Dave Beck, as the labor historian Jonathan Dembo notes, Seattle's
laundry business proved a vital training ground:
he studies the laundry industry carefully. Having attended
law and business classes at the University of Washingtons
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."
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.
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."
union negotiations began in the late spring of 1925. Altogether,
they involved 2,000 workers.
May, Local 24 had presented a new wage scale to the citys
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."
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.
Dail turned his job over to the energetic Beck - who recognized
immediately the chance to shine at a national level.
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
help, Local 566 took out an advertisement, rebuking the citys
only nonunion "white laundry." (Although not all of their
members were Caucasian, Locals 24 and 566 did not represent
Chinese or Japanese laundries).
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.
owners, Hagen told Beck, would "gladly submit" to arbitration
- as long as an open shop was part of any deal. Hagens
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"
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.
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 Franciscos influential Mike Casey.
them, Becks "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.
the conventions end, Dave Beck had friends at the highest
level; he was now able to become a national