Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium / University of Washington

Washington Teamster

(Seattle: 1937-present)

Report by Carol Daniels

Publisher: International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Joint Council 28

Dates: The first three years of the Washington Teamster at the University of Washington are missing and incomplete. The collection begins with November 1940 issue then jumps to 1941. After that the collection seem to be complete until October 1993.

The Washington Teamster is the voice of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs and Warehousemen, and Helpers, Joint Council 28 located in Seattle, Washington. It circulates free to members of Joint 28 locals. Founded as a monthly newspaper in 1937, it became a weekly publication some time in 1941 and continues as a weekly today, published each Friday. In its early years, it did not list a publisher or editor other than the Joint Council 28, President Dave Beck, and Secretary Frank Brewster. There were few bylines with featured articles and editorials. During this time, the paper’s circulation was about 25,000.

The Washington Teamster’s major purpose was to educate the IBT Joint Councils 28 locals’ members on the ideas of labor and the activities of the Teamster’s locals. The newspaper was filled with labor-related news from national, regional , and local communities, fostering a connected brotherhood of solidarity, unity, pride, and family. It kept the members informed about their leadership’s activities. It told of the friends of labor, such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Warren G. Magnuson and Henry M. Jackson. It described the enemies of labor as Republicans in general, and communists and isolationists, Hitler, Standard Oil, and even Charles A. Lindbergh to name a few.

A Man’s Paper

From the beginning, The Washington Teamster was aesthetically dynamic and masculine in appearance, using a five- column, eight-page format. The Washington Teamster also took advantage of different fonts and types, in upper and lower case. It displayed the official emblem of the Teamsters: the two side view (or split head) heads of horses looking in opposite directions, semi-wrapped around the top of a wheel of the teamster wagon with the initials for International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America around on the side-wall of the tire or rim. There may or not be a headline or picture above the banner. The format was bold and striking. Journalistically, it was full of punch. It used play on words such as "SENATOR PEPPER PEPS RALLY." There was nothing feminine about the paper; it was a man’s newspaper. It later tones down its boldness and changed its fonts and reinvented the emblem making it more pleasing to the all its membership.

Support of Roosevelt and National Defense Policies

The November 1940 paper was very striking because of the large picture of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the front page with a huge headline, "10,000 TEAMSTERS CHEER ROOSEVELT: Again, We Stand With Him!" Labor supported Roosevelt and Democrats, those that were friendly to organized labor. In support of this, I found several issues, which promoted certain candidates for different offices. However, The Washington Teamster frequently mentioned, "Organized labor is not in any way, (shape of form) committed to one party. The party, which can prove its friendliness to labor by real action when in power, will get labors vote."


In 1939, war broke out in Europe and the U.S. began defense production for Great Britain. After the U.S. became involved as an ally in the war, the government went into a national security mode and censored information to newspaper and radio stations. The Teamsters ran war propaganda from "How Sue Sank A Ship" to "What to do in an Air Raid."

Roosevelt sent Dan Tobin, President of the Teamsters, to Great Britain to see how organized labor there was "helping to win the war." Tobin returned and told Roosevelt, and in turn the unions (according to The Washington Teamster) that workers needed to "suspend all labor accord" in order to fight off the axis and enable "World Freedom." Prior to 1942, the Teamsters frequently used strikes as an aggressive tactic to stop production and force management to bargain with the union. In 1942, the Teamsters, as well as the AFL and CIO, took the no-strike pledge (NSP). Throughout the war years the Teamsters avoided strike activity, maintaining the non-strike pledge until 1945.

The Washington Teamster rallied around the flag. It not only promoted the war effort, it contributed resources to the allies as well. The Washington Teamster organized numerous drives including blood, rubber (tire), metal ("Heaps Build Jeeps, By Jove"; The Washington Teamster, October 31, 1941) and others. They also made efforts to reduce the amount of oil and gasoline used by trucks by complying with Roosevelt’s 40mph request. The Teamsters watched tire and gasoline rationing closely because it interfered with delivery and job security. The Washington Teamster reported this as "Defense Program Is In Danger".

One other part of the paper's war effort is also notable. The Washington Teamster supported the internment of Japanese Americans.

No Advertising but Campaigns

The Washington Teamster did not accept paid advertising. However, it sometimes devoted whole pages to its own ads promoting important ssues or favored political candidates. In 1941 it carried big ads urging members to vote for Earl Millikin for Mayor of Seattle. Other ads and articles campaigned for unionism, democracy, patriotism, voting, "buy war bonds," support community chest, giving blood, joining the Sea Bees, campaigning women to join the WAC’s, conserving rubber, gas and let the Teamster deliver the goods. Listed throughout this period are names of shops and service stations that were or were not in good favor with the union.

Political education was one of the central purposes of the newspaper. The Washington Teamster lectured readers on the responsibilities of citizenship and meanings of American democracy. It asked members to sign up and go to the polls to vote. It campaigned for members and wives to help at the voting districts. It pressed members to shop union and buy war bonds. It published safety information such as "WHAT TO DO IN AN AIR RAID." Some of this was done through the Promotional League of the Joint Council 28. I sense that The Promotional League was the public relations arm of the Teamsters. The League organized the union into social campaigns that promoted the Teamster as a good citizen and viewed the Teamster in positive favor with the general public.

Battle with CIO

The Teamsters were affiliated with the AFL. There were jurisdictional disputes between the CIO and AFL up and down the west coast. One of those focused on warehouse workers where Teamsters fought the ILWU for jurisdiction. The Teamsters used the red baiting against the CIO union and its leader, Harry Bridges. The October 3, 1941 issue flamboyantly displays "TOBIN FLAYS HARRY BRIDGES" across the top of the front page. This same issue also details several anti-unionists, including Charles Lindbergh, who is regarded by the Teamsters as an anti-Semitic, racist and isolationist. Coincidentally, membership in the Teamsters jumped 50% during the warehouse campaign, with many of the gains coming in the Los Angeles area.


In 1941, The Teamsters unions was involved in a complicated campaign to organize the apple packing plants in the Yakima Valley. When the growers and packers refused to negotiate, the union organized strikes and boycotts that reached all the way across the country. The Washington Teamster covered the campaign, clarifying in one article: "THIS IS NOT A STRIKE Against Farmers But It Is A Strike Against The Dynasty on Yakima’s Produce Row."

The union was able to block the shipment of apples to Seattle. A graphic on the front page of the October 24, 1941 issue boasts of the union's power to control the city's commerce. The familiar "Farmers Market" sign that graces Pike Place Market has been changed in this half page illustration and instead reads "Teamsters Unions Joint Council 28." In place of the clock face on the Pike Place Market tower is the logo of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Two weeks later the campaign escalated. The November 7, 1941 issue signaled the start of a nationwide apple boycott with the headline, "Attention All Teamster Unions: BATTLE YAKIMA NATIONWIDE." Ultimately the Yakima struggle was resolved by the National War Labor Board, the federal agency equipped with emergency powers to resolve labor disputes and prevent strikes. The board sided the Teamsters and required the apple packers to bargain with the union.


The Washington Teamster overall is a very democratic and sympathetic paper, however masculine. I don’t think that it is a radical paper and would in fact call it conservative. It seems to have done a good job of giving the news in a news format, even if the material was slanted to the organized laborer. The Pennsylvania Commercial Drivers’ Conference congratulated The Washington Teamster as a leading example of labor journalism: "Through this medium, Teamsters publications throughout the United States are kept up to the minute on all matters affecting the teamster movement on the west coast." (October 17, 1941). The Teamster Century: This site gives timelines and historical information about the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Teamsters Online: About the Teamsters: The General Executive Board: Western Region. The Joint Council 28 Represents 60,000 members in the Pacific Northwest/Seattle area, 1994-present.


Click to enlarge

(December 24, 1941, p.1)

(March 29, 1946, p.1)


(December 19, 1941, p.1)


(October 3, 1941, p.1)

(February 11, 1949, p.1)


Every issue of The Washington Teamster ran an editorial page, where editors commented on the state of the labor movement.

(March 23, 1945, p.8)

(March 22, 1946, p.8)

Public Service

The paper frequently encouraged IBT members to engage in public service.  During the holidays, the paper publicized IBT blood donor drives.

(December 13, 1946, p.1)

(January 16, 1947, p.1)

Conservative Unionism

The IBT, and The Washington Socialist, frequently took conservative stances in the labor movement and maligned left-wing elements.

(May 18, 1945, p.2)

(December 6, 1946, p.2)

The Union Label

The Washington Teamster urged its readers to only shop at stores displaying the union label and published lists of union friendly stores.

(January 5, 1945, p.6)

(October 29, 1948, p.6)

Copyright © 2001 by Carol Daniels