SUMMARY / RELATED TOPICS

Boston Police Strike

In the Boston Police Strike, Boston police officers went on strike on September 9, 1919. They sought recognition for improvements in wages and working conditions. Police Commissioner Edwin Upton Curtis denied that police officers had any right to form a union, much less one affiliated with a larger organization like the American Federation of Labor. Attempts at reconciliation between the Commissioner and the police officers on the part of Boston's Mayor Andrew James Peters, failed. During the strike, Boston experienced several nights of lawlessness. Several thousand members of the Massachusetts State Guard, supported by volunteers, restored order by force. Press reaction both locally and nationally described the strike as Bolshevik-inspired and directed at the destruction of civil society; the strikers were called "deserters" and "agents of Lenin." Samuel Gompers of the AFL recognized that the strike was damaging the cause of labor in the public mind and advised the strikers to return to work.

Commissioner Curtis refused to re-hire the striking policemen. He was supported by Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge, whose rebuke of Gompers earned him a national reputation. Nine were killed in the threat of a general strike. Eight of the nine were fatally shot by members of the State Guard; the police strike ended on September 13, when Commissioner Curtis announced the replacement of all striking workers with 1,500 new officers, given higher wages. The strike proved a setback for labor unions; the AFL discontinued its attempts to organize police officers for another two decades. Coolidge won the Republican nomination for vice president of the U. S. in the 1920 presidential election. In 1895, the Massachusetts legislature transferred control of the Boston police department from Boston's mayor to the governor of Massachusetts, whom it authorized to appoint a five-person board of commissioners to manage the department. In 1906, the legislature abolished that board and gave the governor the authority to name a single commissioner to a term of five years, subject to removal by the governor.

The mayor and the city continued to have responsibility for the department's expenses and the physical working conditions of its employees, but the commissioner controlled department operations and the hiring and discipline of the police officers. In 1918, the salary for patrolmen was set at $1,400 a year. Police officers had to buy their own uniforms and equipment which cost over $200. New recruits received $730 during their first year, which increased annually to $821.25 and $1000, to $1,400 after six years. In the years following World War I, inflation eroded the value of a police officer's salary. From 1913 to May 1919, the cost of living rose by 76%, while police wages rose just 18%. Discontent and restiveness among the Boston police force grew as they compared their wages and found they were earning less than an unskilled steelworker, half as much as a carpenter or mechanic and 50 cents a day less than a streetcar conductor. Boston city laborers were earning a third more on an hourly basis.

Police officers had an extensive list of grievances. They worked ten-hour shifts and recorded weekly totals between 75 and 90 hours, they were not paid for time spent on court appearances. They objected to being required to perform such tasks as "delivering unpaid tax bills, surveying rooming houses, taking the census, or watching the polls at election" and checking the backgrounds of prospective jurors as well as serving as "errand boys" for their officers, they complained about having to share beds and the lack of sanitation and toilets at many of the 19 station houses where they were required to live, most of which dated to before the Civil War. The Court Street station had four toilets for 135 men, one bathtub. Boston's police officers, acting with the sponsorship of the police department, had formed an association known as the Boston Social Club in 1906. In 1917, a committee of police officers representing the Social Club met with Commissioner Stephen O'Meara to ask about a raise, he advised them to wait for a better time.

They pressed the issue in the summer of 1918 and, near the end of the year, Mayor Andrew Peters offered salary increases that would affect about one-fourth of the officers. O'Meara died in December 1918, Governor Samuel McCall appointed Edwin Upton Curtis, former Mayor of Boston, as Commissioner of the Boston Police Department. After another meeting where representatives of the Social Club repeated their salary demands, Peters said: "while the word'strike' was not mentioned, the whole situation is far more serious than I realized." He made it clear to the rank and file that they were not entitled to form their own union. Curtis did not share his predecessor's or the mayor's sympathy for the police, but in February 1918 he offered a wage compromise that the police rejected. In May, Governor Coolidge announced raises, which were rejected; when the Social Club's representatives tried to raise grievances with him, Curtis set up his own grievance committee to handle management-employee disputes, based on the election of representatives from each precinct house by secret ballot, it met just once.

A few months in June 1919, the American Federation of Labor, responding to repeated requests from local police organizations, began accepting police organizations into their membership. By September, it had granted charters to police unions in 37 cities, including Washington, D. C. Los Angeles, St. Paul, though not without protests from some city officials, who opposed the unionization of police and teachers; the Boston police decided to organize under an AFL charter in order to gain

Peter Russell (poet)

Irwin Peter Russell was a British poet and critic. He spent the first half of his life—apart from war service—based in Kent and London, being the proprietor of a series of bookshops, editing the influential literary magazine Nine and being part of the literary scene. Bankruptcy and divorce led to several years of travel which took him to Berlin, British Columbia and Iran, amongst other places. After the Iranian Revolution he settled permanently in Italy, he lived in considerable financial hardship and throughout all he lived a life dedicated to poetry. His work never became mainstream, but it is regarded in some circles. Russell was educated at Malvern College. During World War II he served in the Royal Artillery as an intelligence officer in India and Burma, he left the army with the rank of major. After the war, he studied English at London, he left without taking a degree. In 1948 Russell set up an "Ezra Pound Circle'. Arthur V. Moore encouraged him, passing on advice from Pound: "E. P. thinks you might do as he used to half a century ago... arrange to be at a given eating place at a given hour each week...

It must be cheap enough so anyone can afford it, at a place where such a gathering would be made comfortable." That summer Russell went to Italy and met Olga Rudge at Siena, met Pound's friend John Drummond in Rome, visited Rapallo where he met D. D. Paige, staying in Pound's old flat engaged in the arduous task of compiling the first selection of Pound's letters. In 1951 Russell married Marjorie Keeling-Bloxam, her brother-in-law was Albion Harman, son of the self-proclaimed king of Lundy, the largest island in the Bristol Channel. In the 1950s Russell visited Lundy, enjoyed bird-watching there. In 1949 Russell founded the literary magazine Nine which in its eleven issues published many notable poets including George Barker, Basil Bunting, Roy Campbell, Ronald Duncan, Paul Eluard, William Empson, David Gascoyne, Robert Graves, Michael Hamburger; the following year he started The Pound Press. Russell published work by Pound's friends, An Examination of Ezra Pound, but the first English translations of Mandelstam and Borges.

Russell ran the Grosvenor Bookshop in Tunbridge Wells from 1951 to 1959. Both Nine and the Pound Press ceased operation in 1956, that year Russell met the young William Cookson and in 1958 introduced him to Krystyna and Czesław Bednarczyk of The Poets' and Painters' Press and suggested that Cookson found his own journal, to be the long-running Agenda. Russell introduced him to the works of Tom Scott. Cookson saw Agenda as in part a continuation of. In 1995 Agenda brought out one of its dedicated issues:'A Tribute to Peter Russell'. In 1959 the Grosvenor Bookshop went out of business, he opened the Gallery Bookshop in Soho, London, he went bankrupt in 1963 and with the collapse of his marriage, he moved to Berlin. In 1965 he relocated to Venice, he had rooms in the Campo de la Bragola. In the mid 1970s he held a writing fellowship as poet in residence at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, where he met his second wife, Lana Sue Long, around 30 years his junior. Two daughters and Sara, were born to the couple in 1975 and 1976.

After leaving Canada, the family moved to Tehran, where Russell taught and studied at the Imperial Academy of Philosophy. Their third child, a son, Peter George, was born there in 1977, they remained in Iran until the 1979 revolution, when they returned to Italy, where they lived together under considerable financial hardship. In 1989 Lana returned with the three children to North America, settling in Jackpot and the couple divorced in the 1990s. Tuscany was Russell's home for the last forty years of his life. In 1983 he moved into an old mill -- "La Turbina" -- in the Valdarno near Arezzo. Life at the mill was rudimentary, there was hardly any furniture, although there were thousands of books in a variety of languages, a supply of whisky and cigarettes. Russell lived in the kitchen, the most habitable and only warm room of the house. From 1990 he began editing the Marginalia Newsletter, which appeared alternately in English and Italian. In the early 1990s he began working with his son, now a teenager, on the translations in his bilingual collections of his poems.

In April 2001 serious health problems associated with a gastric ulcer led to three months in hospital, followed by a further three months in a sanatorium for the elderly. Around this time he became completely blind. Russell translated varied works from several European languages, he worked in Persian and Arabic, his close friends included Leonello Rabatti. He was a cousin of Bertrand RussellHe died in the hospital at San Giovanni Valdarno, only 15 minutes or so by car from Pian di Scò. Dana Gioia has described Russell as "a poet of striking contradictions, he is an immensely learned writer with an anti-academic temperament, a Modernist bewitched by classicism, a polyglot rooted in demotic English, an experimentalist in love with strict traditional forms, a natural democrat suspicious of the Left, a mystic committed to clarity." Picnic to the Moon, The Fortune Press, London, 1944 Omens and Elegies and Flower Press, Aldington, 1951 Descent, Tunbridge Wells, 1952 Three Elegies of Quintilius, The Pound Press, Tunbridge Wells, 1954 Images of desire, Gallery Bookshop, London, 1962 Dreamland and Drunkenness