Hotel, Restaurant and Domestic Workers Industrial Union No. 1100
The Industrial Workers of the World also organized domestic workers in Seattle at the time of the Seattle General Strike. Organized by industry, the union local included cooks, waiters, waitresses, dishwashers, hotel maids, and other forms of paid domestic labor. This union local included men and women and was also more inclusive to workers of color than the non-IWW affiliated unions.
Click images below to view at full resolution and for more information.
Domestic Workers Union
Domestic workers in the early 1900s were paid to perform a variety of domestic duties, including cooking and cleaning in the private homes of wealthy whites and perform janitorial work in hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. Until 1882, when the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, paid domestic work in Washington was performed primarily by young Chinese men. In the early 1900s, Scandinavian immigrant women were increasingly hired to do this work as well as a small percentage of Black men and women. During World War I, working-class white women left domestic work as employers began hiring white women for jobs typically filled by Black and Asian workers. As a result, domestic work became one of the few employment options for Black women in Seattle at this time.
The first attempts of domestic workers to get union recognition by the national American Federation of Labor and local labor council were unsuccessful. In 1917, with the leadership of Alice Lord of the Waitresses Union, Domestic Workers Local 15836 was granted a charter by the Seattle Central Labor Council. This local was created apart from and likely in response to the IWW’s parallel attempts to organize domestic workers alongside hotel and restaurant workers. The success of this local was short-lived, however. Influenced by the wartime job shortage that opened up better work opportunities for white women, union membership dwindled quickly by the summer of 1918.
Domestic Workers and Japanese Exclusion
At the same time that Japanese workers were excluded from union membership in Seattle, the white working class also urged union members and their families to avoid working for or patronizing Japanese businesses that employed non-union labor.