This Day in History

Nov. 8, 1892: Massive Labor Strike in New Orleans

Time Periods: Industrial Revolution: 1877 - 1899
Themes: Labor

On Nov. 8, 30,000 factory and dock workers staged the 1892 New Orleans general strike, demanding union recognition, closed shops, wage increases, and more.

They were joined by non-industrial laborers, such as musicians, clothing workers, clerks, utility workers, streetcar drivers, and printers.

Unloading cotton from steamboat in New Orleans, 1891. Source: Library of Congress

Most importantly, African American and white workers united despite active attempts to divide the workers on racial lines.

In New Orleans, November 1892: One city’s heroic general strike defies racial divisions, it notes:

The Board of Trade soon announced that it would sign an agreement with the Scalesmen and the Packers unions, but not with the Teamsters’ Union, whose membership was predominantly African-American.  . .

The bigotry of the Board of Trade was matched by the New Orleans newspapers.  . .

Louisiana Governor Murphy Foster assumed control of the city on November 10. He placed several battalions of the state militia on alert. Despite the fact that the strikers had been peaceful and orderly, Foster issued a proclamation ordering citizens not to congregate in crowds. The proclamation implied that the militia would be called out if the strike continued. Foster’s edict amounted to a declaration of martial law, and warned labor of possible bloodshed ahead. Read in full.

Hidden History Tours notes:

Here, 30 years after the end of the Civil War, and with the betrayal of Reconstruction, Black and white workers had united to walk out for joint demands.

Find resources below to teach labor history.