Bridges, Harry

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Bridges, Harry

Harry Bridges (Alfred Renton Bridges), 1901–90, American labor leader, b. Melbourne, Australia. Arriving (1920) as an immigrant seaman in San Francisco, he became a longshoreman and militant labor organizer. Bridges led (1934) the West Coast maritime workers' strike, which expanded into an abortive general strike, and in 1937 he set up the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU), and became West Coast director of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Proceedings in 1939 to deport him as a Communist alien ended when he was officially absolved of Communist affiliation. The U.S. House of Representatives passed (1940) a bill to deport him, but it was ruled (1945) illegal by the Supreme Court. He became a citizen in 1945. His support of Henry A. Wallace for President in 1948 resulted in his ouster as CIO regional head. He was convicted and sentenced (1950) to a five-year prison term for swearing falsely at his 1945 naturalization hearing that he had never been a member of the Communist party. In 1953, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the indictment for perjury against Bridges, thus voiding his prison sentence. He was reindicted on similar charges, but in 1955 a federal district judge ruled that the government had failed to prove that he was a Communist or that he had concealed that fact when he was naturalized. Shortly thereafter the U.S. Justice Dept. announced it had given up its long fight to deport Bridges. In 1958 he was granted a U.S. passport. In 1971 and 1972 Bridges led the ILWU in a strike that tied up the West Coast waterfront for several weeks.

See study by C. P. Larrowe (1972).

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