The laundry negotiations were going nowhere and their explosive potential alarmed William M. Short, President of the Washington State Federation of Labor.

However, Short had a powerful secret weapon: the Reverend Mark Allison Matthews, the very popular pastor of Seattle's First Presbyterian Church. Matthews formally volunteered as an arbitrator.

    A trio of labor victories in one
It was a sign of just how serious things had become.
John C. Hagen replied to Matthews, in typical form: "We have always been, and are still, willing to arbitrate any matters the unions wish arbitrated, provided the unions accord us the equal privilege of arbitrating all the matters we wish considered."

Beck was more accommodating; he accepted immediately. So did the laundry girls of Local 24.

Matthews’ plan called for each side to select one representative — who, in turn, would name a third one acceptable to both the groups. Beck and Hughes put forward Short as their representative. But problems developed, of course, around the choice of each third arbitrator.

As with everything else in the dispute, there was no agreement. So, in desperation, William Short changed his formula. To launch real negotiations he mustered a coalition: Reverend Matthews, Short, William E. Penney (President of the Federated Industries), Seattle's Mayor Edwin J. Brown and A. G. Bixby from the Seattle Times. Under their eyes, negotiating finally began.

Even so, more than once a strike was narrowly averted. The closest call came when, months into arbitration, Hagen’s Associated Laundries broke off the meetings completely.

In a last-ditch shot at establishing complete control, they announced in the press that "henceforth their plants would (all) be conducted on an open-shop basis."

Immediately, Local 24's laundry girls voted to strike. But the Reverend Matthews pressed hard upon John Hagen. Albeit reluctantly, he brought the owners back to the table. The Laundryowners were then forced to recant in public - posting billboards which all reversed their hard-line claims.

It took another week, but on February 20, 1926, Beck and Hagen's sides finally came to terms. Girls of the Broadway Empire Laundry had earned - like other members of Local 24 - $16.50 per week. They had requested a raise to $18. Instead, after the nine months of tough negotiation, they received a raise to only $17.25.

But "apprenticeship requirements" in the laundries were finally abolished. These requirements were often used to artificially lower the wages. Many employers kept entry wages at $13.20 per week for periods that could last as long as nine months.

Given the high turnover in their arduous workplace, three to nine months might comprise a woman’s whole career in the laundries. Vanquishing the long-entrenched apprenticeship agreement was tough and the girls waived some of their demands to achieve this.

One such sacrifice was the proposed 4-hour reduction in the laundry girl's work week. The laundry drivers, who earned a $25 per-week minimum, initially sought an increase to $35. They won $30, with revisions to the price lists.

But now, within two weeks of hiring on at any plant, any laundry employee by law had to apply for union membership. Dave Beck had won; the closed shop was saved.

Not only, however, did he manage to preserve the unions. Beck also endowed each one with a specific leverage. "The old agreement," the Union Record explained to its readers, "which is being superseded by the new contracts, was a blanket agreement covering workers in the three unions — Laundry Workers, Drivers and Stationary Engineers. But the new agreements are separate."

William Short realized a huge crisis had been averted. He knew Beck's battle with Hagen very easily could have affected other industries. When he gave his yearly report to the WSFL annual convention, Short cited the profound and importance of what he termed "The Seattle Laundry Situation."

Pastor Mark Matthews, too, called it "the most dramatic role" he played during the decade.

on to The bitter strike of 1932    

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