The Chop Suey Strike of 1919: Chinese Workers, New York Radicalism, and the Origins of the First Red Scare
In early 1919, Chinese restaurant workers in New York and other cities went on strike to protest long hours and low wages. The struggle brought two unlikely alliances into conflict: one composed of Chinese immigrants, local anarchists, and the Industrial Workers of the World; the other consisting of Chinese merchants and “tongs,” the New York police, and federal authorities. Escalating conflict culminated with the arrests of over a dozen strike leaders. Although repression broke the strike, establishing the template for the subsequent First Red Scare, it also revealed the limits of efforts to eradicate working-class radicalism through incarceration and deportation.