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Scenes from the Bayonne refinery strike, July 1915. Bain News Service photographs, Library of Congress.  

“Initially about 1200 workers walked out, including 900 coopers, when their demands for increased pay and tolerable working conditions were ignored. The company retaliated by calling in the Bayonne police force through the Mayor of Bayonne, New Jersey, Pierre P. Garven, who was simultaneously on Standard Oil’s payroll as an attorney.  A riot on July 20, 1915 involving the strikers, police and “several hundred women” shut down the Standard Oil plant, and caused the shooting death of 19-year-old striker John Sterancsak. Plant general manager George B. Gifford ordered 250 men from the professional strikebreaker Pearl Bergoff.  

The following day a mob attacked the Tidewater refinery in an attempt to set it on fire. After several days of lawlessness, significant arson damage, at least five strikers killed altogether, and at least five more seriously wounded, Sheriff Eugene Francis Kinkead and federal labor mediators restored order after James Fairman Fielder, the Governor of New Jersey refused to call out the New Jersey National Guard. The General Superintendent of the Tidewater facility and 32 guards were arrested on a charge of inciting to riot. A total of 130 plant guards would be arrested. Saloons were closed. Local officials also arrested the Industrial Workers of the World agitator Frank Tannenbaum, who had tried to insert himself as a spokesperson for the strikers, and banned the sale of the socialist newspaper, the New York Call. On the 28th, the workers warily returned on promises of increased pay and the institution of an eight-hour day, promises which appear to have been kept by September.”  

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