The laboring life of oyster workers in the mid years of the 20th century was governed by the Oyster Workers' Union and the management of the oyster companies. When the labor contract was up for renewal, the wrestling match would begin:
"Shoalwater Bay Oyster Workers Union, Local No. 14, Nahcotta, has issued a new proposed contract to oyster growers who now have the contract under study, and is to be acted upon within 60 days from date of issue. The new contract has three provisions, No. 1 being a 22 per cent increase in all wages and overtime. No. 2, a suitable welfare plan paid for by the employer. No. 3, complete revision of the existing contract."
-Oct. 27, 1961
"At press time Thursday, oyster growers of Ocean Park-Nahcotta area were negotiating with Shoalwater Bay Oyster Workers' Union officials in hopes of ending an abrupt walk-off which took place March 7th when Jim Burke, a union official from Seattle, arrived and ordered work stoppage, it was reported to this newspaper.
"Some growers expressed belief that the walk-out was out of order, leaving loads of oysters at the dock to either rot or to be carried by growers back to the oyster lands. According to one explanation, the contract was to renew automatically month by month until mediation took place, and this apparently was not done."
-March 16, 1962
"Jack Wiegardt, oyster grower, last Friday morning signed with Shoalwater Bay Oyster Workers' Union granting a 10 per cent raise on hourly work, and 7-1/2 cents per gallon raise for openers; the union deleting the vacation privileges sought in the contract.
"Oyster work at Nahcotta had been at a standstill since union workers stopped work on March 7th after their demand of "no contract, no work." It is understood three other smaller operators, namely, Glen Heckes, Melvin Nelson, and Roy and Bob Kemmer have signed with the union. However, Wiegardt Bros., Bendiksen, Ted Holway, and Wm. Stacey are still holding off, offering the same two per cent over-all raise, but Jim Burke, international business manager and union negotiator, held out for a 10 per cent raise during last Thursday's day-long meeting between growers and union officials.
"Nahcotta growers contend that their two per cent over-all raise is better than the two per cent hourly raise accepted by union oyster workers at South Bend. Bendiksen Co. has moved a considerable part of its operation to the South Bend plant, it was reported here."
-March 23, 1962
"Members of Shoalwater Bay Oyster Workers' Union, Nahcotta, voted Wednesday to end the oyster workers' strike which has existed since March 7th. A three per cent over all wage increase was the settlement figure. Vacation pay remained as it was on the old contract.
"Union negotiators at first asked for a 10 per cent increase, and the employees were willing to grant a two per cent raise during parleys in March. Most workers were back on the job Thursday morning"
-Apr. 20, 1962
"An estimated 125 Shoalwater Bay Oyster Workers' Union workers are out on strike at Nahcotta awaiting a get-together between union and employers, Earl Seeker, union business agent, informed the Observer Thursday. The union voted in a meeting Tuesday night to go out as of Wednesday morning after a previous meeting earlier that day between employers and the union members.
"In an interview with an employer representative, the cannery's offer to union people varied greatly owing to numerous departments, each of which demanded different treatment. Some departments' increase offered varied from three to four per cent; others varied between 10 and 11 percent.
"The union people agreed to go back to work Wednesday and clean up any oysters left in the plants; and this processing was carried out at Northwest Farms and at Eastpoint, a full windup being made by Thursday. The other canneries had no processing to be done. ...
"The local, which is part of Amalgamated Meat Cutters union, had worked the last three weeks without a contract. The last two-year pact had expired August 31. Their walk-out followed a 65-20 vote in which the oyster workers decided to reject management's last offer."
-Oct. 6, 1967
"Shoalwater Bay Oyster Workers' Union members in a special meeting in Nahcotta Wednesday night voted 56 to 14 to accept the latest contract agreed to between the workers and employers and work was resumed Thursday. The new three-year contract calls for a 10 per cent raise on the first year, 3 per cent raise on the second year, and a guarantee of 3 per cent for the third, or a greater adjustment in case living costs should soar to an unexpected height ... Oyster openers are badly needed at this time by the industry."
-Nov. 3, 1967
Down through the years the dance between labor and management became clear: the union demanded more money and benefits than common sense could possibly allow; management wept and wailed about being poor. Each side would fuss and fret, concede a little here and there when there was no choice, concede a little more, and eventually strike a bargain, whereupon everyone shook hands and got back business.