Table Topic questions are meant to stimulate family and classroom discussion.
Use the questions below after reading,"Strike! Labor unites for rights."
- World War I was good for Seattle's economy. But the post-war economy posed a challenge,
with surplus workers and scaled-back production. How do you think Northwest industries might
have adapted to peacetime? In a scarce, competitive economy, should some people have hiring
priority over others for the social good? How would you feel about giving up your job to a returning
serviceman? The issue of fair hiring practices is a recurring one, with controversy over
discrimination on one hand and affirmative action on the other. What do you think is a good
policy for the contemporary workplace?
- Government tried to solve the problem of scarcity by lowering wage scales
across the board. Why did the government have the power to do this, and do you think
it should? When shipyard workers struck in protest, many other unions walked out in
support and much of the city shut down. Do union workers today support each other with
the same solidarity? If all union workers in the Puget Sound walked off the job,
could you go to school or ride the bus? Read a newspaper, watch television or talk
on the phone? Have your garbage collected or your meter read?
- Look in the newspaper for labor or union news. What is the function of a
modern union and has it changed over the years? The strike of 1919 began with
hope but ended with bitterness and few gains. Think of recent strikes by teachers or
Boeing workers. Did they have a personal effect on your life? Did any personal inconveniences
influence your feelings about the issues or workers? Were the strikes an effective strategy
in achieving the worker's objectives?
- Seattle's general strike was the first ever in the United States.
The Union-Record newspaper and radical activist Anne Louise Strong rallied
workers with the cry "No One Knows Where." Why do you think Seattle had such a strong union
presence and sympathies? Was it simply economics or did our history and regional "character"
have something to do with it? Is the Northwest still strong in union sympathies?
- Union activism attracted opposition, some of it quite reactionary, like the formation of
a city machine-gun unit to keep the peace. What was the city afraid of? Think about other
periods of social unrest in our history. Do they always trigger retaliatory measures? What's at stake
for a society during times of protest and uncertainty? This era saw the rise of the Bolshevik Revolution
in Russia and our own era has witnessed the fall. Is there still a fear of radicalism and socialism
in our country?
Copyright © 1996 The Seattle Times Company