Following increasingly heated contract negotiations, New Orleans streetcar motormen and conductors struck beginning July 1, 1929. The survival of the carmen's union and 1,100 jobs was in question. Transit strikes throughout the nation provoked emotional displays of public support, and the 1929 strike ranks among the nation's most violent.
The strike was the culmination of years spent fighting over control of the workplace. Transit managers with New Orleans Public Service, Inc. (NOPSI) had worked to develop a company union whose leaders had once been officers of the AFL union. The former president of the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees of America Division No. 194 now headed a rival, company union known as the Progressive Benevolent Association.
For the first few days, no streetcars operated. When the company attempted to run the cars on July 5 using "strike breakers" (career criminals brought in from New York), brickbats and jeering crowds stopped all but one. More than 10,000 New Orleanians gathered downtown and watched strike supporters disable and then burn the first car operated by a strike breaker. These excerpts from the video documentary Streetcar Stories feature eyewitness accounts about the most violent day of the strike.
To learn more about how this strike created one of New Orleans' most iconic foods, check out our tour stop about the Po-Boy Sandwich.