Dave Beck was leading negotiations for the three unions, and to him 1925 seemed a make-or-break moment.

Knowing history could be made within Seattle’s laundry industry, Beck had prepared thoroughly for the battle.

    Local laundries make national waves
  For Dave Beck, as the labor historian Jonathan Dembo notes, Seattle's laundry business proved a vital training ground:

"First, he studies the laundry industry carefully. Having attended law and business classes at the University of Washington’s night school, Beck often knew as much about the operations and economic problems of the laundries as the employers did. Moreover, he was prepared to see both sides of any problem. As a result of his investigations, Beck concluded that labor and management should cooperate in the regulation of the laundry industry and should transfer any new costs to the customers."

"The first step was to 'stabilize', that is to equalize, labor costs within the industry by forcing the laundries to pay their drivers a standard, guaranteed minimum wage. Beck reasoned that if he could reduce differences in labor costs among various firms, he could reduce the competition on labor costs. That is, if employers knew that all their competitors faced the same labor costs, regulated by Beck and the Teamsters, they would compete with one another in other areas, such as improved services, better advertising, or greater efficiency.

"At the same time, if they could equalize labor costs by establishing minimum wages, Beck and the Teamsters could place a floor under the truck drivers’ incomes and remove one of the greatest uncertainties in their lives."

The union negotiations began in the late spring of 1925. Altogether, they involved 2,000 workers.

In May, Local 24 had presented a new wage scale to the city’s Central Labor Council. It requested a 44-hour rather than 48-hour week, as well as a modest wage increase for the lowest paid "girls" ("below 8 or 9%"). The Laundryowners’ Association refused to meet with any union representatives. Instead, they independently publicized their "ultimate determination to establish the nonunion shop."

While Hagen and the Association declared their refusal to budge, Dave Beck kept his eye on an upcoming civic event. For due to convene in Seattle that September was the 78,000-strong National Convention of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. On grounds of rank, the local head for its arrangements should have been Harry Dail, Secretary of the largest and most powerful Teamsters Local in the Northwest (174), as well as President of Joint Council #28.

But Dail turned his job over to the energetic Beck - who recognized immediately the chance to shine at a national level.

While Hagen ran business-as-usual at his laundries, including the Seattle Empire (now Broadway Empire), Beck worked against him with one eye on September. Meanwhile the laundry workers held their ground, continuing to press their case with a near-total unity. To help, Local 566 took out an advertisement, rebuking the city’s only nonunion "white laundry." (Although not all of their members were Caucasian, Locals 24 and 566 did not represent Chinese or Japanese laundries).

On August 13, 1925, Beck wrote to Hagen directly - proposing arbitration in the face of deadlock. Hagen waited seven full days to reply. This was especially ironic since the offices of both Local 566 and the Laundryowners’ Association were in the same downtown building.

The owners, Hagen told Beck, would "gladly submit" to arbitration - as long as an open shop was part of any deal. Hagen’s letter was a masterpiece of provocation, complete with a postscript which offered a putative chance to 'solve everything'. All Beck needed to do, it said, was "sign and return" the offer.

During August and September, letters flew between Beck and Hagen. Beck kept asking patiently for negotiation and arbitration; Hagen (now styled" Chairman" of the "Associated Laundries of Seattle") mocked him, scorned him and dodged every issue basic to the unions.

Meanwhile, Beck was busy arranging the national Teamster Convention. As Secretary of the Arrangements and Credentials Committee, he fixed all schedules, hotels, and entertainments. Plus, when the Teamster bigwigs finally did arrive in Seattle, Beck arranged for many of them to attend his "bargaining sessions" with the laundry owners. The Teamsters who did this included figures such as Dan Tobin (President of the entire union) and San Francisco’s influential Mike Casey.

For them, Beck’s "adroit performance" left no doubt about his talents. He gained even more attention at the convention, meeting and charming both delegates and their spouses. From the floor, his quick thinking even helped President Tobin - he averted a potentially embarrassing conflict.

By the convention’s end, Dave Beck had friends at the highest level; he was now able to become a national figure.

on to A trio of victories    

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