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Thursday, January 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Labor endorses government ownership of railroads

UPDATED: Mon., June 3, 2019

Government control of railroads was popular in some quarters, including Spokane’s Central Labor Council, according to a report in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on June 3, 1919. The government had assumed control of the rail lines for national security reasons during the war, and suspicion about private railroad companies was fairly widespread at the time. (S-R archives)
Government control of railroads was popular in some quarters, including Spokane’s Central Labor Council, according to a report in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on June 3, 1919. The government had assumed control of the rail lines for national security reasons during the war, and suspicion about private railroad companies was fairly widespread at the time. (S-R archives)

Spokane’s Central Labor Council took a bold stand in favor of government ownership of all railroads.

The council – including a huge number of railway employees – unanimously endorsed this stand. In fact, the council supported a call from some union railway employees “threatening to go on strike if the roads are permitted to go back to private ownership.”

This sounds like an extreme stand, but it wasn’t necessarily shocking at the time. First, during the war the government had assumed control of the rail lines for national security reasons and had yet to relinquish it. Second, labor — and large parts of the public — had long considered railroad companies to be greedy and monopolistic.

The labor council’s gesture was ultimately in vain. The federal government would return control to the private companies in 1920.

From the airplane beat: Spokane’s Northwest Aircraft Co. was pushing forward with plans to build a spacious new airplane factory at the Parkwater aviation field on the east side of Spokane.

The company had already completed its first airplane – named the Miss Spokane – in a more modest shop, and had performed several successful test flights.

“We have been sort of hanging back on the matter of construction until we demonstrated the value of our first Spokane-made machines,” said the company’s treasurer. “Now we are ready to go. A hangar to cost about $5,000 will be built at Parkwater right away and it is only a question of a short time when work will begin on our factory. There is a great demand for airplanes and there is no one to supply them. We could sell three or four planes right now if we had them built.”

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