The Reagan Speech Preservation Society

Harry Bridges

Modified: Tuesday, 07 October 2014 17:30 by admin - Uncategorized
Harry Bridges was an Australian-American union leader who frequently associated himself with Communism. He was part of numerous unions over the course of his life, but is best known as the leader of the International Longshoremen's Association.

Attempts to deport Bridges based on his communist ties were made, but were never successful due to insufficient evidence. In 1994, 4 years after his death, evidence was found of his leadership role in the Central Committee of the Communist Party USA.


Speech Relevance

Reagan speaks of Bridges in 'Encroaching Control', claiming Bridges attempted to disrupt the Screen Actor's Guild (of which Reagan has been president) and reorganize the Guild into a union.

The communists, more than a decade ago, about 12 or 13 years ago, decided to shortcut this gradual encroaching program and they took advantage of a jurisdictional dispute between two unions. And then overnight, we saw violence in our streets, mass pickets outside our studio gates, most of them provided by Harry Bridges' maritime union. We saw homes bombed, automobiles overturned, threats of acid in the face of our performers. The immediate goal was to close the motion picture industry and get us so discouraged with our own guilds and unions that we would see their dissolution and then fall for the idea of one huge, vertical union of motion picture workers from top-to-bottom and, curiously enough, we would get our charter from that same Harry Bridges. Well, we fought back and we fought well.
Additional details are be found in his 1957 Eureka College Commencement speech:
It was some time later, under the guise of a jurisdictional strike involving a dispute between two unions, that we saw war come to Hollywood. Suddenly there were 5,000 tin-hatted, club-carrying pickets outside the studio gates. We saw some of our people caught by these hired henchmen; we saw them open car doors and put their arms across them and break them until they hung straight down the side of the car, and then these tin-hatted men would send our people on into the studio. We saw our so-called glamour girls, who certainly had to be conscious of what a scar on the face or a broken nose could mean career-wise going through those picket lines day after day without complaint. Nor did they falter when they found the bus which they used for transportation to and from work in flames from a bomb that had been thrown into it just before their arrival. Two blocks from the studio everyone would get down on hands and knees on the floor to avoid the bricks and stones coming through the windows. And the 5,000 pickets out there in their tin hats weren't even motion picture workers. They were maritime workers from the waterfront members of Mr. Harry Bridges' union.
We won our fight in Hollywood, cleared them out after seven long months in which even homes were broken, months in which many of us carried arms that were granted us by the police, and in which policemen lived in our homes, guarding our children at night. And what of the quiet film technician who had left our town before the fighting started? Well, in 1951 he turned up on the Monterey Peninsula where he was involved in a union price-fixing conspiracy. Two years ago he appeared on the New York waterfront where he was Harry Bridges' right hand man in an attempt to establish a liaison between the New York and West Coast waterfront workers. And a few months ago he was mentioned in the speech of a U.S. Congresswoman who was thanking him for his help in framing labor legislation. He is a registered lobbyist in Washington for Harry Bridges.
The union dispute mentioned was between the Theatrical Stage Employees and Motion Picture Machine Operators (IATSE) and the Conference of Studio Unions (CSU). The CSU was being supported by members of the communist Party and communist unions, including Bridges, who had worked with Herbert Sorrell (head of the CSU) in Oakland years before.

The violence mentioned could be a reference to October 5, 1945, also known as Hollywood Black Friday, on which tempers flared outside the Warner Brothers studio gate. Up to 1000 people on both sides (studio officials, replacement workers, police and striking union members) clashed.

Reagan mentions "threats of acid in the face of our performers" and according to several sources, this was a first-hand threat he received via phone while filming the movie Night Upon Night.


Source Links

Harry Bridges (Wikipedia)

Harry Bridges (KeyWiki, associated with Trevor Loudon's New Zeal blog)

Hollywood Ten Trials: 1948-50 - Hollywood Divided Into Two Camps

American communist History Volume 9, Issue 3, 2010

Excerpt from Reagan's War by Peter Schweizer mentioning ties between Bridges and Sorrell

ScrewTurn Wiki version 2.0.15. Some of the icons created by FamFamFam.