CWRU Links
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CONDUCTORS' STRIKE OF 1918-1919

CONDUCTORS' STRIKE OF 1918-1919

The CONDUCTORS' STRIKE OF 1918-1919 involved the Cleveland Railway Co.'s female street car conductors employed during World War I to relieve labor shortages and Local 268 of the Amalgamated Assn. of Street, Electric Railway & Motor Coach Employees of America. Fearing the economic and social threats female employment posed, the male-dominated Amalgamated Assn. announced in May 1918 that it opposed women's employment as conductors or motormen and refused to grant them union membership. The Department of Labor agreed and issued a mandate for the women's dismissal by 1 Nov. 1918. In response, female conductors formed the Assn. of Women Street Railway Employees with the help of FLORENCE ALLEN, the Women's Trade Union League, and other reformers. While the women were successful in persuading Labor Dept. Secretary William B. Wilson to postpone the dismissal until 1 Dec. and refer the case to the National War Labor Board, Local 268 threatened to walk out if the women were not dismissed. When the board issued a temporary restraining order against the dismissal, the union called a strike on 3 Dec. 1918. The board then established 3 Jan. 1919 as the date of the women's dismissal, claiming that since the armistice had been signed, the labor shortage was over. When the "Conductorettes" filed for a new hearing, the board reversed the decision and ordered 64 female conductors reinstated. The union, however, claimed the board's jurisdiction had ended with the war, and the company refused to recognize the ruling. The female conductors lost the case and their jobs.