On April 1, 1906, the Ballard shingleweavers union strike all but two Ballard shingle mills. The strike is called to bring the wage scale at the Ballard mills in conformity with the wage scale in other mills in the state.
Shingle weavers, in the words of historian Andrew Mason Prouty, depended for their livelihood on the dexterity of their hands. They juggled shingles that fell from the flashing blades of the saws, caught the cedar boards in the air, flipped them from one hand to the other and "wove" them into finished bundles ready for shipment. A journeyman shingle weaver could handle 30,000 singles in a ten hour shift. Each time -- 30,000 times a day -- when he reached for one of those flying pieces of cedar, he gambled the reflexes of eye and muscle against the instant amputation of his fingers or his hand.
The mills started hiring nonunion help. The Ballard union sought a statewide strike, which they got but with mixed results. The Ballard mills refused to budge. The failed strike ended on July 30, 1906.
[Washington State] Bureau of Labor, Fifth Biennial Report of the Bureau Statistics and Factory Inspection 1905-1906 (Olympia: C.W. Gorham, Public Printer, 1906), 194-196; Andrew Mason Prouty, More Deadly Than War: Pacific Coast Logging, 1827-1981 (New York: London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1985).
Note: This essay was expanded on October 22, 2008.
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