Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium / University of Washington

Further Research and Reading


The ILWU Story: Three Decades of Militant Unionism, Second Edition, Revised to March, 1963. Available online at:

[Good basic narrative introduction to the ILWU, produced by the Union.]

Schwartz, Harvey. 2009. Solidarity stories: an oral history of the ILWU. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

[An excellent, accessible collection of oral history interviews with key waterfront personalities and leaders. A fine introduction to waterfront workers and their union.]

Kimeldorf, Howard. 1988. Reds or rackets: the making of radical and conservative unions on the waterfront. Berkeley: University of California Press.

[Kimeldorf tracks the development of two radically different union cultures on the East and West coasts]

Nelson, Bruce. 1988. Workers on the Waterfront: Seamen, Longshoremen, and Unionism in the 1930s. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

[An award-winning history of seafaring unionism on the West Coast]

Larrowe, Charles P. 1972. Harry Bridges; the rise and fall of radical labor in the United States. New York: L. Hill.

[A fairly comprehensive and sympathetic portrait of the ILWU’s iconic leader, Harry Bridges.]

Finlay, William. 1988. Work on the waterfront: worker power and technological change in a west coast port. Labor and social change. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

[A good introduction for those interested in the effects of waterfront mechanization on the nature of longshore work and waterfront unionism.]

Schwartz, Harvey. 1978. The march inland: origins of the ILWU Warehouse Division, 1934-1938. Los Angeles: Institute of Industrial Relations, University of California.

[An account of the ILWU’s effort to organize waterfront warehouse workers, and their clashes with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters]

Zalburg, Sanford. 1979. A spark is struck!: Jack Hall and the ILWU in Hawaii. Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii.

San Francisco

Wellman, David T. 1995. The union makes us strong: radical unionism on the San Francisco waterfront. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[An historical and sociological study of the ILWU on the San Francisco waterfront]


 Magden, Ronald. 1991. A history of Seattle waterfront workers, 1884-1934. Seattle, Wash: International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union 19 of Seattle, the Washington Commission for the Humanities.

[An excellent narrative account of the origins of waterfront unionism in Seattle, ending with the 1934 strike]


Magden, Ronald, and A. D. Martinson. 1982. The working waterfront: the story of Tacoma's ships and men. Tacoma, Wash: International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, Local 23.

Magden, Ronald. 1991. The working longshoreman. Tacoma, Wash: International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, Local 23 of Tacoma.

[Available on our website -]

Markholt, Ottilie. 1998. Maritime solidarity: Pacific Coast unionism, 1929-1938. Tacoma, Wash: Pacific Coast Maritime History Committee.

Race and civil rights

Jung, Moon-Kie. 2006. Reworking race: the making of Hawaii's interracial labor movement. New York: Columbia University Press.

[A masterful study of how Hawaii’s longshore and agricultural workers overcame pervasive racial animosity and segregation to build one of the ILWU’s most important locals in the 1940’s and 1950’s.]

Nelson, Bruce. Divided We Stand : American Workers and the Struggle for Black Equality. Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

[Nelson examines the ILWU’s mixed record on race and civil rights.]

Nelson, Bruce. "Class and Race in the Cresent City: The ILWU, from San Francisco to New Orleans." The CIO's Left-Led Unions. Ed. Steve Rosswurn. vols. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1992. 19-46.

Quam-Wickham, Nancy. "Who Controls the Hiring Hall? The Struggle for Job Control in the ILWU During World War II." The CIO's Left-Led Unions. Ed. Steven Rosswurm. vols. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991. 47-68.

[Consider purchasing these books from Powells Books ( workers are members of ILWU Local 5.]



ILWU Website -

[Contains a brief history of the union, oral histories - some of which are reproduced in Solidarity Stories – and further reading suggestions]

ILWU Local 19 -

[An excellent website with photographs, documents and articles written by rank and file longshoremen]

Union Democracy Reexamined Project -

[An interdisciplinary project based at the University of Washington that studies the ILWU’s distinctive brand of rank and file democracy.]

Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project -
Contains several articles related to the waterfront, including:

Filipino Cannery Unionism Across Three Generations 1930s-1980s

[This special section documents the central role of Seattle’s Filipino community in the long history of unionism in Alaskan canneries. Contains photos, video interviews, documents and research reports.]

Lucy Burnett, Communist Civil Rights: Seattle Civil Rights Congress, 1948-1955

[Waterfront workers and their unions – particularly the ILWU, Marine Cooks and Cannery Workers – provided crucial support to this left-wing civil rights organization in Seattle]

Megan Elston, “Black Longshoreman: The Frank Jenkins Story”

[Frank Jenkins was an important early black leader in Local 19 of the ILWU]

Sarah Falconer, “Revels Cayton: African American Communist and Labor Activist”

[Revels Cayton was an important black leader on the waterfront during the 1934 strike. He became Executive Secretary of the Maritime Federation of the Pacific; an organization brought all maritime unions together under one banner.]

Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies -

[As well as hosting this website, the HBCLS website has information on the ILWU and its long-time leader, Harry Bridges.]

The Harry Bridges Project -

[Contains information on Ian Ruskin’s performance “From Wharf Rats to Lord of the Docks. The Life and Times of Harry Bridges.”]

Museum of San Francisco - Bloody Thursday Exhibit -

[Contains a narrative history – with photos and documents – of the 1934 strike in San Francisco]

The Regional Oral History Office at the University of California, Berkeley -

[Has transcripts of oral history interviews with ILWU leaders and allies available online]

Online Photograph Collections. There are several institutions that maintain excellent online databases of photographs of (and occasional documents on) waterfront workers. To locate these images, try using a keyword search for “waterfront,” “longshoremen,” “seamen,” “strike,” “marine,” “cannery workers,” “ILWU,” etc.

University of Washington Special Collections: Digital Collections

Washington State Historical Society Image Collections

King County Snapshots

Museum of History and Industry

Tacoma Public Library, Northwest Room

Jones & Co. Online Photo archive.

An archive of the Jones & Co.’s collection of photographs of workers in Western Washington.

Calisphere, University of California

University of Southern California Digital Library

Online Archive of California;developer=local;style=oac4;doc.view=items

[Has over 200 images of the 1934 Strike.]

The Instititute for Research on Labor and Employment Library (UC Berkeley) has digitized nearly 100 key documents from their “Longshore Workers and Maritime Industry” files. This excellent collection contains Union pamphlets, government reports, newspaper articles and other publications related to the Waterfront between 1934 and 1987.;developer=local;style=oac4;view=dsc#c01-

Manuscript Collections:

Those interested in undertaking further research on waterfront workers should start by taking a look at several excellent collections held at the University of Washington Special Collections in the Suzzallo Library []. Of particular interest are the:

Ronald Magden Collection – Contains the research material used to write his History of Seattle Waterfront Workers.

Ottilie Markholt papers – Material primarily related to Tacoma waterfront unionism. Currently being processed.

Shaun Maloney Papers – Member of the Sailor’s Union of the Pacific and President of ILWU Local 19.

Frank Jenkins papers – African-American leader in ILWU Local 19.

Cannery Workers and Farm Laborers Union, Local 7 records

Stephen R. Blair Papers – Leader in the National Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards.

Keyword searches in the UW’s library catalogue should yield many more relevant collections.


In California, the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley and the Labor Archives at San Francisco State University, and the California State University, Northridge Library have many excellent collections related to the ILWU and other waterfront unions.






This guide was compiled by George Robertson in 2009