We investigate how union, employer and allied actors engage in framing contests and seek to gain the upper hand in a strike event by analyzing a historically significant labor and civil-rights struggle in the 1969 hospital workers' strike in Charleston, South Carolina against the Medical College of South Carolina (MCSC). Through an analysis of newspapers, interviews, and archival materials, we show how discursive tactics by multiple actors superseded worker messages over the 100-day event. Worker messages, dignity and union recognition, competed with their ally's, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), messages of poverty and civil rights as well as claims from MCSC. The workers' weakened position within this multi-actor field and limited salience of union claims served to gradually silence worker voices, shaping the protest campaign in important ways. Our findings underscore the importance of power and inequality in the framing of social conflict.

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