1919 September 9

Boston Police Strike Stirs Fears of Anarchy, Revolution


Boston police officers, demanding higher wages in the face of post-World War I inflation, went out on strike on this day. The strike stirred fears of anarchy, lawlessness and revolution. City officials recruited volunteers, including businessmen and Harvard University students, to replace the striking police officers.  Violence erupted, and Governor Calvin Coolidge called out the National Guard to restore order.

Coolidge gained national fame for his statement that no one has the right to strike against the public at any time.

President Woodrow Wilson called the Boston strike “a crime against civilization.”

After four days, the mayor of Boston fired all the striking police officers and hired replacements.

The failure of the Boston police strike tarnished the idea of police unions, and other nascent local unions around the country collapsed and disappeared. Police unions did not return and establish themselves as recognized collective bargaining agents for officers until the 1960s.

Learn more: Francis Russell, A City in Terror: The Boston Police Strike (1975)

And more: Cameron McWhirter, Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America (2011)


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