Back in the late 19th Century the lumber industry was the biggest industry in the area. Hundreds of men worked in the industry doing things from cooking, scouting, milling, and cutting lumber. Most men were ok with how their jobs were doing, but some realized that their working conditions were atrocious. These men realized that they were working for upwards of twelve hours a day for six days a week. They also received their pay irregularly and some times it wasn’t even American dollars. These men were the ones that convinced the others to strike.
These men were excited by the “Ten Hour Law” with would limit the work day to ten hours. What the men didn’t realize was the fact that there was a loophole where the companies could force workers to work more than that if they were contracted to work more. The men wanted the law to be enacted as soon as the law came to be, not just in the beginning of the next season like the law stated. Because of this the men decided to rebel and stand up for their rights.
The strike first started as just a few disgruntled workers from a single lumber mill, but as they protested they attracted hundreds of people from surrounding mills. As their cause gained momentum they got the attention of the lumber barons who owned the mills in the area. The barons got upset because their source of labor wasn’t doing anything, so they weren’t making any money. They couldn’t hire any new people because the members of the strike were harassing the people who were not participating.
The police were sent to deal with the members of the strikes on multiple occasions, however their hands were tied most of the time due to regulations and orders from superiors. The barons hired the Pinkerton detectives to help deal with the threat of the strike members who got quite violent. The barons were forced to fire the Pinkerton detectives after a while due to the fact they were mercenaries.
Eventually the Strike was quelled after Governor Alger, a fellow lumber man, came and convinced the strike members their actions were illegal and warranted militia interference. The strike members realized that they still need the job and most came back willing to work. To their dismay however their strike did very little. They still had to work more than ten hours due to a loop hole and they didn’t get a wage increase. However the lumber barons did let them get a more consistent pay.
Sadly the whole force of the Bay Area lumber workers was nothing compared to the stubbornness of the lumber barons. The barons even recouped their losses due to the fact that they didn’t have to pay their workers for the whole length of the strike. However due to such extreme lumbering the forests and supplies of lumber would be depleted in a few years.