Blue Flu

Today in History, September 9, 1919:

The Boston Police Strike. By 1919, the cost of living had risen 76%, while Boston Police Officers pay had increased 18%. New hires were making $2 per day…the same as they made when the force was created in 1854. Elevator operators were making more than cops, and most city employees made at least twice what cops made, many of whom had just returned from serving in WWI. Conditions in the police stations were intolerable; on today’s date most of the force refused to show up for work.

Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge called out the National Guard to patrol the streets, and the Mayor refused to rehire the striking cops when the strike ended.

The events would propel Coolidge to the national stage; he would be elected Vice-President in 1920.

The cops eventually got higher pay, but it would be 20 years before they attempted to unionize again. Today it is illegal for police and other public safety personnel to strike, although there have been other incidents of “blue flu.”.

Through the efforts of the Fraternal Order of Police, salaries and work conditions are negotiated with municipalities.

Truman Orders Army to Run Railroads 


1950 – Railroad unions and railroad companies fail to reach labor agreements and the unions plan to strike, bringing the nation’s primary transportation system to a halt. With the nation at war in Korea, President Truman would not allow that to happen, and signed an executive order placing the country’s railroads under the control of the US Army. 

 The Army ran the railroads for 21 months until the unions agreed to the government’s terms and returned to work. 

 President Reagan firing the nation’s air traffic controllers in the eighties was not unprecedented. For much the same reason, Police officers are not allowed to strike. Some jobs are necessary for our society to function.