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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

Sat., Jan. 19, 2013, midnight

From our archives, 100 years ago

The 23 striking Great Northern Railway snow shovelers appealed to the Spokane mayor for help to get their back wages.

They had earlier gone on strike near Stevens Pass after they had shoveled snow for 12 to 14 hours for several days but were given insufficient pay and insufficient chow.

So the 23 men went on strike. Great Northern fired them and refused to pay them or transport them out of the mountains. So the angry men forced their way onto a train to Spokane. 

They were arrested and jailed when they arrived. After hearing their story, a judge fined each $5, then suspended their sentences and set them free. But they still believed they were owed back wages, so they, along with 100 members of the IWW (the Wobblies), marched to the Spokane mayor’s office to ask for his help in getting their wages.

Mayor Hindley persuaded the local Great Northern representative to work out a solution. The GN man said the company agreed to write checks to the men and put them on the train from Everett. The men were upset about the delay, and finally the GN man said he would write them his own personal checks for $2 each to tide them over until the money arrived.

However, the paper said “further trouble is probable” once the checks arrive. The men said they worked 52 hours; the railroad said they worked 39.

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