Dakota Datebook

Bringing Home the Bread

Monday, November 20, 2006

It was tough work being the breadwinner of the family in the 1930s, but due to a strike, this task was even more difficult. Bakers of Grand Forks went on strike, leaving six companies short of help; despite this, production continued. The bakeries also attempted to continue bread deliveries, but constant violence and harassment by picketers stopped deliveries until police protection for the truck drivers was guaranteed. Today in 1937, trucks again began deliveries, making it a little easier for consumers to “bring home the bread.”
The strike began on November 14, 1937, when the representative of the International Bakers and Confectionary Workers Union, O. Eisenbauer ordered Grand Forks bakers of the Eddy, Blacks, Chicago, Colton-Wilder, Franks, and Federal Bakeries to strike until certain demands were met. The conditions included higher wages, better hours, seniority rights, and a closed shop. Seniority rights and a closed shop, which meant only members of the union could be considered for employment at the bakery, were the major issues in the strike.
As negotiations continued, so did the baking. Eddy, Blacks, Chicago, Colton-Wilder, and Franks combined forces at the Eddy factory, while the Federal Bakery continued production in its own factory. Meanwhile, 18 of the affected 22 employees picketed outside of Eddy Bakery, preventing delivery trucks from leaving for the first few days of the strike. As tensions arose, the picketers were arrested for conspiracy to prevent a lawful act. This, however, was not a victory for the bakeries. It was not long before Willard Anderson, manager of Eddy Bakery, too, was charged. His alleged crime was threatening to shoot the picketers if they did not leave.

The picketers’ arrest didn’t stop the protest. Forty additional picketers from Fargo came to Grand Forks to help the protest for a few days. Trucks continued to try and push through the lines, but even those that made it past the factory were followed and harassed by picketers.

The turmoil finally calmed some when police protection and pleas for cooperation from the Greater Grand Forks committee finally aided in the delivering of bread without interference. The Fargo men also returned home, and for two days, production and deliveries went forth without disturbances.

Peace broke just two days after deliveries began, however, in a final act of defiance reminiscent to the Boston Tea Party. Four strike sympathizers who had followed a delivery truck from town halted the driver 10 miles from Grand Forks and dumped its contents into the ditch. The truck was also damaged and the driver had to hitch a ride to Larimore. A search for the unidentified men began, but no signs of the assailants were found.

The strike began to look worse for the bakeries when on November 24th, truck drivers also walked out, and a proposal by the bakeries was rejected by the union. The proposal included a wage increase on an open shop basis. The bakeries were, however, able to pass this proposal the following day. The proposal included a wage increase, an open shop with no seniority rights, paid holiday vacations, and an 8 hour workday, 48 hour work week, and time and one-third for overtime. The proposal was accepted by both bakers and truck drivers and normal operating hours began on November 26, bringing an end to the 11 day strike.

By Tessa Sandstrom

Sources:
“Bakery work resumed as strike ends,” Grand Forks Herald. Nov. 26, 1937: 1.
“Strikers accept bakeries’ peace offer,” Grand Forks Herald. Nov. 25, 1937: 1.
“Unions turn down offer of bakeries,” Grand Forks Herald. Nov. 24, 1937: 1.
“Contents of bread truck put in ditch,” Grand Forks Herald. Nov. 22, 1937: 1.
“Reach impasse in baker strike here,” Grand Forks Herald. Nov. 21, 1937: 1.
“Bakery begins deliveries of bread in city,” Grand Forks Herald. Nov. 20, 1937: 1.
“Pickets trial continued to November 29,” Grand Forks Herald. Nov. 19, 1937: 1.
“Picketed bakery hals all bread deliveries,” Grand Forks Herald. Nov. 18, 1937: 1.
“Bakery pickets fail in attempt to halt city bread deliveries,” Grand Forks Herald. Nov. 17, 1937: 1.
“18 arrested in bakery walkout,” Grand Forks Herald. Nov. 16, 1937: 1.
“City bakers will start strike today,” Grand Forks Herald. Nov. 14, 1937: 1.

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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