Violence erupts over beer truck drivers in Seattle during September 1934.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 5/26/2005
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7328
In September 1934, violence erupts between Seattle Teamsters and brewery truck drivers. The Teamsters claim jurisdiction over the drivers, but remain at loggerheads with them. John Dore (1881-1938), attorney for the brewers, comes down hard on the Teamsters, but later changes his mind.

Designated Drivers

After prohibition was abolished in 1932, the Brewery Workers Union reorganized, but this created friction with the Teamsters union over which union would sponsor beer truck drivers. The Teamsters requested jurisdictional rights as guaranteed by the American Federation of Labor, but were willing to wait until the expiration of an agreement that was made between brewers and brewery workers.

Upon expiration of the agreement in 1934, brewery workers submitted a proposal to the Teamsters which would have cut wages below the wage scale and would have lengthened the number of hours worked each week. The Teamsters found this unacceptable, having worked hard with other industries to provide better pay and working conditions for other drivers.

Neither union found any compromise. On September 2, 1934, six men were arrested for smashing cases of beer at the Northwest Brewing Company plant in Seattle. Four days later, John Dore, attorney for the brewers -- and mayor of Seattle from 1932-1934 -- filed a restraining order against Teamster leaders Dave Beck and Frank Brewster, fearing that more violent acts would occur.

More Violent Acts Occur

The next day, four truck drivers -- members of the Brewery Workers Union -- were pulled from their trucks near the brewery, and were beaten with lead pipes and bricks. More than 25 men were involved, and two arrests were made for fighting. One of the men arrested was Frank Brewster. Judge J. T. Ronald, who had approved the restraining order, later declared, "This is nothing short of anarchy" (Westine).

The Teamsters were soon let out on bail, and Peter Marinoff, president of Northwest Brewing Co., filed a legal complaint asking for damages of $200,000. The complaint also charged Brewster with conspiring to engineer a strike. The Teamsters did call for a strike, one that was not honored by many brewery drivers.

Businesses that bought Marinoff's beer were targeted next. Plate glass windows were broken at the Little Red Hen Restaurant in Seattle, as well as at the Volcano Bar and the Madison Square Beer Garden. The Teamsters demanded that Marinoff raise prices on his beer so that he could pay the drivers better wages. No agreement was reached and the strike ended a few days later.

Revolving Dore

John Dore vocalized his scorn for the Teamsters, stating:

"This is not a labor dispute. Unions exist only for the purpose of decreasing hours, increasing wages, and bettering working conditions of labor. They do not exist for the purpose of racketeering or raising the price of beer or turning Seattle into another Chicago ... We contend that Brewster and Beck are engaged in building up a beer monopoly in Seattle" (Westine).

Slightly more than one year later, Dore was once again elected mayor of Seattle. Somewhere along the way he had a change of heart. His first semi-official act was to name Frank Brewster head of the Civil Service Commission, which oversaw the Police Department. Later, at the Washington State Federation of Labor Convention, Dore took the floor and firmly stated, "Dave Beck and the Teamsters were the greatest faction in my election in Seattle. I say again that I am going to pay back my debt to Dave Beck and the teamsters in the next two years, no matter what happens" (Westine).


Sources: "Six Arrested on Charge of Smashing Beer," The Seattle Times, September 2, 1934, p. 3; "Drivers' Union Leader Mum on Brewry Strike," Ibid., September 3, 1934, p. 2; "City Officer Jailed in Riot of Truck Gangs," Ibid., September 7, 1934, p. 10; "Brwery Trucks are Guarded by Men with Rifles," Ibid., September 8, 1934, p. 9; "Restaurant is Warned on Beer; Windows Broken," Ibid., September 11, 1934, p. 3; Carl Gustaf Westine, "The Seattle Teamsters" (master's thesis, University of Washington, May 28, 1937).

Related Topics:   Government & Politics | Labor

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