Greek-American Communists and the San Francisco General Strike of 1934

By Daniel Frontino Elash

Published in the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, March 2007 - Volume 33 , pages 22-38


DANIEL FRONTINO FLASH is a graduate student at San Francisco State University where he earned a BA degree in an interdisciplinary special major, Mediterranean Languages and History, which included the study of modern Greek, Italian, and Arabic. His graduate work focuses on American immigrant and labor history.


"While not exactly a household name, Nick Bordoise is a man of some importance to local and national labor history due to his violent death in the course of the 1934 longshoremen's strike in San Francisco. Due to the controversy then and now about the status of immigrants, especially those with radical political commitments, even those who do remember Bordoise do not necessarily remember that he was a Greek and a communist—two characterizations he would have considered most important about himself. Moreover, Bordoise was a member of a community of Greek American communists, the evidence for which has long been buried and whose very existence has often been denied or minimized.

However, evidence for the existence of such communities continues to emerge. This paper asserts the existence of a specific community of Greek American communists in San Francisco in the early 1930s, and an assessment of sources lending weight to this theory will point in the direction of many more such communities. 

While labor struggles have a long and grand tradition in San Francisco, the city's status as a union town was most firmly established in the recognition strike of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA, now the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, or ILWU), in the summer of 1934. That strike briefly became a general strike when San Francisco police shot to death two picketers in front of the ILA hall at Mission and Steuart Streets.' The two murdered men, Howard Sperry and Nick Bordoise, were both given a hero's funeral procession down Market Street, in an eerily silent display of dignified rage. Howard Sperry, a World War I veteran and striking longshoreman, was buried with military honors at the military cemetery at the Presidio, in San Francisco. Nick Bordoise, a member of the Cooks and Waiters Union who had been volunteering at the strikers' soup kitchen at 84 Embarcadero Street, was given a "red" funeral at Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, California. 2 Sam Darcy and other prominent local communist officials offered eulogies at Bordoise's graveside.

Many accounts attest that Nick Bordoise was originally named George Counderakis. 5 He may have changed his name to sound more "American," or for reasons related to his profession, or to avoid blacklisting as a radical, or for reasons of which we have no data. . . . .