pressed Steel Car Strike

Struggle of 100 years ago offers a lesson for today:

"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, blood for blood."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pressed Steel Car Strike

written by the American Section of the USA

(under construction)


110 years ago on this month, thousands of workers of the Pressed Steel Car Company in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, went on strike.


The Pressed Steel Car Company, which was founded 10 years before in 1899, produced parts for locomotives such as engines, was America's second largest rail car producer, and employed thousands of workers, mostly immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe who were hired because they were deemed less likely to resist their ruthless exploitation.


The company, nicknamed "The Last Chance" and "The Slaughterhouse", was notorious for its dangerous working conditions, corrupt bosses and payment system, and peonage. Workers, the majority of which were labelled "unskilled", were given very difficult and demanding tasks and injuries and deaths (at least one each day) were very common.


"[When a worker gets maimed,] some foreman or other petty 'boss' pushes the bleeding body aside with his foot to make room for another living man, that [sic] no time be lost in the turning out of pressed steel cars. The new man often works for some minutes over the dead body until a labor gang takes it away."


On top of that, the company used the Baldwin Contract (pooling) in which jobs and wages were determined by foreman. Wages were extremely low (up to $1 a day for most), making them unable to afford housing (company housing units were $12/month and usually housed up to six families) or the overpriced provisions provided by company stores. As a result, foreman often held jobs hostage until they received bribes and the wives and daughters of the workers were often sexually violated by the bosses in order to "compensate" for the lack of payments.


Eventually, the breaking point reached on July 10th, 1909 when many workers were paid much less than usual. The company refused to speak with the enraged workers and 40 of them refused to work unless they were paid again, only to be fired three days later. Shortly after that, over 5,000 workers had walked out.


The company responded by enlisting the notorious strike-breaking leader Pearl Bergoff and violence quickly escalated when skirmishes between workers and deputies and the workers resulted in over 100 injuries on July 14th and a worker was shot dead by a strikebreaker, and he was mourned by over 5,000 people. Over 500 strikebreakers have been hired by Bergoff and several were on their way to the plant by boat, but were driven away by the armed strikers who opened fire on them.


And over 3,000 workers from other companies such as the Standard Steel Car Company joined the strike and they were joined by the IWW and its prominent leaders such as William Trautman (who was later arrested), Joe Ettor, and "Big Bill" Haywood arrived to rally more workers.


Soon, over 200 constables and 300 deputies arrived to protect the strikebreakers and began evicting the strikers and their families from the company town of Presston (known as Schroenville at the time). On August 21st, an officer was photographed placing a baby buggy on a wagon filled with a family's possessions, causing public support to grow. The officer was killed the next day and strikers fought against the mounted State Police, who were nicknamed "Cossacks" by the Slavic workers. At least 16 people (mostly workers) we're killed and martial law was declared the day after.


Eventually on September 8th, after 8 weeks of strikes, the Pressed Steel Car Company agreed to increase wages, replace the pooling system with an established wage rate, and end the abusive company housing practices. However, thousands of immigrant workers walked out again when the bosses weren't providing the concessions they promised, but the immigrants eventually went back to work.


Although the strike is "forgotten" today, it would change the face of the labor movement in the US. The unity of the workers, who were from 16 different countries and spoke at least 9 separate languages, was unprecedented and had shown the bourgeoisie that immigrant workers will not passively be exploited.

 

* * *

 

"We Just Come to Work Here, We Don’t Come to Die"

List of some killed workers

Aug 2, 1909 “Tjepa“ -  Shot by state trooper

George Mollhasser (Millhaszer) - Shootout with state troopers

Aug 22, 1909 Anton Gubernet - Shootout with state troopers

 Aug 22, 1909 Mickel Tysowski - Shootout with state troopers

Aug 22, 1909 Frank Namet - Shootout with state troopers

 Aug 22, 1909 John Suter - Shootout with state troopers

 Aug 22, 1909 3 unidentified strikers - Shootout with state troopers

 Aug 22, 1909 Est. as many as 26 others Fearing retaliation many bury their dead in unmarked graves.

 

July 15, 1909

Rioting workers of the Pressed Steel Car Company, near McKees Rocks, clashed with guards. Coal and Iron Police and State Constabulary were called out, and many strikers were wounded by volleys of buckshot fired to halt their charges. State police were ordered to “shoot to kill” if attacked by strikers.

     Pressed Steel Car Company in Pittsburgh calls in 200 state constables and 300 deputy sheriffs to "insure" the safety of strikebreakers and to evict strikers from company houses. Their actions result in the death of at least 12 people, and perhaps as many as 26.

 

Solidarity Forever !

 

 

* * *

The American proletariat - in review of its honorable history of class struggle - will march in the front ranks of the global working class army, fighting to overthrow the decaying world capitalist system and building in its place a world society free from all imperialist class rule, exploitation and oppression - a socialist world order of the dictatorship of the world proletariat.

Comintern (SH) - 17th of July 2019