History 383 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer

Discussion Guides - Labor, Reform, Industry, and Politics

Capitalism vs. Socialism poster

Introduction: Today we enter our third unit of study - "Bringing California Into the 20th Century." To do this, we begin with an understanding of several national movements that all spilled over into California and in so doing, dramatically influenced the political, economic and social development of the State. Each of these movements is related to our topic for today - "Labor, Reform, Industry, and Politics." As we move into this topic, it be become clear that California's issues of labor, reform, industry and politics were deeply tied to national issues. Indeed, at the end of the 19th and early in the 20th Century, the U.S. was locked in a class struggle between worker and capitalist classes, as well as a political struggle betweeen emerging supporters of socialism and the traditional forces of capitalism. And we will see these struggles played out in California.

Discussion Goals - Labor, Reform, Industry, and Politics

  1. To define the terms related to labor and capital.
  2. To learn about the background of early labor efforts in the state of California.
  3. To understand two national movements that spilled over into California at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Century: the anti-immigrant campaign and progressive reform.
  4. To carefully examine the rise and fall of progressive reform in California in the early 20th Century.

Goal #1: To define the terms related to labor and capital

Before we move ahead, it is important that we understand the terms used in our reading and in the discussion that will follow.

Group Work: Get into 10 groups of 4 students each. Each group will be assigned one of the words below. Then do the following:

Goal #2: To learn about the background of early labor efforts in the state of California

Beginning in the 1850s, craft workers in Northern California combined to protect themselves and keep their wages high enough to meet living costs.  Among those were the typesetters, brewers, building tradesmen, and some musicians.  However, because of the high turnover among workers, it was difficult to organize permanent unions.

However, employers immediately began to sabotage the new law by bringing in workers from the east to break the 8-hour day in San Francisco. Advertisements by the California Labor and Employment Exchange, a bureau supported by employers to find cheap labor, attracted many immigrants to California. After the Civil War and after the transcontinental railroad opened up, an influx of desperate, unemployed people were willing to work in San Francisco for as many hours as they could get. By 1872 few workers held to the 8-hour day, although bricklayers and plasterers held out until the late 1870s.

Another reaction Newspaper article about 1871 Chinatown War in Los Angelesto the failure of the 1868 bill to enforce the 8-hour day was anti-Chinese attitudes and actions.  Chinese immigrants who lost their jobs after the railroad was completed and who continued immigrating in large numbers worked for low wages and long hours. Thus, white workers began blaming the Chinese for unemployment and poor working conditions. Emotions were so inflamed in 1871 that a Los Angeles mob of over 500 white men swarmed through the city’s Chinatown and robbed or ransacked almost every Chinese resident.  At least 18 Chinese deaths were confirmed. Out of this racial and labor turmoil arose the first large organized union in California – the Workingmen’s Party. 

Using their slogan, "The Chinese Must Go!" the Workingmen's Party leaders argued that capitalists monopolized wealth and property, used their political influence to keep workers subordinate, and employed cheap Chinese labor to gain more wealth.

By Thanksgiving, the WPC was able to muster 10,000 members to march in San Francisco's annual parade. Denis Kearney, the leader of the Workingmen's Party and an Irish immigrant, not only promised to drive all of the Chinese in California into the Pacific, he also promised to burn down San Francisco's City Hall in the name of the coming revolution that would sweep away capitalism and establish a workers' democracy. In an 1877 speech he declared:

Ticket for the candidates of the Workingmen's Party of 1877"The Central Pacific Railroad men are thieves, and will soon feel the power of the workingmen. When I have thoroughly organized my party, we will march through the city and compel the thieves to give up their plunder. I will lead you to the City Hall, clean out the police force, hang the Prosecuting Attorney, burn every book that has a particle of law in it, and then enact new laws for the workingmen. I will give the Central Pacific just three months to discharge their Chinamen, and if that is not done, Stanford and his crowd will have to take the consequences." (San Francisco Evening Bulletin, November 5, 1877)

By 1878, the WPC had won about a third of the seats to California's constitutional convention electing a state senator , some local officials in Alameda County, the mayor and a majority of the board of supervisors in San Francisco, and some other local officials throughout the state. These politicians, in turn, began adopting ordinances that discriminated against the Chinese in housing, employment, and city services - laws that were late ruled to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

By 1880, the WPC had largely dissolved. But it left behind a reliable and strong labor vote in San Francisco, which for many years had a large influence in state politics.

So, let's look at several questions about labor and capital during this early era of union politics.

In short, in the late 19th and early 20th Century, California unionization was strong in the highly urbanized portion of the state - San Francisco - and extremely weak in the rural, agricultural portion of the state - Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California. Because the state was so split and there were so many racial and ethnic divisions between its urban and rural workers, it was difficult for national union organizations such as the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies) to come in and unionize. Thus, unionization had only a small impact on the state during its first 50-60 years. But let's take a closer look at this national labor effort that tried to influence unionization in California

Goal #3: To understand two national movements that spilled over into California at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Century: the anti-immigrant campaign and progressive reform

At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century, two major national movements spilled over into California and in so doing, dramatically influenced its political, economic, and social development: the campaign for anti-immigrant policies and the fight for progressive reform.

NATIONAL MOVEMENT #1: The Campaign for Anti-Immigrant Policies

Through our previous discussion about the mining and railroad industries, as well as about the Workingmen's Party, we have already learned a great deal about anti-Chinese prejudice in California. Today, we are going to take another look at both national and California anti-immigrant policies over the past 200 years.

Selected Actions Relating to Immigration Restriction and Reform at the National Level and in California - 1790-2008

1790  Naturalization Act was the first federal law governing the process to become a naturalized citizen. Citizenship was limited to "aliens" who were "free white persons."

1798 Alien and Sedition Acts gave the president unlimited power to order out of the country any alien "whom he shall judge dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States" and in case of war, allowed male enemy aliens 14 years and older to be apprehended and confined.

1850s Anti-Catholicism was at its peak in America.  A dozen churches were burned during the middle 1850s; countless more were attacked, their crosses stolen, their alters violated, and their windows broken.  At Sidney, Ohio, and at Dorchester, Massachusetts, Catholic houses of worship were blown to pieces with gunpowder. In New York City, a mob laid siege to the prominent cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul and only the arrival of the police saved the building.

1859 The Oregon Constitution declared that no "Chinaman" could ever own property in Oregon.

1875 Revised Federal Statutes, Section 2169, Title XXX specified that racially, only two types of aliens - persons of white or black descent - were eligible to become American citizens.  All Asian immigrants, being neither white nor black, were classified as "aliens ineligible to citizenship."

1878 The Workingmen's Party campaigning on it "The Chinese Must Go" slogan, won about a third of the seats to California's constitutional convention.

18chinese 82 Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited entry to all Chinese people except teachers, students, merchants, tourists, and officials.   This was the first - and only - federal law restricting immigration based upon nationality and race.  The Act was repealed in 1943.

1884 A segregated Oriental School was established in San Francisco for Asian students.

1887 American Protective Association organized by middle-class whites to revive immigrant restriction endeavors. Members of the organization were required to take a secret oath which revealed the depth of Protestant distrust and fear of Catholics holding public office.

1894 Immigration Restriction League organized by a young Harvard graduates who wanted  the nation to decide whether they wanted their country "to be peopled by British, German and Scandinavian stock, historically free, energetic progressive, or by Slav, Latin and Asiatic races historically down-trodden, atavistic, and stagnant." League members made a distinction between the "old immigrants" of English, Irish, and German stock and the "new immigrants" from Italy and Eastern Europe. They claimed that these recently arrived "undesirables" were inherently unable to participate in self-government or to adopt American values.

1906 The San Francisco Board of Education ruled that all Japanese and Korean students should join the Chinese at the segregated Oriental School. There were 93 Japanese students in the 23 San Francisco public schools at that time, 25 of whom had been born in the United States.

1907 Expatriot Act provided that an American woman, naturalized or native born, who married a foreigner, lost her citizenship. 

The Gentlemen's Agreement was negotiated by President Roosevelt whereby the Japanese government agreed not to issue passports to laborers immigrating to the United States. However, parents, wives, and children of laborers already in the United States could immigrate, as well as laborers who had already been here.

1913 California Alien Land Law prohibited "aliens ineligible for citizenship" (i.e., all Asian immigrants) from owning land or property, but permited three year leases. It affected the Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Korean immigrant farmers in California. Nonetheless, Japanese land holdings increased as Japanese farmers used various strategies to circumvent the law especially by assigning title in the name of citizen children. Oyama v. California newspaper articleIn 1948, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Oyama v. California that the law was unconstitutional.

1917 Immigration Act prohibited the entry of immigrants who were "induced ...to migrate to this country by offers or promises of employment," imposed a head tax, and excluded immigrants over 16 who could not read in any language.

The first Bracero Program was an exception to the Immigration Act after American farmers and railroad tycoons persuaded the U.S. Department of Labor to suspend the head tax and the literacy test for Mexican workers coming to the United States with contracts for up to 12 months. No Mexican worker could depart for the US without a contract signed by an immigration official specifying the rate of pay, place of employment, work schedule and other conditions.

1920 California Alien Land Initiative passed with a majority of every California county voting to outlaw all the measures the Japanese used to circumvent the 1913 law. In the 1920s, various California Supreme Court cases upheld the constitutionality of the law

1921 An amendment to the California State Political Code allowed the establishment of separate schools for children of Indian, Chinese, Japanese, or Mongolian parentage.

1922 The Cable Act revoked the citizenship of any woman who married an Asian alien. The Act was repealed in 1936.

1924 Immigration Act established the first national law designed to limit immigration through creating quotas to reduce immigration from southern and eastern Europe (especially Jews and Italians).   As a result, the percentage of visas available to individuals from the British Isles and Western Europe increased, but newer immigration from other areas like Southern and Eastern Europe was limited. The Act set an annual limit of 150,000 immigrants; forbade the admission of “aliens ineligible to citizenship” - all Asians, including wives of Asians already in the US; denied all Asians naturalization rights; and prohibited Asians from marrying a Caucasian and from owning land. Upon signing the Act, President Calvin Coolidge commented, "America must remain American."

1929 to 1937.  In response to the huge numbers Mexican immigrants working in California's agricultural economy, the United States immigration Bureau worked with authorities in Los Angeles to send illegal Mexican workers back to Mexico. By 1937, half a million Mexicans were sent back to Mexico from the US.

1942  The secondImage of Bracero pass Bracero Program began whereby Mexican contract laborers came to the U.S. with a promise to be returned to Mexico at the end of a specific term.  During the war years, braceros worked in 21 (but mainly California and Texas) states where in 1944 alone, they harvested crops worth $432 million.  Ranchers paid low wages and provided barely livable facilities.  The program ended in 1964. 

1943 Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act repealed the exclusion of Chinese immigration. Because the US allied with China during WWII, a quota of 105 per year was set for Chinese immigration (based on a formula set on one-sixth the total population of that ancestry in the 1920 census.)  Japanese were still excluded.

The Zoot Suit Riots erupted in Los Angeles.  White mobs, including several hundred servicemen, rioted and terrorized zoot suiters for three nights, dragging them out of movies, stores, and houses, beating them, and tearing apart their clothes.  The police responded by arresting over 600 Mexican-American youths arguing that they were being taken into "preventive custody."  Later that summer, the LA city council outlawed the wearing of zoot suits.

1952 The McCarran-Walter Immigration and Naturalization Act nullified the Naturalization Act of 1790, thus ending racially-based naturalization ban and the 1924 ban on Asian immigration. 

1954 Operation Wetback began with the goal of removing all "illegal aliens" from the southwestern United States, with a focus on Mexican nationals. Over one million Mexican laborers, most from the Bracero Program, were deported.   Raids were carried out by INS, local law enforcement, and armed military forces. Many American citizens of Mexican descent were deported without cause.

1989 San Francisco adopted sanctuary city status; Los Angeles and San Diego, have since followed suit.

1994 California’s Proposition 187 made undocumented  immigrants ineligible for three kinds of public services:  social services including mental health and rape crisis intervention; health services except for events defined as emergencies under federal law; and education at elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools.  Required employees of public agencies to report any persons they suspected of being in the US illegally to two governmental bodies.  In 1998, a federal  judge ruled that most of Proposition 187 was unconstitutional.

1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act increased the federal government’s border enforcement efforts by authorizing 1,000 additional Border patrol Agents each year from 1997-2001; allowed wiretaps for investigating alien smuggling operations and increased the criminal  penalties for such actions; permanently barred from the US any alien convicted for an aggravated felony;  authorized 300 additional investigators; and established a program to monitor foreign students. Photo of border fence between Tijuana and San Diego

2001 California begins passing a series a laws - over a dozen between 2001-2015 - known as "The California Package." According to the LA Times, "These various laws collectively produce a kind of state-level citizenship ... The California Package is innovative in several respects. Not only does it grant rights to immigrants that are restricted at the federal level, but it also tends to blur the distinction between citizens, authorized, and unauthorized immigrants - valuing everyone who lives in the state and contributes to society." (June 24, 2015) The various laws include:

2005 Minutemen Civil Defense Corp was created by a group of private individuals in the United States to monitor the United States–Mexico border's flow of illegal immigrants. Co-founded by Jim Gilchrist and Chris Simcox, the name derives from the Minutemen, militiamen who fought in the American Revolution.

2006 The Secure Fence Act allowed over 700 miles of double-reinforced fence to be built across cities and deserts between California and Texas in areas that have been prone to illegal drug trafficking and illegal immigration. It authorized the installation of more lighting, vehicle barriers, and border checkpoints, while putting in place more advanced equipment like sensors, cameras, satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles in an attempt to watch and control illegalimmigration into the United States.

2010 Arizona passed S.B. 1070, a law that makes it a crime not to carry proof of legal residency and which in turn, encourages racial profiling, harassment, and discrimination against Latinos. This is the beginning of a series of restrictive laws in Arizona regarding both legal and undocumented immigrants.

2013 California passed a law prohibiting local law enforcement officials from detaining immigrants for longer than necessary on minor offenses so that they can be turned over to federal officials for possible deportation.

2015 In April, the California legislature unveiled a sweeping package of bills that would dramatically expand protections for undocumented immigrants far beyond what's offered by any other state. The 10 pieces of legislation would:

Taken together - and considering the "California Package" of immigration bills passed between 2001-2015 - gives California the reputation of being a national leader on immigration policy.

NATIONAL MOVEMENT #2: The fight for Progressive Reform

Across the nation, city government was a conspicuous failure of American democracy.

End of 10/15 discussion

Goal #4: To carefully examine the rise and fall of progressive reform in California in the early 20th Century

Three Questions about Progressive Reform in California, 1880-1920

  1. What ushered it in?
  2. What were its goals and accomplishments?
  3. What brought about its demise?

What factors brought Progressive reform to California?

Two events ushered in the Progressive Era began in San Francisco: the 1906 San Francisco earthquake that occurred in April was the first event and the second event was the Graft Prosecution that began in October 1906.

In the aftermath of the disastrous quake, San Franciscans did not want potential migrants or businesses to think that another quake could ever destroy their city again. So they argued that it was not the quake itself - a natural disaster that human beings could not control - that destroyed the city, but rather, it was the subsequent fire - which human beings could control with a better planned and constructed, publically owned water system. But to build a new city on top of the ruins and construct a new water system, many San Franciscans knew required ridding San Francisco of its corrupt city government - one that had been in power since 1901.

Goals and Accomplishments of California's Progressive Reformers

  1. Goal: "... the emancipation of the Republican Party in California from domination by the Political Bureau of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company and allied interests."
  2. Goal: Increasing the power of the voters and decreasing the powers of city bosses through the institution of the direct primary as well as the initiative, referendum, and recall. (The initiative, referendum, and recall had already been enacted in Los Angeles in 1904 in a historic vote - making it the first city in the nation to do so.)
  3. Goal: Regulating public utilities.
  4. Goal: Introducing the principles of scientific management used in private enterprise into government.
  5. Goal: Protecting what Progressives believed were the true interests of labor unions and once accomplished, the emporary evil of labor unionism would wither away.
  6. Goal for California women, but not for Republican Progressives as a whole: Adopting women suffrage.
  7. Goal for temperance organizations, but not for Republican Progressives as a whole: Banning saloons - the centers of prostitution and excessive drinking - in local areas at the option of the voters.

Factors contributing to the Decline of the Progressives in California, 1916-1920

  1. The 1916 election of Hiram Johnson, the leader of California's Progressive movement, to the U.S. Senate and his exit from state politics.
  2. The 1917 entrance of the U.S. into WWI that diverted national and state attention to the military effort and away from reform.
  3. The decline of the Socialist movement in the U.S. - a movement that had shown some clear support for the Progressive agenda.
  4. The decline of organized labor.
  5. The collapse of the Democratic Party.
  6. The triumph of conservativism. In 1922, Friend W. Richardson was elected governor. Advocating a program of "sweeping retrenchment, he drastically reduced funding for regulatory boards, education, and humanitarian agencies that had been supported by the progressives. Some of these efforts were reversed in 1926 when Clement Young was elected on a progressive platform. However, he lost in 1930 to James Rolph, a traditional Republican.

Cold Call: 14th Cold Call on required reading - Elinson and Yogi, Ch. 3, "An Injury to All: the Rights of Workers."

Conclusions - Labor, Reform, Industry, and Politics

  1. Three national movements spilled over into California at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century: the struggle between labor and capital; the anti-immigration campaign; and the battle for progressive reform.
  2. While union membership increased during this time period, union efforts on behalf of working Californians was met with fierce resistance from the industrial and agricultural sectors of the state.
  3. California has a long, ugly history of anti-immigration actions, policies, and violence - all of which reached a peak during this era. However, by 2015, a series of immigration bills both passed and proposed since the beginning of the 21st Century gave California the reputation of being a national leader on immigration policy.
  4. Progressive reform in California paralleled progressive reform in the nation - beginning at the end of the 19th century and dominating much of the first two decades of the 20th century.
  5. Muckraking journalists helped to expose many of the problems that progressive reformers sought to overcome.
  6. The era of progressive reform in California was ushered in by citizen reaction to two events that occurred in 1906: the San Francisco earthquake, and the public exposure of the excesses of Boss Ruef and the trials that ensued.
  7. Progressivism divided California's Republican Party between the progressives - those upper class members who favored divorcing the party from the control of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company and other corporate interests - and the traditional Republicans who were closely aligned with the business interests of the state.
  8. The Progressive Republicans met many of their goals while in power in California - especially in terms of increasing the power of the voters, regulating public utilities, meeting some of labor's demands for improving working conditions, and giving women the right to vote.
  9. While the Progressives accomplished a great deal between 1910-1920, their success was short lived - the traditional Republicans began to wrestle power away from the Progressives as the decade came to an end.
  10. By 1930, progressive reform in California ended for several reasons - especially the entrance of the nation into WWI, the demise of labor union membership and activity, the ability of the conservatives to link progressivism with socialism, the collapse of the Democratic party, and the ability of the conservative side of the Republican Party to gain more power and ultimately to destroy the progressive wing.