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Cafeteria workers union at the Pentagon (4): 1964 | by Washington Area Spark
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Cafeteria workers union at the Pentagon (4): 1964

One of a series of photographs of Cafeteria and Restaurant Workers Union members at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. in March 1964.


The occasion is unknown, but possibly the anniversary of the founding of the union at the Pentagon cafeterias. At one time there were 22 cafeterias operating at the massive office complex.


The predominantly African American United Cafeteria Workers Local 471 union played a progressive role throughout its history from the late 1930s until its merger with Hotel & Restaurant Employees Local 25 in 1972.


The union was nearly broken in 1948 when a private contractor, Government Services Inc., refused to bargain with the union unless union leaders signed affidavits that they were not members of the Communist Party, USA.


The resulting eleven week strike at 42 cafeterias in government buildings ended with a mixed outcome for the workers, but they preserved their union.


However, cafeteria workers at the Pentagon did not walk out at that time because they were employed by another government contractor. That contractor concluded a labor agreement with the union in 1948 without the union signing the affidavits.


The union’s progressive role included providing ground troops for the Mary Church Terrell effort to desegregate restaurants and cafeterias in the District of Columbia 1950-53.


For more information and related images, see


For a deep dive into the 1948 cafeteria workers strike, see


The photographer is unknown. The image is a Scurlock Studios photograph. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Archives Center.

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Taken in March 1964