Joseph Slater


In 1928 a Seattle labor union appealed an adverse lower court ruling to the Washington State Supreme Court. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer claimed that the matter presented "probably the biggest labor question ever faced in this state."' This case did not involve the Industrial Workers of the World, loggers, or other traditional subjects of labor history. It involved high school teachers in the Seattle public schools. This paper will discuss this case, Seattle High School Teachers Chap. No. 200 of the American Federation of Teachers v. Sharples, and the circumstances surrounding it. Specifically, this paper will describe the formation of the teachers' union, the school board's imposition of a "yellow dog" contract on the teachers, the union's legal battle against the yellow dog rule, and the union's political battle against the yellow dog rule. More generally, this paper will comment on the effect of labor law in the public sector on unions of government employees.