Jim Kershner’s this day in history
From our archives, 100 years ago
Twenty-three laborers in a crew hired to shovel snow off railroad tracks in the Cascades were arrested in Spokane after they went on strike and forced their way onto a passenger train.
When the train arrived at Fort Wright, the sheriff boarded the train and locked them in the smoker car. When the train arrived downtown, 24 officers escorted them off the train and took them to the county jail.
The strikers said they were forced to do what they did because they had been fed so poorly by the Great Northern. They had been hired out of Spokane after Greek and Italian work crews refused work earlier because of dangerous conditions in the snowy Cascades.
The Spokane strikers said they had shoveled snow for several days at 12 to 14 hours at a stretch and then were served “with grub that would make a man in a poorhouse turn his face.” When they were fired en masse for refusing to work, they were turned out without their pay and with no way to get out of the mountains.
So they boarded an eastbound passenger train and demanded that the conductor take them back to Spokane. They were ordered off the train, but when they resisted, the conductor relented.
One of the strikers said “it was a case of starve or beat our way to Spokane.”