The Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific turned 100 years old last week and members celebrated the centenarian organization at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. The organization, founded on November 20, 1918 in San Francisco, California, has quite a different look today, but the underlying directives set forth then are still with us today; to give workers a strong voice in numbers which in turn creates better working conditions.
When a meeting between deckhands and local fireman was called by Clyde W. Deal (1888-1978), deck workers and engine room workers were brought together under the same union umbrella for the first time in U.S. maritime labor history. Founded in 1918 in San Francisco, they were known simply as the Ferryboatmen’s Union of California. At the time, ferries in San Francisco Bay were owned by thriving railroad companies. Among those who organized were deckhands, watchmen, bargemen, oilers, cooks, waitresses, and firemen.
Prior to 1930, it was not uncommon for deckhands to be forced to work 12 to 18 hours per day. This was not only inhumane but created a dangerous work environment for everyone. Early bargaining successes included an 8-hour work day and a guarantee of a “dismissal wage,” or severance package for ferry workers who were displaced after the building of the San Francisco Bridge.