“Strike Call all unions to go out” reads the newspaper clipping that composes part of the cover of “Revolution in Seattle” by Harvey O’Connor. From the early utopian settlements in the area to the general strike of 1919 and the Everett Massacre the Revolution in Seattle presents an engaging picture of the movement from the turn of the 20th century through the early 1920’s.
Using a mixture of narratives from local labor leaders and newspaper clippings from the era, O’Connor takes you through an engaging and sometimes shocking ride through the struggles of labor in early Seattle. Although O’Connor was himself an activist and is perhaps slightly biased in his retelling the stories he presents still give great historical background of what it took to earn the 40 hour work week, the minimum wage, and the right to organize.
As a former labor activist myself (I was a bargaining unit rep to the ILWU and an active member of Jobs With Justice) I can’t help but relate to O’Connor’s tales. The struggles today are perhaps not as violent as days past but are present nonetheless. Seattle is making good progress with a large increase in the minimum wage and work towards paid maternity leave for city workers, but other areas of the country are seeing massive hits to workers’ rights and ability to organize. Perhaps “The Revolution in Seattle” will inspire new movements across the country to reclaim the middle class and rejuvenate the American dream.