In a breathtaking act of betrayal two weeks into the strike, the McNulty faction of the IBEW secretly signed labor agreements with PG&E, effectively subverting the Light and Power Council strike. PG&E General Manager John Britton signed these secret agreements even as he was in talks with the strikers. That would be “bad faith bargaining” under today’s labor laws, but in 1913 it was pure genius. Striking linemen would be reluctant to come back to the company as out-and-out scabs but some might be willing to return to work as members of this newly-created Local 498.
Andrew J. Gallagher, president of the San Francisco Labor Council, denounced PG&E and called on the utility to “break this dishonest bargain.” Until then, Gallagher warned, there would be “a great many more lights out in the future.”
The Steam Engineers and the San Francisco Gas Workers came under heavy pressure from the Labor Council to join the strike. But before a strike vote could be held, the American Federation of Labor ordered the San Francisco Gas Workers to not hold the vote. Similarly, the Steam Engineers were ordered by their International union not to strike. P. H. McCarthy’s Building Trades Council urged members of the Reid IBEW to abandon the strike and to sign up with the new McNulty IBEW Local 498.
At a mass meeting on June 15 strike leaders denounced McCarthy and the “scabbed agreements” with PG&E, which had greatly reduced the strikers’ leverage. At the same time, some strike supporters began looking for new forms of leverage.