Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Tuesday, February 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 28° Partly Cloudy
News >  Spokane

100 years ago in Spokane: Operators demand elimination of one-man streetcars

The “car men” – streetcar operators – of Spokane declared “war” on one-man streetcars. (Spokesman-Review Archives)
The “car men” – streetcar operators – of Spokane declared “war” on one-man streetcars. (Spokesman-Review Archives)

The “car men” – streetcar operators – of Spokane declared “war” on one-man streetcars.

Spokane’s streetcar companies were increasingly trying to cut costs by running streetcars with just one motorman instead of a motorman and conductor. The Spokane local of the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees was demanding the elimination of the one-man cars.

Jobs were the underlying issue, but the union was also making its case on the basis of safety.

“With the two-man cars, the motorman can give his entire attention to the prevention of accidents and the handling of his car,” said the president of the union local. “The conductor guards against accident at the rear end, collects fares and is ready to assist aged people, women and children off the cars. Try and picture a woman with a baby carriage attempting to get on and off a one-man car without assistance and you get some conception of the difference in service between the two types of cars.”

The streetcar companies said cost reductions were necessary to compete with jitneys – largely unregulated private autos or vans that gave people rides for a fee.

Also from the labor beat: Tens of thousands of shipyard workers in Seattle and Tacoma announced their intention to go on strike the next day.

They were demanding higher wages. This labor dispute would soon mushroom into one of the biggest labor crises in state history.

Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter

Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter

There was a problem subscribing you to the newsletter. Double check your email and try again, or email webteam@spokesman.com

You have been successfully subscribed!