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Seattle Fishermen halibut strike of 1912

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Background

The Port of Seattle was created by the state of Washington in 1911; it took over 20 years to get the port up and running due to opposing positions on the board regarding public port legislation, and economic benefits vs. downfalls. The aspect of creating the port was considered the ideal way for the public to again gain control over the waterfront of Seattle. In order for a port to be created the plan must first succumb to the Port District Act. This act requires the port construction plan to be presented to others and be voted upon; depending on approval construction could take place. Port construction began in the year 1913 beginning with the creation of a home port for the local fishermen; this terminal was completed in 1914 and became the Northern Pacific Fishing Fleets home of operations. One of the biggest beneficial factors that swayed the votes in favor of creating the port was the economic growth possibilities. After the Second World War a lot of shipping overseas was cut off, bringing a stop to a large amount of global trade and ultimately negatively impacting the economy. The construction of the port created an outlet for trade and consumerism as well as becoming a booming economic outlet. The creation of the port in turn led to the expanding container shipping era created during this time. The approval and creation of the Port of Seattle lead to many expansions in trade that are still used and relied upon today in the continuation of economic growth. The Seattle port currently consists of multiple docks, terminals and wharves located along the Seattle waterfront. Today the Seattle Port is one of the key contributing economic forces within the state of Washington. However, in 1912 the Seattle port was considered an aspect of political and economic change throughout Seattle. This was put to test in November 1912 when all halibut fisherman, sailing out of the Seattle-Tacoma port, went on strike.

Contents

D.S.F.U.

It is during this time that the Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union (DSFU) was created. This union was created by three steamship fishermen who were based out of the Seattle port. This union was formed based on the tough working conditions correlated to being in the fishermen work field. Including but not limited to aspects such as harsh weather conditions, unsafe working conditions, long distance traveling, and things of that matter. These aspects lead to fishermen strikes throughout the Seattle port, which were typically run by the Seattle Deep Sea Fishing Union members. However, it was not only deep sea fisherman that partook in this specific strike. The Deep Sea Fishing Union is one of the only United States unions that also support crewmen as well as fishermen. This led to the Fishing Vessel Owners Association. This association has undergone many of their own strikes against boat owners and other consumers throughout history.

Halibut Strike 1912

These striking fishermen and crewmen demanded multiple changes during their fight, including things such as but not limited to higher wages and better working conditions. This specific fisherman strike was also based on the economic value of halibut depicted by fluctuating economic growth and change within the Seattle-Tacoma area at that given time. Halibut was originally being sold for one cent per pound at this specific time in history, although as the economy, specifically port based, began to change and grow the fishermen’s strike also demanded an increase in price per pound for halibut. The fishermen and crewmen wanted to raise the price per pound by half a cent, increasing the halibut price to one and a half cents per pound. During this strike all union member fisherman and crewmen refused to go back to work causing a decline in fish harvest and consumption as well as impacting port and global economy. After much consideration and back and forth the Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union and Seattle’s port commissioners came to an ending compromise, the strikes overall length ranged from November 1912 until February 13, 1913, approximately three months total. The Union fishermen returned to work under the condition that halibut prices increase to one and a quarter cents per pound of halibut, exceptionally close to their original request of one and a half cents per pound. The Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union also coordinated the aspect of catch limits, which would regulate the amount of a specific species of fish that could be caught at one given time, leading to a price flux for specific fish globally. As well as, re-establish international fishing boundaries and bring an end to bottom trawlers, which would affect fish abundance. This impacted working conditions for fishermen and crewmen as well in that they would no longer have the need to travel such long distances in order to reach their given fish quota’s. Currently the Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union continues to represent fishermen and crewmen throughout the Pacific Northwest at the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council meetings, as well as other fisheries regulation meetings. In turn the Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union members are mobilized and prepared to strike for any uncertainty or inequality regarding fishermen and or crewmen within the fishing industry. The Halibut strike of 1912 is only one of many small limited information based strikes that have taken place within the Port of Seattle and correlating with the Deep Sea Fishermen’s Strike.

Seattle Port History

The port itself has grown rapidly throughout the years; in 1993 the Bell street Pier was relocated from its original location constructed in 1915. Construction began again on the pier in 1988 with the development of the World Trade Center of Seattle. In the early 2000s the Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal opened and created multiple job and economic opportunities in the tourism business. However, with the aftermath of the September 11th attack mass security developments were put underway to create a safe and secure tourism and transportation site. As of 2010 the port was continuing to grow and expand as well as create records for cargo holding and efficiency. Today the port is still one of Seattle’s greatest economic benefactors and continues to support fishermen and the public alike.

References

Seattle Fishermen halibut strike of 1912 Wikipedia


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