American workers, like European and Canadian workers, responded to the war and its aftermath with demands for social justice for workers. They were met with repression, led by the country’s Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. The Palmer raids in 1919 and 1920, which used several anarchist efforts to murder political leaders as an excuse to brand all socialist and industrial union organizations as anti-American, resulted in over 4000 arrests. The radicalism that Palmer condemned included a general strike in Seattle in February, 1919, in support of 35,000 shipyard workers who had gone on strike the previous month. The shipyard workers, who had created the Seattle Metal Trades Council, an alliance of over 20 unions, to represent skilled and unskilled workers alike, demanded wage increases for all shipyard employees. The employers tried to divide the workers and destroy the Council by offering the mechanics their wage increase but leaving the wages of unskilled labourers unchanged. The mechanics declined and the employers refused to negotiate further. That produced a worker walkout of 65,000 in a city of 315,000, that effectively shut down the city. The Strike Committee established by the labour movement to ensure that essential services were maintained proved effective. Though the strike only lasted five days, it outraged American capitalists. They made sure that the shipyard workers, who remained on strike for another full month, received no gains from their strike. Then, supported by the American government, they used thuggery to beat back popular efforts to organize 350,000 steelworkers that year and to prevent coalminers and railway workers from winning employer concessions.”

Seattle General Strike Project