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STREET CAR STRIKES AND GENERAL STRIKE
9th & Brighton

During the years around World War I, streetcars were the primary means of transportation for most residents of the Kansas City area. The strategic importance of public transit made it a focus of efforts by both the labor movement and the powerful employer's organization of the time.

Three important strikes by streetcar workers occurred during and immediately following World War I. Two of these strikes were impressive victories, inspiring the rest of organized labor. The third ended in a major defeat, signaling the start of the largely successful antiunion drive following the war.

The well-organized Employers' Association was run by prominent citizens like Armour, Kemper and Long. They were the general staff directing tenacious resistance to unions by bosses both big and small.

Labor resistance was, however, militant and solid. The Kansas City General Strike of 1918 which started in a strike of women Laundry workers, shut Kansas City down for six days. This created a climate of working class solidarity and directly influenced street car workers.

Street Car
1918 - Troops Guarding Streetcar

The wartime government sought to mediate the streetcar disputes and the National War Labor Board ordered wage increases for workers. The company's refusal to comply led to the third strike.

The Kansas City local of the Transit Union was unusual in its acceptance of women conductors on the street cars and support for their demands for equal pay.

click here to see "Anti union propaganda"
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