Washington State Senate passes strengthened Workmen's Compensation Act on February 22, 1917.

  • By Kate Kershner
  • Posted 9/23/2011
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9933
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On February 22, 1917, the Washington State Senate passes a first-aid measure that includes a progressive compensation package for those hurt on the job. Mark Reed (1866-1933),  timber baron and one of the largest employers in the state at the time, sponsors the bill, which relieves workers of their own insurance costs. Under the act, employers are now liable to cover medical costs of their workers. The act also calls for increased compensation for loss of limbs, a pressing issue to those in the forestry industry.

The government and timber industry was, according to Robert Ficken in an article in Journal of Forest History, trying to head off a strike from disgruntled workers who were upset with their working conditions, which included grueling hours and unregulated conditions. The measure didn't quite work; work slow-downs throughout 1917 eventually led to a strike organized by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Eventually, the military was sent in to restore order. In the fall of 1917, the strike came to an end, with many logging firms accepting an eight-hour day.

Sources: Robert Ficken, "Mark E. Reed: Portrait of a Businessman in Politics," Journal of Forest History, Vol. 20, No. 1, January 1976; "First Aid Measure Passes Senate By Big Vote," The Seattle Daily Times, February 22, 1917, p. 7; HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Spokane-based Lumber Workers Industrial Union, IWW, formally begins what will become a statewide loggers' strike on June 20, 1917" (by Ross Reider, Greg Lange, and HistoryLink Staff) http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed September 10, 2011).

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