By the 1880s, with railroad transportation in place, the era of settlement in the Pacific Northwest gave way to industrialization. Jobs accelerated with the power of a locomotive as tens of thousands of unskilled workers came seeking a living wage in the forests, mines and shipyards. Instead they found themselves embroiled in a conflict with capital. On one side were owners striving to compete in national and global markets. On the other were men and women living vulnerable and oftentimes dangerous working lives, marked by low pay, long hours and inhumane conditions. But the labor wars of the early twentieth century stretched beyond a struggle between capital and labor. At stake was a region trying to come to grips with itself.
Labor Wars of the Northwest chronicles the cauldron of discontent, radicalism and violence that permeated the region in the early decades of the twentieth century. Following the arrival of the railroads in the 1880s, tens of thousands of workers migrated to the Northwest for jobs in logging, mining and fishing. But instead of steady work, they found poverty-level wages, crushing hours and dreadful conditions. By examining this conflict in the context of a decades-long struggle, Labor Wars of the Northwest shines new light on tragedies like the Everett Massacre (1916), the Seattle General Strike (1919) and the Centralia Massacre (1919).
Official Selection for 2019 Gig Harbor Film Festival
"100 Years Later, Documentary ‘Labor Wars of the Pacific Northwest’ Still Stirs Emotions" - Daily Chronicle
About the filmmaker
David J. Jepsen is a historian, writer and educator who teaches Pacific Northwest and U.S. history at Tacoma and South Puget Sound community colleges. He holds a master’s degree in history and a bachelor’s in communications from the University of Washington, and lives in Gig Harbor, Washington. He is the coauthor of Contested Boundaries: A New Pacific Northwest History (John Wiley and Sons, 2017). It was the first new regional textbook published in 30 years, and to date 15 colleges and universities in Washington are using it in their classrooms. He speaks frequently on Pacific Northwest history. Mr. Jepsen also lends his knowledge of regional history consulting and writing for museums, including the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma.