Mendocino Redwood Company


The Redwood Wars



The 150-year old redwood industry occupies a narrow strip of land 200 miles long and about 40 miles wide along the rugged northern California coast. In January 14, 1946, that industry was rocked to its core—not by an earthquake but by one of the longest work strikes in our nation's history.

Eight redwood lumber companies— Pacific Lumber (Scotia), Union Lumber (Fort Bragg), Caspar Lumber (Caspar), Northern Redwood Lumber Company (Korbel), Rockport Redwood Company (Rockport), Arcata Redwood Company (Arcata), Holmes Eureka Lumber Company (Eureka), Hammond Lumber Company (Eureka), and Dolbeer and Carson Lumber Company—were affected. Hollow Tree Lumber Company, which later became part of Louisiana-Pacific and then Mendocino Redwood Company, was not affected by the strike.The strike continued for about 27 months. At issue was the AFL Lumber and Sawmill Workers Union demand for a wage increase from 82.5¢ an hour to $1.05 for the workers, as well as for a closed union shop. It was a bitter dispute that pitted not only companies against employees but, in some cases, neighbors against neighbors.

At Pacific Lumber Company in Scotia, 42 World War II veterans broke through the union line and went to work. "Not long ago, we were called heroes," their spokesman said, " Now we are called scabs and company rats because we want to get off the government dole and earn a living...Not only do we want to go back to work. Veterans all over the country are begging for places to live. Lumber is needed for houses. We intend to see that the veteran gets it" (Humboldt Times, 11 August 1946).

Stephen Fischer, a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote about the effect of the strike on a typical sawmill town— Rockport:

San Francisco Chronicle
February 8, 1948
Except for a very few men, those who live in the Rockport Redwood Company's town work for the company. Those few who continue to live in Rockport but no longer work for the company are intimately associated with its operations.

For more than two years those men have paced before the entrance to the company's property carrying signs which announce the AFL Lumber and Sawmill Workers on strike. At eight other redwood companies, some larger and some smaller than Rockport, pickets carry similar signs as the longest major strike in the nation's history continues.

The strike involves only 4000 men, not a very large number when compared to the giant industry-wide tie-ups which have periodically shut down steel and coal and shipping. But the redwood strike is important because of its length and what it has done to the industry and the people involved.

The strike has turned old friends, men who worked long years together, wrestling with the world's greatest trees, into bitter enemies. It has created a deep and bitter cleft among one-time clsoe business associates. It has forced families to move from home they had considered their lifetimes residences.

After struggling against each other for more than two years in the deep, lonesome woods, some men have grown weary. But they continue to fight because they don't want to let their neighbors down.

The union paid the striking workers $25 a week for single men and $6 a week for food from the Union commissary. Adjustments were made for dependents. At the time, prices in the Rockport company store were running 76¢ for a dozen eggs, $1.05 for a pound of butter, 60-80¢ a pound for steak, 29¢ for two cans of milk.

On April 11, 1948, union leaders ended the strike. This was necessitated by the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. The Act made closed union shops, in which an employer could only hire union members, illegal and gave the President of the United States the power to stop strikes that threatened national safety or health.



Secondary Sources

Mendocino Beacon. "Redwood Lumber Strike Is Called Off" (17 April 1948).

Rockport Redwood Company Records, BANC MSS 70/184 c, The Bancroft Library (Berkeley, California).


 Mendocino Redwood Company - Ukiah, California