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."
was more accommodating; he accepted immediately. So did the
laundry girls of Local 24.
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
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.
so, more than once a strike was narrowly averted. The closest
call came when, months into arbitration, Hagens Associated
Laundries broke off the meetings completely.
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."
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.
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.
"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.
the high turnover in their arduous workplace, three to nine
months might comprise a womans whole career in the laundries.
Vanquishing the long-entrenched apprenticeship agreement was
tough and the girls waived some of their demands to achieve
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.
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.
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."
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,
cited the profound and importance of what he termed "The Seattle
Mark Matthews, too, called it "the most dramatic role"
he played during the decade.