The 1919 Seattle General Strike

Socialism 2017

August 15, 2017

The Seattle general strike was set off by a 35,000-strong strike of shipyard workers for higher pay on January 21, 1919. Within two weeks, 110 union locals granted authorization for a general strike, and formed a 300-person strike committee to run the strike. Thousands of unorganized workers, members of the IWW, and Japanese workers, who were previously denied entrance into formal trade unions, also joined the strike. Directly influenced by the formation of soviets in Russia, many workers in Seattle were determined to not just withhold their labor power, but to demonstrate workers’ ability to run industry in the interests of ordinary people. Under threats and pressure from government and conservative labor officials, however, the strike ended after five days. But it remains an important, rarely told story of workers’ power in the United States.

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