The Seattle General Strike

Robert L. Friedheim
Introduction, Photo Essay, and Afterword by James N. Gregory

  • Published: November 2018
  • Subject Listing: Pacific Northwest / History
  • Bibliographic information: 296 pp., 30 bandw illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

"We are undertaking the most tremendous move ever made by LABOR in this country, a move which will lead-NO ONE KNOWS WHERE!" With these words echoing throughout the city, on February 6, 1919, 65,000 Seattle workers began one of the most important general strikes in US history. For six tense yet nonviolent days, the Central Labor Council negotiated with federal and local authorities on behalf of the shipyard workers whose grievances initiated the citywide walkout. Meanwhile, strikers organized to provide essential services such as delivering supplies to hospitals and markets, as well as feeding thousands at union-run dining facilities.

Robert L. Friedheim's classic account of the dramatic events of 1919, first published in 1964 and now enhanced with a new introduction, afterword, and photo essay by James N. Gregory, vividly details what happened and why. Overturning conventional understandings of the American Federation of Labor as a conservative labor organization devoted to pure and simple unionism, Friedheim shows the influence of socialists and the IWW in the city's labor movement. While Seattle's strike ended in disappointment, it led to massive strikes across the country that determined the direction of labor, capital, and government for decades. The Seattle General Strike is an exciting portrait of a Seattle long gone and of events that shaped the city's reputation for left-leaning activism into the twenty-first century.
The late Robert L. Friedheim was director of the USC School of International Relations and author or coauthor of nine books. James N. Gregory is professor of history at the University of Washington, author of The Southern Diaspora and American Exodus, and director of the Pacific Northwest Labor and Civil Rights Projects, a collection of online oral history and research projects.

"It's wonderful that The Seattle General Strike has been reprinted! Friedheim's riveting and sophisticated tale of how working people shut down and ran a major city for days reminds us of what is possible. Jim Gregory's new material-including startling photos-updates the story beautifully and underscores the strike's long echoes."
-Dana Frank, author of Purchasing Power: Consumer Organizing, Gender, and the Seattle Labor Movement 1919-1929

"The strike that made Seattle famous speaks to the present in this classic account. Reissued with a stunning new photographic essay and commentary by James Gregory, a leading US historian first drawn to Seattle by that iconic contest and now the premier online curator of the city's social movement history, this book shows how much memory matters-especially when our country is cracking along fault lines like those that split the Emerald City in 1919."
-Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America

"This classic account takes us back to when labor solidarity seemed to make all things possible, with indispensable insights, photos, and context added by historian James Gregory."
-Michael Honey, Haley Professor of Humanities, University of Washington Tacoma