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Wednesday, October 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

100 years ago in Spokane: City, like rest of country, braces for railroad strike

Spokane – and the rest of the U.S. – was bracing for a massive railroad strike called for 4 p.m. the next day.

Four unions, representing engineers, firemen, conductors and yard men, had called for the strike. They were asking for an eight-hour day and overtime pay.

This strike was especially emotional and divisive, because of its possible effect on national security and defense as war loomed with Germany. President Woodrow Wilson was personally seeking a solution.

The Northern Pacific Railway took out a large “open letter” advertisement in The Spokesman-Review which urged all “train, engine and yard men” to do “your duty to your country, your families, and to the Northern Pacific Railway Company.”

“The employees of the Northern Pacific Railway Company need not strike in order to secure fair treatment now or at any other time,” said the letter. “Any controversy which may arise between the officers and employees of this company can be settled without resort to force.”

The letter also said that this was occurring in the “gravest period of national danger which has ever threatened our country.”

However, the unions appeared unmoved. Several unions leaders arrived in Spokane to meet with members and oversee what was called “a progressive strike.”

The railroad companies made it clear that any employees who failed to show up for work would be effectively terminating their employment.

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