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D.C. Laundry workers vote union: 1937 | by Washington Area Spark
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D.C. Laundry workers vote union: 1937

In the first National Labor Relations Board “consent” union certification vote in the city, laundry workers at eleven plants throughout the city cast ballots July 20, 1937.


The election, held at Garnet-Patterson High School at 7th & U Streets NW was supervised by the NLRB while employee and employer representatives from each plant were permitted to observe.


In the photo above a worker casts a ballot while an observer looks on.


The election was conducted with a cardboard ballot box because normally the NLRB borrowed election equipment from the state, county or city where the vote was to be held, but in the case of the District of Columbia there was no equipment because D.C. residents did not have the right to vote.


The election resolved a three-week strike at 13 plants that involved clashes between strikers and scabs and arrests by police.


The union, the Laundry Workers, Cleaners and Dyers’ Local 187, was led by Communist Party leader Calvin Cousins.


Following the vote, contracts were negotiated for most plants that included wage increases of 25-50 per cent and the reduction of the work week to a 44-hour week for women and a 48-hour week for men.


About 400 workers were covered by the initial contracts while the union continued an organizing drive at other plants.


For more information and related images, see


The photographer is unknown. The image is an ACME news photo obtained via Internet auction.

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Taken on July 20, 1937