Buffalo in the 50s: Buffalo’s 4,500 grain workers idled by elevator strikes

By Steve Cichon

When we think romantically about “Buffalo’s good old days,” when a man could walk into any plant of factory in town, put in a good day’s work and provide well for his family, one part of the equation we often forget is labor strife.

This week in 1950, about 500 grain elevator employees walked out on strike. That decision had an impact on another 4,000 workers who refused to cross picket lines or were idled because their work was reliant on the strikers. These included grain scoopers, grain car coopers, longshoremen, construction workers and railroad switchmen. In many cases, grain stored in the elevators was transferred to nearby Buffalo grain mills for rendering. The mills were also closed down.

As 300 carloads of grain sat on docks a few days into the strike, there was some mild violence and minor injuries. The state also ruled that none of the 4,500 idled workers would be eligible for unemployment benefits.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.