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Harry Bridges Memorial Building

Historical Essay

by Chris Carlsson

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Harry Bridges Memorial Building on Franklin and Geary.

Photo: Chris Carlsson

The I.L.W.U. got a choice redevelopment property on Franklin Street atop Cathedral Hill, where the Harry Bridges Memorial Building now stands, home to the union, its library, and its pension fund. Individual longshoremen got homes in co-op apartments built by the Redevelopment Agency in the Western Addition, and the Port Commission made available a South Beach lot for the I.L.W.U.'s Clerks Local 34. This is not to insinuate that any corruption was necessarily involved in this. Rather, this kind of deal-making is the quintessence of modern capitalism's ability to propel itself, absorbing and redirecting oppositional movements.

"They lined up all the unions against us. They went and got all the leaders. George Woolf sent a letter to Harry Bridges, asking Bridges to hear our side. We told him, you've heard Redevelopment's side, now we'd like you to come down and hear our side. . . . It was guys like George Woolf and me who went out and raised money when they accused him of being a communist and tried to deport him. We were two of the main guys to defend him. . . .

"Harry Bridges answer to our letter was 'I heard Redevelopment's side, and Redevelopment's side is good enough for me. I don't want to hear your side.' If the unions supported us, this could never have happened. But the unions are bought off." ("Redevelopment: A Marxist Analysis," quoting Peter Mendelsohn, Resolution Film Center, 1974)

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Peter Mendelsohn on Bridges' mendacity


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