Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium / University of Washington

Shipyard Workers and Their Unions


This is a sample of historical photographs in the University of Washington Digital Collections. Enter the search terms "ship building" or "ship yards"

Ship building has a long history in the Pacific Northwest. Not long after the United States began to occupy the region, skilled ship builders arrived to repair and outfit the ocean going vessels that were the life blood of Oregon and the Washington territory. As lumber and fishing industries emerged, each dependent upon California and transPacific markets, small shipyards were established near Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle to build the region's growing fleet of schooners and small craft.

This section is under construction. Start with these two important research reports:

The Ship Scalers Union and Seattleā€™s Racial Progressivism in the 20th Century
by Adam Farley

The Ship Scalers Union helped pioneer civil rights unionism in the Northwest. By the end of World War II half the members were African Americans and the union had become a force for progressive racial politicals and leftwing activism.

Seattle's Shipyards on the Eve of the 1919 General Strike
by Patterson Webb

A strike by 30,000 shipyard workers set up the General Strike of 1919. This essay examines labor issues in the shipyards in the year before the strike. It includes a database of 142 digitized newspaper articles about shipyard workers from Seattle newspapers in 1918.