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The Seattle General Strike: a 100-Year Legacy

By: 
Cal Winslow

At 10 am, February 6, 1919, Seattle’s workers struck, all of them. In doing so they literally took control of the city. The strike was in support of shipyard workers, some 35,000, then in conflict with the city’s shipyards owners and the federal government’s US Shipping Board, the latter still enforcing wartime wage agreements.

Seattle’s Central Labor Council (CLC), representing 110 unions, all affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL), called the strike. The CLC’s Union Record reported 65,000 union members on strike. Perhaps as many as 100,000 working people participated; the strikers were joined by unorganized workers, unemployed workers and family members. Silence settled on the city’s streets and waterfront, “nothing moved but the tide.”