\”The Boston Police Were
Justified in Going Out on Strike in 1919\”
The period after the Civil War was a time when many businesses and corporations grew to a size where power was the key to success. Different companies would have to compete with each other to stay on top of the fast enlargement of industry. Many businesses and corporation grew so large that the factory owners did not care about the laborers themselves or there concerns, but how much time and work they could out of them. Machines became so abundant in factories that they almost took the place of human workers. Child labor was also an issue. Children, some as young as six, were often employed as factory workers. This ignorance caused the growth of some labor unions. Labor unions were designed to support and help workers that were treated unfairly and were being controlled by the owners.
In the early 1900 s the Boston police were ranked among the best law enforcement groups in the world. Underneath this reputation of being one of the best in the world, the police department was having some trouble. Most of the police stations were old and deteriorating. An officer would have to many hours a week. The pay for most policemen were very low. While inflation was in much affect the policeman s salary stayed the same. And the men were promised raises but never saw much more than they had already made. The Boston city policemen were very angry over these issues. Some policemen thought of joining a labor union. This would help bargain for higher wages and better working conditions. As a result of this \”threat\” of entering a labor union, the commissioner of police, Edward Curtis, told the men that no policemen were to join a union. After men decided to join the American Federation of Labor, Curtis decided to suspend those men. Leaders of the union were angered by this action and told the commissioner not to punish the men or else all union members would go on strike. Compromises were brought the Curtis, but none were accepted. Soon, a vast majority of the police department was on strike. It did not take long for violence in the streets to set in. Many volunteers were put in the line of duty. Angry mobs ran the streets, and many newspapers ran articles such as, \”Riots in Boston\”, \”Terror Reigns in City\”. This was a disgrace to the city of Boston. After eight deaths of seventy wounded, and thousand of dollars of damage done, the cities order was finally restored. The officers were given the raises that were requested and no longer had to pay for there uniforms.
The police stations were so old that they were infested with rats. These working conditions had to be improved. No policeman could work to there fullest potential in a place where the rats chewed leather off of the policeman s helmets. The cities government did absolutely nothing to improve these places. This was not a place where the people that maintain peace in the city should have had to work in.
Another reason for the Boston Police Department to strike was there very low wages. Most policeman only made 23 dollars a week. While some shipyard workers make 75 dollars to 100 dollars a week. The starting salary for a policeman was 900 dollars a year. And the most you could make after six years was 1400 dollars. Carpenters and street car conductors made almost twice that amount. The men also had to pay 200 dollars a year for uniforms. The men asked many times for raises, but when the raises were finally anounced, most men received nothing and depending on the years working there, they were only given 100 to 200 dollars a year raise. For the men that save lives, this kind of salary was outrageous.
The long hours were also an issue. The policeman would work (depending on his duty) 70 to 90 hours, seven days a week. Every two weeks he would have a day off but could not leave the city without permission to. They would also have to keep order in parades and not receive any pay for the time working. These men hardly had time to see there families.
Inflation was a crucial factor in the policeman s lives. With the same pay over many years, and inflation (which is the continuing rise in prices) on the rise, the men could hardly survive with a family. During that time the federal government said that 1,575 dollars a year was the minimum necessary to support a family of five. Very few officers made that much. Family life of most officers was being corrupted because the men s were not rising with inflation.
Therefore, the Boston police were justified in going out on strike against the commissioner. They were treated like animals that were there to keep the reputation of a good police force. The harsh working conditions, low wages, broken promises, and extremely high hours were all very good reasons for the workers to strike. This strike sent a message out to all businesses telling them that they cannot treat there workers like the Boston City police officers were treated. If they did not strike, they would have probably been working the same hours, for the same wages well into the future.