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Violence in West Fargo

3/18/2016:

On this date in 1948, there was turmoil in West Fargo. A strike by the United Packinghouse Workers of America had entered its third day. The local strikers had been reinforced by men from St. Paul, and violence broke out at the Armour and Company packing plant. Pickets attacked three deputy sheriffs and the drivers of trucks attempting to bring in cattle. They also damaged the trucks of farmers who tried to cross the picket line.

The strike had begun in an orderly manner, and the strikers had allowed trucks through, but tempers flared, and the strikers began preventing traffic from entering the plant. That included trucks carrying feed for the animals held in pens. When a deputy tried to drive through the gate, strikers broke the windows of his car and tried to drag him out. One farmer who managed to drive through the gate was not allowed to exit. Office employees had been driving in and out, but the strikers soon stopped them, too. The office workers remained in the plant, sleeping on cots.

Workers had been attempting to unionize the meatpacking industry since the turn of the century. The United Packinghouse Workers of America was finally formed in 1943. The union had won a wage increase in 1946, and the 1948 strike was an attempt to build on that success and win another raise. It was a nationwide action, with 100,000 workers across the country out on strike. Three people were killed in strike-related violence, and the National Guard was called out in three states.

The strike lasted for 67 days. In the end, the strikers accepted a 9-cent per hour raise that they originally turned down. Ralph Croal, the Cass County state’s attorney, said no warrants for arrests had been issued in relation to the West Fargo clash.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher

Sources:

Encyclopedia of Chicago. “Packinghouse Unions.” "http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/943.html%20Accessed%202/13/16" http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/943.html Accessed 2/13/16 .

Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. “Pickets Maul Farmers, Deputies: Violence at Armour’s in West Fargo.” 18 March, 1948.

Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. “Meat Supplies Dwindle; Packers, Union Meet.” 18 March, 1948.

Nebraska State Historical Society. “Workers, Bosses, and Public Officials: Omaha’s 1948 Packinghouse Strike.” "http://www.nebraskahistory.org/publish/publicat/history/full-text/NH1985PackStrike.pdf" http://www.nebraskahistory.org/publish/publicat/history/full-text/NH1985PackStrike.pdf Accessed 2/13/2016.