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Boston Police Strike


BOSTON POLICE STRIKE. About three-quarters of the Boston, Massachusetts police force went on strike 9 September 1919, when the police commissioner refused to recognize the officers' right to affiliate with the American Federation of Labor. To prevent the strike, Mayor Andrew J. Peters and a citizens' committee made compromise proposals relating to pay and working conditions, but the police commissioner rejected them. The resulting strike left Boston virtually unprotected, and disorder, robberies, and riots ensued.

At the time of the strike, Boston's police commissioner was appointed, not by the mayor of the city, but by the governor of the state. Before the strike occurred, Calvin Coolidge, then governor, was urged by the mayor and the citizens' committee to intervene, but he refused to act. When the rioting occurred, Peters called out the Boston companies of the militia, restored order, and broke the strike. With the city already under control, Coolidge ordered the police commissioner again to take charge of the police and called out the entire Massachusetts militia, declaring, "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time." This action gave Coolidge a reputation as a courageous defender of law and order, which led to his nomination for U.S. vice president (1920) and his eventual election (1924) to the presidency.


Russell, Francis. A City in Terror: 1919, The Boston Police Strike. New York: Viking, 1975.

Sobel, Robert. Coolidge: An American Enigma. Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1998.

Clarence A.Berdahl/a. g.

See alsoAmerican Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations ; Boston ; Conciliation and Mediation, Labor ; Labor ; Massachusetts ; Police ; Trade Unions .

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"Boston Police Strike." Dictionary of American History. . 19 Nov. 2017 <>.

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