Waitresses Union Local 240
Founded in 1900, Local 240 in Seattle was one of the first women-led unions to be granted a charter by the Western Central Labor Union, Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union and the first permanent waitresses union in the United States. The union, with the leadership of women like Alice Lord and Rhoda Kerr, took to task the poor conditions faced by waitresses, who spent long shifts on their feet for low wages. Local 240 organized and won increased wages, sick leave, and shorter shifts. In fact, after years of lobbying, the “Waitresses Bill” was passed on March 4, 1911, establishing an eight-hour work day for women in the state of Washington. Waitress engagement with the Seattle labor movement was strong during the General Strike era. In February of 1919, they voted “yes” to the strike and helped coordinate the strike kitchens around the city. At the same time, Local 240 and other culinary unions in Seattle supported the exclusion of Japanese workers from their unions and advised against patronizing Asian American restaurants.
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Waitresses Union Local 240 Recreation Home
After six years of fundraising, members of Local 240 secured a location for their recreation home in Capitol Hill. Originally intended to function as a rest home for ill and unemployed women in Seattle, the home became the site of union organizing and a space for member socializing. Homes like this were not uncommon in the early 1900s as single women left their families and moved to cities in search of work.
Alice Lord (1877-1940)
Alice Lord was a critical figure in the advancement of Seattle’s women-led unions in the early 1900s. She led the successful efforts to establish the eight-hour day and the $10 per week minimum wage for Washington women in 1913. Lord also helped organize other women workers in Seattle and nearby Washington cities, including domestic, garment, and candy and cracker makers as well as the Seattle Union Card and Label League.