they did agree to quite substantial minimum wage reductions
- from $17.25 to $14.25 - they balked at the additional loss
of all holiday pay.
again the owners, headed by John Hagen, got together a "holding
company" through which the cartel could oppose them. Incorporating
on June 27, 1932, they called it the "Seattle Laundry
Company, Inc.". The next day, "blunt notices" were pinned
up in the Empire Laundry, as in all other "Company" laundries.
These notices announced by fiat a 15% cut in wages
and the complete removal of holiday pay. Many workers
claimed the notices also asked them "to give up their union."
August 4, 1932, in seven laundries, 1,200 women laundry workers
walked off the job. The following day, the strike had spread
to eleven laundries. The day of the first walkout, in Seattle
Superior Court, charges were formally filed against the Seattle
Laundry Company, Inc. They were brought by none other than
David D. Beck and Samual R. Gibboney. (both described in the
press as "two stockholders of one of the [laundry] concerns."
They did indeed hold stock in Superior Service Laundries,
a five-strong chain Beck had been wooed to supervise in 1926.)
time, Beck had gone by legal means to the heart
of the matter. His suit charged that "nearly all Seattle laundries
had organized a monopoly to maintain excess prices and stifle
competition." He told the press he had brought the suit as
"a stockholder", to stop Superior Service from entering
a monopoly. Beck claimed Seattle Laundries, Inc. involved
32 laundries (its secretary told the press the number was
22). Judge Kaxis Kay issued a restraining order, forbidding
Superior Service from entering into a laundry "combine."
same day, the Associated Press "disclosed" that Attorney General
John H. Dunbar was "investigating the alleged Seattle laundry
1917 strike had featured parades and plenty of public sympathy.
This one, from its inception, involved strike breaking, pitched
battles and destruction of property. The first calls to police
occurred on August 5, when 80 striking laundry girls engaged
with strikebreakers. The women fought with hatpins and knives
and even pots of pepper; three of them were detained by the
police. In another incident, a would-be scab was badly beaten.
The women injured ranged in age from 22 to 53; many were afraid
to give police their names.
rumors of "two hundred strike-breakers from Tacoma" were circulating
among the striking laundry girls, the laundry owners became
afraid of further violence. By Saturday am, they were asking
the police for protection The Seattle Times' headline
read "Police on Guard Over 11 Laundries." Crowds of workers
were assembled outside of these laundries and police chief
Tony Norton pleaded for peace with those who were picketing.
(He also issued an order for "strict neutrality" when his
officers started taking sides with the strikers.)
day before, members of Seattle Laundries, Inc. held an emergency
meeting all afternoon. But, as always, they declined to answer
charges or to make any kind of public statement. Hagen,
however, was losing control of his prize possession; by Saturday,
some girls were leaving their jobs at his Empire Laundry.
That evening, all across Seattle, "warfare broke out anew".
Police alleged that women pickets beat a non-union man, stoned
a scab delivery driver and stole bundles of laundry.
"development" was broadcast in the Sunday newspaper: Prosecuting
Attorney Robert M. Burgunder had sharply criticized the laundry
owners practices. Burgunder sounded somewhat like Beck
when he said:
prices are entirely too high. The laundries have made no
move to bring there prices down to current commodity levels.
Instead they have entered into agreements which they secretly
violate by giving rebates to preferred customers. But the
general public is forced to pay the bill and the employees
have suffered by the consequent decline in business."