Port workers and port unions
Author: ARDELEANU KONSTANTIN
The first strikes in Galaţi were those of the cartmen who raised the price for cereals transportation and started a protest in April 1872, when their claims had been denied. Similar turmoil occurred in February 1875, when the cartmen required the raise of transportation prices once more. The authorities tried to bring peasants from neighbouring villages to ensure the unloading of grain wagons, but the protesters attempted to block the town entrances. Things returned to normal after the intervention of the army and the arrest of twelve of the protesters’ leaders.
The gradual development of the local industry led to a constant increase in the number of workers. If in 1890 a total of 7,235 workers had been recorded at Galaţi, on the eve of the First World War their number reached 14,105. Their work and life conditions were harsh. The workday varied between 12 and 14 hours, while in the harbour it could reach as much as 16 hours per day. The wages were considered insufficient and represented a constant bone of contention between workers unions and the management.
Under these circumstances, the first professional organisation founded at Galaţi, in 1881, was the “Young Craftsmen Society” (Societatea junilor meseriaşi), followed by associations of pressmen, cobblers, etc. A socialist club, Înaintea (“Forward”), was founded in August 1885, and a local branch of the “Workers’ Club” from Bucharest, aiming mainly at the promotion of Marxist literature, was opened in 1891. Propaganda among workers facilitated the establishment of the local trade unions, so that by 1906 there were seven unions in Galaţi.
The workers advocated, through strikes and other social-economic movements, for the protection of their professional interests, for economic benefits and the foundation of a workers’ party. In March 1883 harbour workers ceased work, whilst in July 1884 newspapers announced that they were preparing for “general mutiny” because of their employers’ persecutions. Another strike of harbour workers took place in May 1885, when the municipality brought workers from Brăila, who eventually joined the protest. The strikes of railway workers from January to February and from August to September 1888 were coordinated by the “Brotherhood of Workers” Society (Înfrăţirea muncitorilor). The employees protested against improper working conditions and management abuse, and the breach of the promises made by their employers caused the resumption of the strike in the summer of 1888.
Much larger was the strike of the workers from Goetz timber factory, started in August 18 92, with the participation of 400 employees. The factory management accepted the protesters’ claims (11–hour workday, re-employment of all fired workers, payment of extra-hours, etc.), but as these decisions were not enforced, a new outburst of protests ensued. In September, the workers from Apollo soap factory also went on strike, requesting an increase of wages and the improvement of their working conditions. Another strike burst out at Goetz Factory in March 1896, after the management had fired some of the employees and decided to lower the wages.
The workers from Fernic Shipyard went on strike in June 1901, claiming 11-hour working day and a salary of three lei a day. One year later, in May 1902, 120 harbour workers requested the regulation of the working programme and payment in accordance with the labour performed. Their claims were accepted, but failure to comply with their requests led to new protests. On 19 August, workers “of all categories” in the harbour ceased their activities and went on strike.
The demonstrations in view of regulating working hours went on in 1903, when harbour workers protested against the inobservance of the schedule recommended by the Work House (an institution newly created). The strike was organised in July 1903 and the workers succeeded in regulating their employment through the Work House as a compulsory condition. The workers from Fernic Shipyard went on strike again on 19 June 1905, when 300 protesters claimed wages of four lei a day and a maximum of 11 working hours a day.
The workers of Steinberg and M. Fischer factories went on strike in February 1905 claiming bigger wages and the improvement of their working conditions. By June, the pressmen had gone on strike too. Another large strike was that of the stevedores, begun after the firing of an important number of timber workers. Harbour workers joined the protest, and the soldiers brought to replace them proved unable to load the ships on time. Under these circumstances, the management accepted their claims. On 15 July 1906, 300 stevedores went on strike again, as the employers failed to keep their promises. Going on with their strike, the workers organised a meeting with 2,000 participants on 23 July 1906.
New strikes burst out on 28 February 1907, with the participation of the workers of the aerial gas factory, followed in March by new strikes at several industrial establishments. On 7 March, 700 Goetz factory workers left their workplace, the general strike lasting until June, when the workers succeeded in obtaining their rights.
The stevedores went on strike again on 11 April 1908, requesting the increase of wages and reduced working hours. In July 1909 another strike of workers from the nails factory began, whereas in 1910 there were recorded two more strikes: at Westfalia nails factory and at the dockyard, where timber workers claimed the removal of their supervisors and the observation of the work contract.
On 21 June 1911 stevedores went on general strike requiring increased wages up to eight lei a day and the limitation of the working schedule to nine hours a day. The strike ended on 14 July, and the workers obtained almost complete fulfilment of their claims. The workers from Goetz started another strike in September 1913 and then again in January 1914 when 1,200 workers left their workplace. On 6 March 1914, the workers from Goetz factory organised a large public demonstration, followed by an assembly, on 11 March, where socialist leader Cristian Rakovski gave a speech. Timber workers were on strike during the same day, and the intervention of local authorities led to the injury of several protesters. On 17 July, workers from the trams company also went on strike, in solidarity with their colleagues from Brăila and Bucharest, and claimed for increased wages, limitation of the working schedule to ten hours a day and the suspension of fines.
Other protests took place on 1 May, celebrated as the international day of workers’ solidarity.
 Emeric and Sara Mihály, “Începuturile mişcării muncitoreşti şi socialiste în Galaţi”, Danubius, 5 (1971), 174; Paul Păltănea, Istoria oraşului Galaţi de la origini până la 1918, second edition, edited by Eugen Drăgoi (Galaţi: Partener Publishing House, 2008), vol. II, 153–154.
 Examples in E. and S. Mihály, “Organizaţii profesionale ale muncitorilor din Galaţi de la sfârşitul secolului al XIX-lea”, Danubius, 2–3 (1969), 171 and Păltănea, Istoria, II, 238–239.
 E. and S. Mihály, “Începuturile mişcării muncitoreşti şi socialiste în Galaţi”, Danubius, 5 (1971), 178; Păltănea, Istoria, II, 240–241.
 Ibid., 241–242.
 G. Tudoran, “Mişcarea muncitorească din unele oraşe portuare dunărene ale României în anii 1893–1899”, Anale de istorie, 10 (1964); Păltănea, Istoria, II, 242–243.
 L. Măglaşu, N. Deleanu, Istoricul mişcărilor muncitoreşti din porturi (Bucharest: Editura Uniunei Muncitorilor din Porturile României, Institutul de Arte Grafice Presa, 1932), 58; C. Marinescu, I. Brezeanu, “Din lupta muncitorilor gălăţeni în anii 1901–1910 împotriva exploatării, pentru drepturi şi libertăţi democratice”, Anale de istorie, 5 (1965), 105; Păltănea, Istoria, II, 243–244. Also see C. Marinescu, “Luptele muncitorilor din portul Galaţi intre anii 1900–1903”, Danubius, 1 (1967), 245–256.
 Păltănea, Istoria, II, 243–244.
 Marinescu, Brezeanu, “Din lupta muncitorilor”, 107–109; Păltănea, Istoria, II, 244–245.
 Nora Munteanu, “Greva generală din Galaţi din iunie 1907”, in Din istoria luptelor greviste, vol. II (Bucharest: Editura Consiliului General al Sindicatelor, 1962), 27–29; Păltănea, Istoria, II, 245.
 Marinescu, Brezeanu, “Din lupta muncitorilor”, 115; Păltănea, Istoria, II, 245–246.
 L. Eşanu, “Greva docherilor din portul Galaţi din 21 iunie – 14 iulie 1911”, Anale de Istorie, 5 (1959), 63–68; Păltănea, Istoria, II, 246.
 I. Aldea, “Manifestări prilejuite la Galaţi de sărbătorirea zilei internaţionale a celor ce muncesc, 1890–1921”, Danubius, 10 (1910), 208–212; Păltănea, Istoria, II, 247–248.
Serviciul Judeţean Galaţi al Arhivelor Naţionale (The National Archives, Galaţi Branch), Prefectura Judeţului Covurlui (The Prefecture of Covurlui County), files starting with 1848.
Serviciul Judeţean Galaţi al Arhivelor Naţionale (The National Archives, Galaţi Branch), Primăria oraşului Galaţi (The Municipality of Galaţi), files starting with 1831.
Aldea, I., “Manifestări prilejuite la Galaţi de sărbătorirea zilei internaţionale a celor ce muncesc, 1890–1921” [Manifestations at Galaţi for Celebrating the International Workers’ Day, 1890–1921], Danubius, 10 (1980), 208–212.
Eşanu, L., “Greva docherilor din portul Galaţi din 21 iunie – 14 iulie 1911” [The Strike of the Stevedores from the Port of Galaţi in 21 June – 14 July 1911], Anale de Istorie, 5 (1959), 63–68.
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Marinescu, C., “Luptele muncitorilor din portul Galaţi intre anii 1900–1903” [The Struggles of the Workers from the Port of Galaţi between 1900 and 1903], Danubius, 1 (1967), 245–256.
Marinescu, C., Brezeanu, I., “Din lupta muncitorilor gălăţeni în anii 1901–1910 împotriva exploatării, pentru drepturi şi libertăţi democratice” [From the Struggle of Workers in Galaţi in 1901–1910 Against Exploitation, for Democratic Rights and Liberties], Anale de istorie, 5 (1965).
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Mihály, Emeric and Sara, “Luptele greviste ale muncitorilor de la Atelierele căilor ferate din Galaţi din anul 1888” [The Strikes of the Workers from the Railroad Workshops from Galaţi in 1888], in vol. Din istoria luptelor greviste ale proletariatului din România, vol. IV (Bucharest: 1970).
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Munteanu, Nora, “Greva generală din Galaţi din iunie 1907” [The General Strike from Galaţi in June 1907], in Din istoria luptelor greviste, vol. II (Bucharest: Editura Consiliului General al Sindicatelor, 1962), 27–29.
Oprea, N., Biblioteca Societăţii „Înfrăţirea Muncitorilor” [The Library of the Society “The Brotherhood of Workers”], Revista bibliotecilor, 20:5 (1967), 300–303.
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Păltănea, Paul, Ştiri despre mişcarea muncitorească gălăţeană până la crearea Partidului Social–Democrat al Muncitorilor din România [Information on the Workers’ Movements from Galaţi until the Creation of the Socialist–Democratic Workers’ Party from Romania], Anuarul Institutului de Istorie şi Arheologie “A. D. Xenopol din Iaşi”, 21 (1984), 229–245.
Statutele societăţii „Înfrăţirea muncitorilor” [The Statutes of the Society “The Brotherhood of Workers”] (Galaţi: Tipografia Cooperativa Lucrătorilor Asociaţi, 1888).
Tudoran, Georgeta, “Luptele muncitorilor din porturile Galaţi şi Brăila în anii neutralităţii, 1914–1916” [The Struggles of the Workers from the Ports of Galaţi and Brăila during the Years of Romania’s Neutrality], Studii şi materiale de istorie modernă, III (1963), 5–16.
Tudoran, Georgeta, “Mişcarea muncitorească din unele oraşe portuare dunărene ale României în anii 1893–1899” [The Workers’ Movement in Several Danubian Port–Cities between 1893 and 1899], Anale de istorie, 10 (1964).