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Lewis joins picket line at Press Cafeteria: 1940 | by Washington Area Spark
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Lewis joins picket line at Press Cafeteria: 1940

Kathryn Lewis, daughter of CIO president John L. Lewis, joins pickets from United Cafeteria Workers Local 471 March 28, 1940 outside the National Press Building during a strike against Press Cafeteria.


The strike was called March 23, 1940 after negotiations on a new labor agreement broke down and nearly 30 workers walked out.


The cafeteria immediately began publicly disparaging the union saying that the issue was about forcing non-union workers to join the union even though the union had dropped that proposal during negotiations.


The dispute escalated when the cafeteria took out a racially charged display advertisement in the Washington Post.


Civil rights and community leaders throughout the city in turn signed a letter to the editor charging that the Washington Post had printed an ad, “which seems to us to appeal to race hatred and race prejudice.”


“We are certain that you owe to the American citizens who reside in Washington an apology for having in this instance betrayed the trust which is yours to work for better, not worse and dangerous race relations,”


Among the signers were C. Herbert Marshall, president of the Washington branch of the NAACP; Shirley Mislove, Women’s Trade Union League; Campbell C. Johnson, executive secretary of the 12th Street YMCA; W. Robert Ming, Jr., chair of the civil affairs committee of Kappa Alpha Psi; Frank D. Reeves, secretary of the Washington Civil Rights Committee; Leon A. Ransom, chair of the executive committee of the Joint Citizens Committee; Charles H. Houston, special counsel of the NAACP; R. W. Brooks of the Minster’s Alliance; Eugene Davidson, administrator of the New Negro Alliance; William H. Hastie, chair of the national legislative committee of the NAACP; John P. Davis, secretary of the National Negro Congress; George Goodwin of the Washington Urban League; Thomas W. Parks, president of the Washington Real Estate Brokers, and Milton Bobier, executive secretary of the Washington Housing League.


The predominantly African American union received support from other unions, the League of Women’s Shoppers and the Women’s Trade Union League, which all supplied pickets.


However, the strike dragged on and while charges against the company were filed with the National Labor Relations Board for failing to negotiate in good faith, it is unclear whether the dispute was ever resolved.


For more information and related images, see


The photographer is unknown. The image is an Associated Press photo obtained via an Internet sale.

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Taken on March 28, 1940