From our archives, 100 years ago
Several Spokane laundry owners and “laundry girls” – their employees – testified in Olympia regarding a minimum wage for laundry workers.
They were all asked to estimate the annual cost of living for a “laundry girl.”
The estimates ranged from $372 (made by an owner) to $609 (made by a “pretty” young laundry girl). Averaged out, the estimates would require a minimum wage of $9.38 per week, considerably higher than the wage at the time.
One of the women testifying was Julia J. Wilson, well known in Spokane as Mother Wilson, a “white-haired and bent” laundress. She urged her younger colleagues to be “moderate in their demands and fair to the laundry proprietors.”
“What we want is a little more money and a lot more respect,” testified Mother Wilson.
“Don’t think these laundrymen have everything easy, because they don’t. If they have to pay us too much, they will have to raise their laundry rates and the people will take their laundry to the Chinese and Japanese, and we will all lose out.”
A decision on the minimum wage was still pending.
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