Puget Sound ferry workers strike in August 1939.

  • By Heather MacIntosh
  • Posted 8/07/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5504

In August 1939, Puget Sound ferry workers strike. Grievances include wages, working conditions, and hours worked per day. In general the public opposes the strike, which is initiated by the Inlandboatmen's Union in confrontation with the Washington state Maritime Labor Board.

The strike made ferry service erratic, and on August 3, 1939, The Seattle Times printed the following ultimatum:

"Let us remind you, and every man in your employ, that the only reason you have the right to operate on Puget Sound at all is because you are given that right by the State of Washington acting under its sovereign power. The State has delegated to you performance of its own duties ... Neither you, nor your men ... have any right once you have entered into this public employment, to drop it because of some difference between yourselves; to do so is virtually a strike against government and everyone knows this may not be done."

As a result of these public concerns, the union chartered the county's ferry, Washington, and called themselves the Eagle Harbor Transportation Club or the 8-Ball Line. The ferry made four trips daily to Winslow on Bainbridge Island from Colman Dock in Seattle. Their motto was "We run WHEN and IF and AS we can."

This dispute caused much animosity between the union and employers, and paved the way toward the dissolution of a "ferry monopoly," in the hands of private entities.


M. S. Kline and G. A. Bayless, Ferryboats: A Legend on Puget Sound (Bayless Books: Seattle, 1983), pp. 220-222.

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