May 30: 12,000 Union Workers in Bridgeport Mobilize to Support Strikers

 

On this day in 1922, Bridgeport’s Central Labor Union issued a formal call to all of its 12,000 members to support the striking trolleymen who worked for the Connecticut Railway and Lighting Company, triggering months of labor unrest in one of Connecticut’s largest cities.

The Connecticut Railway and Lighting Company was the primary operator of electric trains, street trolleys, and buses in the heavily populated shoreline corridor surrounding Bridgeport.  Two weeks earlier, on May 15, all 225 employees decided to strike for better pay and working conditions, noticeably disrupting the rhythm of Fairfield County by limiting — and occasionally halting altogether — the region’s trolley service.  As tensions between company management and striking workers increased, the Central Labor Union voted on May 31 to assess each of its 12,000 members a small fee in order to provide monetary support to the striking workmen.

After the Central Labor Union meeting, newspapers ominously warned that “it is predicted by union men that the City of Bridgeport will become the center of labor troubles in Connecticut.”  They weren’t wrong: over the next several weeks, numerous groups of agitated employees throughout the city submitted demands to their bosses calling for better pay and shorter hours — or, at the very least, a fixed workday schedule — including machinists, iron molders, bakers, and brewery workers.  With a simple vote, Bridgeport kicked off a wave of labor tensions that would continue to plague Connecticut — one of the most heavily-industrialized states in the country — in one form or another throughout the early decades of the 20th century.

Further Reading

Cecelia Bucki, “The Labor Movement in Connecticut,Connecticut Explored