Founding PNLHA President Ross Rieder Remembered


PNLHA remembers one of our founders and long-time president, Ross Rieder, who has been such a force for labor and for social justice for decades. He was the heart of our organization and his passion and organizing ability made the PNLHA the unique organization it is. Ross’s commitment to promoting the history and heritage of labor in the Pacific Northwest is a legacy that will continue to inspire and endure. He will be missed.


Ross K. Rieder

Labor Historian

April 19, 1940-Dec. 14, 2021

Ross K. Rieder (81) was born in Yakima, WA to Frances and Rolla Rieder Sr. He Attended public schools in San Jose, CA, Damascus, Syria (9th grade) and Yakima, and in 1962 received his BA degree in Music Education from Linfield College in McMinnville, OR.

Ross began teaching general music and 8th grade chorus in 1962 at Evergreen Jr, High School in Everett, WA, where he served for 7 years and became a member of the Everett Federation of Teachers, Local 772 AFT. He was elected President of the Washington State Federation of Teachers (WSFT) in 1968, and served until 1975.

Ross’ passion and dedication to service was UNION LABOR, preserving the history of working people, notably in the Pacific NW. His career continued with IFPTE, Local 17 as a negotiator and organizer from 1977-79, the Washington State Labor Council from 1979 through 1986 as Political Action Coordinator and the Snohomish County Labor Council, 1992-97 as an organizer. He produced the PNLHA newsletter Urban Work, hosted Everett radio station KSER’s “Part of the Union” program from 2000-2012 and worked with the Wash. Federation of State Employees filming the monthly TV special “OUR VIEW” reflecting on labor history. 

Ross’s legacy was serving as President of the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association (PNLHA) from 1977 and retiring in 2015. Since the late 80’s, PNLHA has sponsored a Labor Stage at Folklife and presented periodic labor concerts and arts festivals over many decades. He helped sustain and grow PNLHA, oversaw annual conferences, produced the annual labor history wall calendar and created labor union walking tours in Seattle and Tacoma.

He was a charter member of the Washington Federation of Teachers Retiree Chapter, Local 8045R AFT, and served on its executive board from the chapter’s inception in 2003 until 2017. Ross was President for six years, from 2009 until 2015.

Ross enjoyed music and book collecting, piano playing, amateur photography and local and international travel. His passion for reading continued throughout his life. 

Ross is survived by his wife Brenda Doolittle, sons Stephen (Mary) Rieder and Michael Rieder, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

Remembrances may be made in his name to the Alzheimer’s Association ( or the Pacific NW Labor History Association, P.O. Box 75662, Seattle, WA 98175.

2021 PNLHA Conference Videos Now Available


YouTube Playlist of Most Sessions

Friday, June 25

Welcome and Introduction               
Tom Lux, PNLHA President               
Jo Blake, King County C.L.U.W. President                    
Elise Bryant: We Did Not Come This Far To Turn Back Now                     
Video and Songs
Solidarity Notes Labour Choir 

Saturday, June 26              
 Welcome and Introduction               
Tom Lux, PNLHA President               
April Sims, Secretary-Treasurer, WSLC                     
Bill Fletcher Jr. The Rattle from the Rightwing Populist Snake:Trump, Jan. 6, and the Implications for Organized Labor                  
Panel Discussion: Essential Voices of Frontline Workers
Jane Hopkins, SEIU 1199NW; Martha Elana Sonato, PCUN; UFCW Local 555; UNITE-HERE Local 8; Hospital Employees Union, BC; Conor Casey (mod.)                  

PNLHA Annual Awards              
Labor History Person of the Year               
Labor History Maker of the Year

Session 1.1: Working in the Woods: Archives, Labour, and Forestry in British Columbia
Henry John, Dave Lang, Claire Williams

Session 1.2: Love & Solidarity: James Lawson and Nonviolence in the Search for Workers’ Rights
Michael Honey
Session 1.3 Educating Young Workers to Build Activism
Ephraim Weisstein
Session 1.4 A Century of Radical Labor History in the Pacific Northwest
Kim England, Aaron Goings, James Gregory
Session 2.1: Racialized Bodies: South Asian Labour and the Activities of the BC Organization to Fight Racism
Anushay Malik, Bailey Garden
Session 2.2: Striking Switchmen: Railroad Worker Unrest and Unionism in the United States and Canada, 1888 – 1917
Kevin Kipers
Session 2.3: March of the Innocents
Session 2.4: Red, Green and International
Rosalinda Guillen, Michael Schulze-Oechtering, Cindy Domingo

Registration Now Open for the May 26 – 28, 2017 Conference

Echoes of the 1917 Russian Revolution: Decades of Radicalism and Red Scares in the Labour Movements of the Pacific Northwest
May 26 – 28

Early Bird Registration Now Open

Presented in collaboration with the BC Labour Heritage Centre

The PNLHA and BC LHC welcome trade unionists, students, academics and others interested in labour history and worker’s heritage to this conference.


The Nest – 6133 University Blvd Vancouver, BC Canada (University of British Columbia campus)

2017 Conference Program (PDF color)
2017 Conference Program (PDF b/w)

Registration Details:
Register online with PayPal or
download instructions for registration by mail with check.

Hotel Accommodations:
Registrants are responsible for booking your own accommodation. A limited block of rooms has been secured at the Ponderosa Suites – 2017 W. Mall. This is a new student residence 5 minutes walk from the conference site. (Shuttle for those requiring).

There are 2 options, both offer daily housekeeping:

A) Ponderosa Studio Suite: double bed, full kitchen, private bath @ $120.00 per room/night + 13% taxes; or

B) Ponderosa Premium Single: a single bed within a 4-bedroom unit with 2 full bathrooms, kitchen, dining and sitting area @ $56.00 per person/night + 13% taxes

Make reservations by APRIL 25th directly with UBC Accommodations. Indicate you are with the “PNLHA Labour History Conference” for the reduced rate.

Tel (604) 822-1000 | Toll Free 1-888-822-1030 | Fax (604) 822-1001

Subject to availability, these rates are extended 3 days before and 3 days after the conference for those wishing an extended stay in Vancouver. Cancellation charges will apply.

Note: Parking is an additional $16/day or $35/wk.  Transit express bus to downtown 20 minutes.

Questions? Email or call Joey Hartman at 778-870-0703

Labor Archivist of Washington’s Conor Casey on We Do the Work Radio Show

PNLHA member and Washington State Trustee Conor Casey was interviewed on We Do The Work radio: Tuesday, July 21, 6:30 pm, 91.7 FM KSVR. Casey, Labor Archivist and Director of the Labor Archives of Washington (LAW), explained how LAW was founded to preserve working people’s history and make it accessible.
Listen online at:

For more information on the Labor Archives and its collections, go to

WE DO THE WORK is dedicated to the well-being of all workers, union and non-union alike. The program believes that everyone who toils for wages or salaries, or who would if they could find a job, deserves to be treated fairly and have the opportunity to live in economic security. With the drastic increase in inequality over the last thirty years, fair treatment and economic security have become more mirage than reality to millions of workers.

Listen to We Do The Work Tuesdays, 6:30 pm, at KSVR, 91.7 FM, or Tuesdays, 6:30 pm and Fridays, 8:30 am, at KSVU, 90.1 FM or KSJU, 91.9 FM

For live streaming: go to

PNLHA 2015 Conference Report, Program Videos

2015 PNLHA Conference Wrap-Up by Tom Lux

Many of our members attended a very successful PNLHA conference May 1 – 3 in SeaTac, WA. If you were able to attend the conference this year I hope it met your expectations. If you were unable to attend I know Oregon is starting to plan for another successful conference for this time next year. Stay tuned for that and go to our website often to check for any updates.

We received several evaluation forms and the respondents rated the conference evenly between 4 and 5 (5 being the highest rating possible). The most interesting presentations were listed as Bill Fletcher (by far) and the Domingo/Viernes Cannery Workers film shown Sunday morning. There was also interest in the IWW Project, Al Bradbury, the Friday night social, as well as the banquet/send off for Ross, Remembering Salt, Love & Solidarity video, Seattle Labor Chorus, etc.

Annual General Membership Meeting

Our Annual General Membership meeting was held after the conference on Sunday, May 3rd with 51 members in attendance. In the two contested races Tom Lux from Lake Forest Park, WA was elected President to take over for Ross Rieder who retired, and Brenda Doolittle from Graham, WA was elected US Treasurer. All other positions were uncontested and all results will be posted on the PNLHA web site.

There were several proposed by-law changes, all of which passed with some minor changes. The by-laws and the meeting minutes are going through our review/edit process now and will be posted on our web site once they are approved.

PNLHA’s Future

As I campaigned for PNLHA President, I said one of our goals should be to grow our membership. We are all organizers. I suggest we all carry a few membership application forms and whenever we talk to anyone interested in labor history, hand them a form and a pen. I think we need to make a very concerted effort to recruit in communities of color. PNLHA should reflect all worker history and we should all be at the table.

We need to find ways to become more visible in the community, schools, and union halls. Your ideas and commitment to expand our programs are welcomed.

If we want to continue the labor history calendar as an outreach and education tool, and I think we should, we will need a smooth transition from Ross doing all the work to how we want to do it in the future. There are a few ways we can do this, whether we pay someone to produce and distribute it or we divide the work among a few people, etc. Again, your ideas on transition are welcome.

2015 PNLHA Annual Conference Report Back from Oregon–Labor’s Music Filled the Halls by Ron Verzuh

Musical events at the conference were numerous and varied, starting the first night with a moving rendition of The Ballad of Harry Bridges by his granddaughter, Marie Shell. Angelica Guillén followed with some stirring antiracist poetry. A local high school brass band rounded off the evening with several jazz tunes. On Day 2, Labor Notes editor Al Bradbury led us in song to begin her talk on youth and unions.
Rika Ruebsaat and Jon Bartlett, Canadian music historians who’ve attended many PNLHA events, sang several Joe Hill songs as part of the conference’s recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Wobbly songster’s death by Utah firing squad. On the final day, Seattle’s Labor Chorus sent us home with some rousing anthems from several labor troubadours, including a sing-a-long of The Internationale.

You can now view the conference video playlist on YouTube (See the descriptions of the content below)

Plenary Address: “What Makes You Think the Labor Movement Will Survive? How Must it Change and How is it Changing?”, Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Plenary Address Q & A, Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Panel: “Crisis of the Working Class and American Democracy: A Conversation on the Challenges of Our Time”, Mike Honey, Jack O’Dell, George Lovell, Megan Ming Francis, Moon Ho Jung

Evening Program

Lunch Program

Washington State Labor Council Reprises MayWorks Washington: A Month-Long Festival of Labor Culture and History

MayWorks Washington is a month-long festival throughout the month of May celebrating labor culture and history in Washington State. Festival events also focus on working class issues and labor arts such as music, poetry, photography, dance, drama, and the visual arts. In 2012, delegates at the Washington State Labor Council’s annual convention voted to work to raise their voices – to start a tradition of MayWorks, a festival of workers’ art and culture. Riffing on the theme of “Bread and Roses” to celebrate the centennial of the pivotal strike of 1912, our first MayWorks celebration occurred throughout the state that year. Venues included the Labor Education & Research Center at South Seattle Community College, the 2012 conference of the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association, and the Northwest Folklife Festival which showcased workers’ art and culture with concerts, art exhibits, a contest for short videos of 3-5 minutes, oral history presentations, and a variety of workshops and performances. Audiences were engaged with the meaning and value of the role that workers and unions play in our everyday lives and the culture of our communities.

The PNLHA Annual Conference and Kick off Event are actually part of MayWorks 2015 as well, find out more about them here! The MayWork Committee is always trying to add more events–if you are in Washington, consider adding your own labor event in May to the calendar!

Further resources:

First Annual Labor Archives of Washington Annual Event April 11

PLabor Archives Event 2015 3reserving Solidarity Forever: The Labor Archives Minimum Wage Project
Walker-Ames Room (225), Kane Hall, University of Washington

Date: Saturday, April 11, 2015
Time: 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
University of Washington
4000 15th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98195

Join the Labor Archives of Washington as we kick off the SeaTac-Seattle Minimum Wage History Project!

The Minimum Wage History Project documents the historic and nationally recognized campaigns that in 2013-14 succeeded in mandating a $15 minimum wage in SeaTac and Seattle. The project will culminate in an on-line resource for students, faculty, and the general public who seek to understand how the campaigns achieved victory.

Speakers to include:

KSHAMA SAWANT, Seattle City Council
JAMES GREGORY, Professor of History, University of Washington
SARAH CHERIN, Political Director, UFCW 21
HEATHER WEINER, YES! for Sea-Tac Campaign

The mission of the Labor Archives of Washington at the University of Washington is to preserve and make accessible the history of work, workers, and their organizations. Founded in 2010, the Labor Archives is made possible by the contributions of dozens of unions and hundreds of individuals.

This event is free and open to the public. Free parking is available and a reception with drinks and refreshments will follow the program.

Questions? Call (206) 543-7946, or e-mail

Date: Saturday, April 11, 2015
Time: 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
University of Washington
4000 15th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98195

2015 Conference

Joe Hill Text 2015 PNLHA Conference May 1-3, 2015 : “Celebrate, Honor, Act”

Download Conference Full Color Program

Download Detailed Session Listings with Descriptions and Presenters

PNLHA is part of the WSLC MayWorks 2015 Committee

We are grateful to our sponsors: IAM District 751, SPEEA, Plumbers State Council WSLC, IBEW Local 77, IBEW Local 46, Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, MLKCLC, PCCLC, AFSCME Council 2, OPEIU Local 8, Pacific Coast Publishers, Musicians Union Local 76-493



MayWorks Kick-Off

Friday, May 1
5:30 – 8:30 PM
IBEW Local 77 Hall
19415 International Blvd.
SeaTac, WA 98188

Friday Social – No charge, but please RSVP to

  • PNLHA Registration
  • Social and Labor & Art Displays
  • Refreshments
  • Welcoming Remarks
  • Music

Saturday, May 2
Double Tree Hotel, 18740 International Blvd., SeaTac

Registration for Conference REQUIRED (See below)

Download Mail-In Registration Form Here

Register and Pay for Conference Online (United States Members)

Register and Pay for Conference Online (Canadian Members)

7:30 – 9:00 AM          Registration

8:45 – 9:45 AM           Keynote Plenary                                                       

What Makes You Think the Labor Movement Will Survive? How Must it Change and How is it Changing?  — Bill Fletcher, Jr., Executive Assistant to NVP Augusta Thomas, AFGE

  • Location: NW Ballroom
  • Bill Fletcher Jr. has been an activist since his teen years. Upon graduating from college he went to work as a welder in a shipyard, thereby entering the labor movement. Over the years he has been active in workplace and community struggles as well as electoral campaigns. He has worked for several labor unions in addition to serving as a senior staff person in the national AFL-CIO. He is Director of the Field Services and Education Department of AFGE. He’s also one of the leading activists and writers today on labor and race in the United States. Fletcher is the co-author of the book Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path Toward Social Justice.

10:00 – 11:00 AM           Workshops                                                      

Solidarity Across Communities — Phoebe Robeson Rounds

  • Room 5/6
  • Healthcare workers are building solidarity across class, job, and nationality, as well as with community allies, to stand up for communities and patients amidst increasingly corporate employers. Hear about three recent and ongoing examples when healthcare workers in SEIU Healthcare 1199 NW have done this in Washington. Discuss the challenges and opportunities of member-leader-driven, transformational solidarity.
  • Phoebe Robeson Rounds has worked as an organizer for the Service Employees International Union in Nevada, Massachusetts, and Washington for the past eight years. For the past five years, she has worked with healthcare workers in SEIU Healthcare 1199 NW in the Puget Sound area. Her role as an internal organizer is to give existing union members the vision, skills, and strategy to join in struggle together and grow their leadership of their union.

Passionate Commitments: The Lives of Anna Rochester and Grace Hutchins — Julia M. Allen

  • Location: Rooms 7/8
  • Passionate Commitments: The Lives of Anna Rochester and Grace Hutchins, (New York, SUNY Press, 2013), documents the lives of life partners and labor journalists Hutchins and Rochester. In addition to helping to establish and maintain the Labor Research Association for almost 40 years, both women published many books, articles, and pamphlets designed to explain fundamental economic systems to the working people most affected by those systems. Rochester is remembered most for her book Rulers of America: Finance Capital in the United States, and Hutchins is known for Women Who Work, a volume that served to keep feminism alive during difficult mid-century times. The presentation offers, among other things, historical models of growth based on inclusivity as well as lessons in the disastrous results of exclusion based on either voluntary or involuntary membership in proscribed groups. This past April, the book received the 2014 Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction, presented by the Publishing Triangle. For more about the book, see my website:
  • Julia M. Allen retired from full-time teaching in the English Department at Sonoma State University in California in 2004 and currently lives in Portland, Oregon. Her field is rhetorical studies. She spent over eighteen years researching the lives of Anna Rochester and Grace Hutchins before publishing this dual biography. Her other work includes entries in American National Biography on labor writers Meridel LeSueur and Anna Rochester, an article on The People’s College, an early 20th century Socialist college in Fort Smith, Kansas, and an article challenging the validity of the evidence used to convict the leaders of the American Communist Party during the McCarthy era.

Still Dying at Work: A History of Occupational Safety and Health — Jay Herzmark

  • Location: Room 9
  • Works sucks. It is also dangerous. It’s the workers who die but it is the employer who controls the workplace. We will discuss the history of this power relationship and actors that have affected it. Much of the arguing will be about the anemic rise and subsequent evisceration of OSHA.
  • Jay Herzmark RN, MSN, CIH! While attending graduate school at some university in New York City, Jay worked in an emergency room where he claims to have saved Cher’s life. Among the 29 jobs he has held since graduating college was one where he worked for 22 years at a large, increasingly expensive, state university in Seattle where he was a company safety guy. He has been an active member of at least six unions and has ridden his bike over 40 thousand miles just to go to work.

Panel: IWW History Project — James Gregory, Conor Casey, Rebecca Flores, Senteara Orwig

  • Location: Room 10
  • This panel will introduce the IWW History Project, a new online resource based at the University of Washington <>. The project explores the history of the IWW in the western United States, especially Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. It features the most complete database of IWW activities ever assembled and interactive maps showing the locations of more than 600 strikes, organizing campaigns, arrests, and other incidents for each year from 1905 through 1917 (with more years coming). A growing list of articles on the website profiles key people, issues, and events. The project also serves as the gateway to the remarkable collections oIWW photographs and documents assembled by the Labor Archives of Washington and University of Washington Libraries. Much of the research behind the project has been conducted by students and faculty in the UW Labor Studies program.
    Part of what we will be doing is demonstrating the mapping tools, highlighting other key features of the project, and discussing plans to add new content. Rebecca Flores, chief research assistant, will talk about the challenges of building the databases. Labor archivist Conor Casey will preview the rare photographs now made available through UW libraries. James Gregory is planning a short talk on the “Art and Politics of Ralph Chaplin” that will utilize visual materials from the project. Graduate student Senteara Orwig will tell the fascinating story of IWW “songbird” Katie Phar, a 10 year old Spokane girl and her correspondence with Wobbly martyr and songwriter, Joe Hill.
  • James Gregory, Conor Casey, Rebecca Flores, Senteara Orwig
    James N. Gregory is a Professor of History at the University of Washington where he previously held the Harry Bridges Endowed Chair in Labor Studies. He currently serves as Vice President of the Labor and Working Class History Association (LAWCHA). The author of several books and many articles on labor, migration, civil rights, his most recent book is The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America which won the 2006 Philip Taft Labor History Book Prize. He is the director of the Pacific Northwest Labor and Civil Rights Projects, a consortium of online resources which now includes the IWW History Project.
  • Conor Casey is the founding labor archivist of the Labor Archives of Washington at the University of Washington Libraries Special Collections. Previously, he has worked at the Labor Archives & Research Center at San Francisco State University (SFSU). Casey holds an MA in US history with a concentration in labor and public history from SFSU, a MLIS from San Jose State University with a concentration in archives and academic reference, and is a Certified Archivist. Conor is co-chair of the SAA Labor Archives Roundtable, a board member of the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association and the Northwest Archivists, and the president of the Pacific Northwest Historians Guild.
  • Rebecca Flores is lead research assistant for the IWW History Project. She is completing her BA degree at the University of Washington, majoring in History with a minor in Labor Studies. She has also worked as a student assistant in the Labor Archives of Washington where she was responsible for inventorying, rehousing, and digitizing selected collections.
  • Senteara Orwig is a 2nd year Master of Library and Information Science student at the University of Washington iSchool. She also attended the University of Washington for her Bachelors in History & Anthropology with a minor in Diversity. During her undergrad she worked with the Labor Archives of Washington on the IWW Photograph Collection to process and research the content. In addition, she created a online guide for the Labor Archives of Washington, University of Washington Libraries website that serves as a hybrid of an online exhibit and research tool for the IWW Photograph Collection. She has gone on to do an internship at the Microsoft Archives and currently working on her capstone with Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery Archives.

11:15 AM – 12:15 PM     Workshops                                                      

Who gets the bird? Rise and Fall of the WA CIO Radical Leadership, 1937 – 1940 — Tom McCarthy  [30 minutes]

  • Location: Room 5/6
  • In the shifting sands of the Great Depression, new articulations of labor arose against the old and confirmed business unionists parleyed and contended with radicals. Who would win out?
    In the mid-1930s, John L. Lewis—Labor’s boldest prince—led a revolt of industrial unionists against the outmoded craft American Federation of Labor (AFL). After a series of epic victories in the East and Midwest, what in 1938 became the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) established itself as a competing labor federation. In the West, however, it had only a sparse presence. An alliance with labor radical Harry Bridges and his insurgent longshore union offered the CIO a foothold on the West Coast, including in Washington State. Also in 1938, the CIO-affiliated Washington State Industrial Union Council formed with the blessings of an uneasy alliance that put radicals into leadership.
    From 1938 to 1940, radicals led the CIO in Washington State, but were hit with crosscurrents from business opposition, AFL competition, jockeying with business unionist rivals within the CIO regionally and nationals, and finally, the vagaries of the Communist international ideological line. A new leader from a maritime union, Eugene Dennett rose to be a key leader, the Executive Secretary of the Washington State Industrial Union Council (WSIUC). Dennett’s counter-weight as President of the council, was not only from Lewis’ own mineworker’s union, but also became the Regional Director of the CIO. At first, Francis kept his distance from the radical IUC, but with time, the business unionist national CIO perspective become increasingly hostile to the radical leadership, and began taking deliberate steps to shuck the communists of power. This presentation seeks to untangle the complex motivations and maneuvers that led to the downfall of the radical leadership of the CIO in Washington by 1940.
  • Thomas McCarthy was born on Ft. Lewis in Washington State, earned an M.A. in Liberal Arts at St. John’s College, and is an instructor at Pierce College near Tacoma. Tom visited the 1999 WTO protest in Seattle, and has been involved in community and union organizing ever since. From 2007-09, he organized a newly eligible class of workers in higher education, successfully pioneering the first three locals formed under that enabling legislation. Currently he is an active member in the American Federation of Teachers. His scholarship covers social movements in the United States, with particular focus on the Labor Movement of the 1930s and the social origins of the GI Bill. His latest research breaks ground on the early CIO in Washington State addressed by this presentation.

Carlos Bulosan in Seattle, 1930 – 1956 — Andrew Hedden [30 minutes]

  • Location: Room 5/6
  • This presentation will look at the life and times of Filipino labor activist and writer Carlos Bulosan in Seattle. The city that witnessed his arrival in the United States in 1930, Seattle underwent massive changes before he returned again twenty years later to live in the city under the creeping shadow of the Cold War. There Bulosan enjoyed a network of left-wing comrades who, in addition to helping weather his radical politics through the dark days of McCarthyism, housed and fed him, provided him employment, kept him company during a sustained stay in a tuberculosis sanatorium, and, when he passed in 1956, not only arranged his burial, but collected and preserved his manuscripts for posterity. Moreover, Seattle’s Skid Road – many denizens of which were interred with Bulosan in the sanatorium – purportedly furnished the subject of his last novel, said to be completed before his death but missing ever since.
  • Andrew Hedden is the program coordinator of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies and a graduate student in History at the University of Washington.

Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) – A Personal History — Brian Charlton [30 Minutes]

  • Location: Room 7/8
  • Using my experiences as a member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers from 1972 to the present, I will take particular events in our history to illustrate how CUPW developed strategy and tactics to improve the working conditions of postal workers, and to promote social unionism in an often hostile political climate. I will also examine the challenges of maintaining internal solidarity in times of political strife. A couple of the periods I will use will be the strike of 1978 when postal workers defied back to work legislation and the merger of postal clerks and letter carriers in 1989. I will use photos, video clips and handouts to supplement my presentation.
  • Brian Charlton is a lifetime member of CUPW, who started working as a postal clerk in the Vancouver Post Office in Feb, 1972. Among various positions I held in the Vancouver Local was President from 1989- 1996. From 1996 to 2002 I was the Education and Organization officer in the Pacific Region. I retired in 2007 but have remained politically active in my community of Courtenay including help organize the 2014 PNLHA conference in 2014.

‘Unionists will never get a square deal from magistrates’: injunctions, arrests, and jail time for BC Longshoremen in the 1960s — Liam O’Flaherty [30 Minutes]

  • Location: Room 7/8
  • In 1966, the Canadian area of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in British Columbia agitated for the right to take Victoria Day as a statutory holiday. The Shipping Federation of BC got an injunction from the courts preventing any action by longshoremen to take the day off. By breaking the injunction, the union was standing up not only to the employer but also to the courts. In lieu of paying a fine, local presidents opted instead to go to jail. Drawing primarily though not exclusively from the case study of Local 502 in New Westminster, this research situates relatively radical tactics in a historical context wherein union members themselves saw their struggle as one not only against capital but the state as well. As part of an ongoing academic-community partnership titled “Reclaiming the New Westminster Waterfront,” this paper uses oral histories and analysis of Local 502’s newsletter, The Gangplank, to better understand how longshoremen made sense of the strategies they were employing and, further, to inquire about whether theirs was a historical model for today’s labour movement.
  • Liam O’Flaherty is a 2nd year Master’s students in the History Department at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. He is currently co-authoring a public history book as part of the SSHRC-funded community/academic project titled “Reclaiming the New Westminster Waterfront” about the history of Local 502 of the ILWU in New Westminster. His thesis research is under the supervision of Willeen Keough and Mark Leier, and he is pursuing research on other projects both in and outside the field of labour history.

Love and Solidarity in the Struggle for Labor Rights: Learning from Nonviolent Revolutionary James Lawson — Mike Honey

  • Location: Room 9
  • A film produced by Michael Honey, University of Washington Tacoma.
    A half-hour film produced by Michael Honey on the theory and practice of nonviolent direct action, from Montgomery, Alabama, to Memphis Tennessee, to Los Angeles, California, features the life and thought of African American civil rights and labor activist James Lawson, who served as nonviolent theorist, teacher and organizer for Martin Luther King, Jr., the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and others in the civil rights movement. He was the ministerial leader of the Memphis sanitation strike in 1968. For the last thirty years as a Methodist minister in Los Angeles he has spread nonviolent direct action in organizing low wage immigrants and workers of color in tandem with Maria Elena Durazo, President of the LA County Federation of Labor, who worked with Lawson in developing nonviolent direct action to organize unions in hotels, restaurants, and other service economy jobs in Los Angeles. Lawson has also teamed up recently with Kent Wong, UCLA Labor Center Director, and Dream Act students educating people on the power of nonviolence in fighting for immigration and labor rights. Funded by the Fetzer Institute, a non-profit family foundation aimed at popularizing values of love and forgiveness to change individuals and society, this film is intended as a discussion piece for unions, community organizations, and universities on understanding the power of nonviolent direct action. It will be accompanied by a website with in-depth interviews, written documents, and film clips and a study guide. The purpose of showing the film is to introduce all of this material to southern labor studies faculty and students for use in classrooms and communities, particularly where organizing low wage and immigrant workers is on the agenda. I propose to show this film, followed by discussion led by a commentator and myself available for question and answer.
  • Michael Honey is Haley Professor of Humanities at University of Washington Tacoma. He has published five books of labor and civil rights history: Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights: Organizing Memphis Workers (U. of Illinois, 1993); Black Workers Remember: Segregation, Unionism, and the Freedom Struggle (U. of California Press, 1999); Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign (WW Norton, 2007); editor, M.L. King, All Labor Has Dignity (Beacon, 2011); Sharecroppers’ Troubadour: John L. Handcox, the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union, and the African-American Song Tradition (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Honey has published dozens of articles in books and journals on southern labor history, most recently “Sharecroppers’ Troubadour”: Can We Use Songs and Oral Poetry as Oral History? in the Journal of Oral History (Fall 2014).
  •  The Role of Labor Union Contracts in Promoting Public Health — Jenn Hagedorn, Nicole Vallestero Keenan, Amy Hagopian
  • Location: Room 10
  • Historically, labor unions have used officially-negotiated contracts with employers as their primary tool to improve the working conditions of their members. Union contracts are associated with higher wages, more useful benefits, paid time off for sick leave and vacations, a limitation on working hours (especially number of hours in a row one must work, and breaks between shift changes), protections from workplace hazards and other factors associated with general well-being. After assessing the known research on the relationship between working conditions and health, we created an abstraction tool to identify the elements of a number of labor union contracts in the Pacific Northwest that promote conditions connected to determinants of health. The tool shows where contracts have provided the most effective health protections, and how the contracts might be improved. We also conducted interviews to provide an accompanying narrative of how union contracts are used by union organizers and members to promote health. The purpose of the research is to illustrate to public health jurisdictions at the state and local level how labor unions might be allies in promoting public health. As labor union membership density has declined, unions have looked to non-contractual ways to mobilize social movements to improve working conditions, such as Seattle’s $15 minimum wage campaign. It is unclear how unions can sustain these political organizing efforts without a base of dues-paying members who value the benefits of their contracts. Mutual aid is a historical strategy that extended the power of union organizing beyond direct membership and can be used again to help re-build the strength of unions today.
  • Jenn Hagedorn is a second year student in the Community-Oriented Public Health Practice Program at the University of Washington. Jenn was an intern at the Church Council of Greater Seattle from 2012-2013, where she was first introduced to union organizing. Over the last several years, Jenn has organized within the faith community to support workers by engaging with several unions, including UFCW Local 21 and Unite HERE Local 8. This paper is a part of Jenn’s capstone work that she is doing in coordination with Puget Sound Sage and the University of Washington. Jenn will graduate with her Masters in Public Health in June 2015 and hopes to continue working with labor unions.

12:30 – 2:00 PM       Lunch & Keynote Plenary                                                      

  • Youth and the Future of the Labor Movement — Al Bradbury
  • Location: NW Ballroom
  • Al Bradbury is the co-editor of Labor Notes. Al Bradbury joined the staff of Labor Notes in October 2012. She worked with hospital workers as a researcher and organizer for Service Employees Local 49 in Oregon and now covers health care, postal, Teamsters, auto, higher ed, and LGBTQ workers. Al works out of the Labor Notes East Coast office in Brooklyn.

2:15 – 3:15 PM      Workshops                                                      

  • “Wobbly” Ralph Chaplin and “Candymaker” Fred Haley, Friends Forever — Ron Magden
  • Location: Room 5/6
  • When Ralph came to Tacoma in 1940 he met Fred Haley at a Longshore Union meeting. Though of very different backgrounds, their philosophies of life were very much alike. Ralph was no longer the flaming radical, but styled himself as a militant. Fred described himself as the little boy with a gold spoon in his mouth who had grown up to help people to achieve their dreams. Fred volunteered for the USN and served in the South Pacific. His ship was badly damaged by a kamikaze but Fred survived. Ralph sent him a V Mail record congratulating Fred on his survival. (The record has been transferred to audio tape and will be played at the presentation).
  • Ron Magden Ph. D. is author of eight books and numerous articles. Currently writing A History of the Seattle Waterfront.
  • Panel: Crisis of the Working Class and American Democracy: A Conversation on the Challenges of Our Time — Mike Honey, Jack O’Dell, George Lovell, Megan Ming Francis, Moon Ho Jung
  • Room: Room 7/8
  • May Day memories of the eight hour day movement in the nineteenth century, demands for unionization, decent jobs and decent wages are matched by the struggles by working people to create a more democratic order. Functional democracy includes the fight for public education; for an open political system; for voting rights; for racial and gender equality; for a more democratic media available to all; for immigrant labor rights; and for a democratic discourse that holds all people as equally entitled to access to a good life. American capitalism has made it difficult to impossible to have a full democracy: slavery, segregation, the oppression of women, people of color, and the poor have been hallmarks of our history. In the current era, it seems we are heading for another wave of regression and repression marked by oligarchy at home and dollar diplomacy and military adventure abroad. At this hour, we need a conversation. Jack O’Dell has carried forth this conversation in various frameworks over the years, sometimes organizing discussions around his Freedom Charter for the U.S. The proposal for this session is to create a panel discussion around some key questions and to open up that discussion to the audience as well. What possibilities do we have under the current circumstances to halt the regression or turn it around? If we can’t halt it, what can we do to struggle and survive in an era of reduced opportunities for poor and working people? Under these circumstances, what becomes of American democracy? Does it simply become a joke, another casualty of capitalism’s voracious appetite for profits and the domination of the many by the few? What positive steps can we take in the Pacific Northwest to fight for both social and political democracy?
  • Michael Honey, moderator, University of Washington Tacoma
  • Jack O’Dell, independent scholar and organizer, Vancouver, British Columbia
  • George Lovell, Harry Bridges Chair of Labor Studies, University of Washington\
  • Megan Ming Francis, Assistant Professor UW Political Science
  • Moon-Ho Jung, Walker Family Endowed History Professor University of Washington, award-winning author and most recently, The Rising Tide of Color: Race, State Violence, and Radical Movements across the Pacific, and The Unruly Pacific: Race and the Politics of Empire and Revolution, 1898-1941
  • Class, Race, Gender in WW II Worker Housing: A Visual Review — LisaMary Wichowski
  • Location: Room 9
  • One of the World War II home front’s biggest challenges was the lack of adequate housing for millions of migrants coming to build munitions and armaments. Community hostility to the new comers, shortages of building materials, lack of consumer goods and hurried construction of new dwellings all played a part in housing stability for workers. In many places the federal government stepped in to ensure sufficient living quarters for workers and their families, so that production goals could be met.
    The Roosevelt administration, as progressive as it may or may not have been, built very different kinds of houses and communities for those working in war industries. From multi-bedroom homes for scientists in Los Alamos and Hanford, to tent camps for Braceros contracted from Mexico, to Quonset huts for Japanese internees, dwellings differed in quality of material, size and amenities. Even within the same community there were vast differences between the living conditions of groups.
    This presentation will use images from some of the 20th century’s most important photographers to illustrate actual living conditions of workers in what is now so often regarded as a time of unity in America.
  • LisaMary Wichowski is a mill rat’s kid navigating her way in academia. She was drawn to the field of labor history initially as a way to honor her own family and those who made “invisible” contributions as they did. She has come to be activist-historian, believing that an understanding of the agency of workers can empower them further to make progressive change. LisaMary is a student at the Goddard Graduate Institute, working on an MA project on communities that grew up around WWII shipyards in Portland, Oregon and Richmond, California.

3:30 – 4:30 PM        Workshops                                                      

  • Harry and Agnes Bridges: A Couple at Odds —  Lionel Youst
  • Location: Room 9
    I am working on an article depicting the life of Harry Bridges’ first wife Agnes Brown. She was from my home town of Coos Bay, Oregon, and initially I was interested merely as a curious item of local history. It is a much larger story. Coos Bay is where Agnes and Harry met in 1922. They were divorced in 1945 and on February 5, 1948 she testified at the infamous Canwell Committee hearings in Seattle saying that Harry was a Communist and held Communist meetings in their kitchen, etc. She later repudiated the testimony but it was used by Harry’s enemies in all of the subsequent trials and hearings against him. I have original material to fill in the story, and would like to make a presentation of my findings thus far and open it for discussion.
  • Lionel Youst was born 1934 at Woodland, Washington, just six months before the crucial 1934 maritime strike that launched Harry Bridges into national notoriety. Worked in logging camps in Oregon, California, Washington, and British Columbia. Member of IWA-CIO Local 7-140, Reedsport, Oregon in 1950-52. Author of several books of local and regional history of the Oregon Coast. Did presentations on IWW at the 2013 PNWLH conference in Portland and on the IWW and IWA at the 2014 PNWLH conference at Cumberland, BC.
  • Asian and Pacific Islanders Worker History in the Puget Sound Region — Tracy Lai
  • Location: Room 5/6
  • In conjunction with this display, Seattle APALA would like to facilitate a conversation about Asian and Pacific Islander workers’ history in the Puget Sound region, historically and today. As part of the facilitation, we would include Seattle chapter members, workers who participated in this oral history project and/or are currently engaged in organizing campaigns or actions. A goal of this display and workshop is to increase the awareness and understanding of API Workers’ experiences in the Pacific Northwest and with this awareness, to support more inclusion and leadership development of API workers in unions and organizing drives.
  • Tracy Lai, Seattle APALA president and historian at Seattle Central College (also co-president of AFT Seattle 1789) Invited participants: Lisa Chen and Jintana Lityouvong, co-coordinators of our API Workers’ Voices Project.
  • Soviet Princeton: A Work in Progress — Jon Bartlett & Rika Ruebsaat
  • Location: Room 7/8
  • Princeton is an old mining town in the interior of BC. In 1932, a strike broke out among coal miners, who had asked Arthur “Slim” Evans for organizational help. The strike was ultimately successful, but the actions of the BC police in its support of the mine owners were remembered for many years. Mounted police with batons charged a picket line with women and children: Evans was abducted by an armed gang: a burning cross was erected on two occasions during the strike: strike organizers were harassed, charged and convicted as vagrants, and served time: homes were repeatedly searched and material removed and not returned: hall owners were threatened with legal action under Section 98, and Evans was charged, convicted and jailed under that section.
    Bartlett and Ruebsaat are engaged in writing a history of this strike, and the workshop will outline the story of the strike, and open up the question of the sources of vernacular history, its provenance and its reliability. They will welcome suggestions from others who have worked on parallel projects.
  • Bartlett and Ruebsaat are well-known BC singers and organizers, and are also cultural historians. They have produced several LPs and CDs of traditional Canadian song, one being of songs and verse found in local Princeton papers from 1900 to 1945. Their book on vernacular culture in the BC interior, Dead Horse on the Tulameen: Settler Verse from BC’s Similkameen Valley is in its second printing. Bartlett and Ruebsaat have presented before at many PNLHA conferences, and gave the keynote address at Miners Memorial Day at Cumberland in 2006.
  • Remembering Salt — Ron Verzuh
  • Location: Room 10
  • How a blacklisted Hollywood movie brought the specter of McCarthyism to a rural British Columbia community.
    Salt of the Earth, the movie banned by American authorities during the Red Scare of the 1950s, challenged anti-union employers in both Canada and the United States. Sponsored by the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, which was said to be led by Communists and controlled by Moscow, Salt stabbed at the dark heart of Cold War America.
    Salt filmmakers, some of them members of the Hollywood Ten, were stymied and harassed at every stage of the making of a film that depicted the successful 15-month strike of the mostly Mexican-American male mine workers at the Empire Zinc Company in Bayard, New Mexico. Unique for its time, the filmmakers focused on the women – spouses, children and mothers of the mine workers – who ultimately won the strike.
    By the end of 1954, according to historian James J. Lorence, the film’s creators had managed to get it shown in only 13 theatres across North America. What Lorence didn’t know was that a group of enterprising Canadian trade unionists, leaders of Mine-Mill Local 480, had conspired to show the blacklisted Salt in at least one other venue: a little theatre in a relatively rural community in the West Kootenay region near the smelter city of Trail, B.C.
    Verzuh’s presentation includes the screening of a trailer showing highlights of his forthcoming video documentary about Salt’s struggle to be shown and its little-known presence in the Canadian Pacific Northwest. The presentation will describe the making of the documentary and the reasons why a small band of Canadian trade unionists dared to show Salt 60 years ago.
  • Ron Verzuh is a Canadian writer, historian, photographer and filmmaker. He is also the PNLHA’s Oregon vice-president and a past Oregon trustee. Currently, Verzuh now is completing his PhD in history at Simon Fraser University with a doctoral thesis on a wartime union organizing drive in a Pacific Northwest city. He has written four books and numerous articles for various newspapers and magazines, including Our Times, Canada’s labor magazine, the Globe and Mail, and His 2014 short documentary film Joe Hill’s Secret Canadian Hideout won an award for best historical documentary at the Oregon Independent Film Festival and was an official selection at the Canadian Labour International Film Festival.

4:45 – 5:45 PM           Workshops                                                      

  • Panel: Creating the BC Teachers’ Federation History Online Museum — Larry Kuehn, Nancy Knickerbocker, Moira Mackenzie
  • Location: Room 9
  • Celebrating, Honouring and Acting: Creating the BC Teachers’ Federation History Online Museum in preparation for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the BC Teachers’ Federation in 2017, the union is developing an online museum.
    *The museum will celebrate the union, its members and its proud history of advocating and organizing for quality universal public education in British Columbia and beyond our borders.
    *The museum will honour the builders of the union–the activists and classroom teachers who provide the support, strategies and strength for action to improve members’ working conditions and students’ learning conditions.
    *The museum will be a place to engage union members—both active and retired—to share their stories and analysis of the union’s contribution to their well-being and the practice of the profession.
    The workshop will have four parts:
    1. A description of the plan for developing the online museum, the elements that will be a part of it and approaches to digitizing the stories of the union.
    2. A demonstration of the initial aspects of the museum that have been developed.
    3. Ideas for how the museum might be used to reflect on the history of the union and give new members a sense of the struggles of previous generations to build the union itself and the strong public education system that exists today.
    4. An invitation for workshop participants to make suggestions for what might be in such a museum and ideas for how to engage members in building the museum.
  • Moira Mackenzie is the Executive Director of the BC Teachers’ Federation. She has taught at the elementary grades and in special education, has served as a local president, and as a member of the BCTF Executive Committee.
  • Nancy Knickerbocker is the BCTF’s Director of the Communications and Campaigns. She has been a journalist and worked as communications director for Education International, the global organization of teacher unions.
  • Larry Kuehn is Director of Research and Technology at the BCTF. He taught in secondary schools, been a local president and served as the president of the BCTF during the historic Operation Solidarity strikes of 1983.
  • Labor and Independent Politics —Tom McCarthy, James Kahn
  • Location: Room 5/6
  • What role do Labor and Independent Politics play in local elections today and in the past? Today corporate money dominates national elections, but at the local level ordinances and initiatives for $15/hour Minimum Wage are sweeping the U.S. Last year, Seattle elected Kshama Savant to the city council, its first openly socialist in over 100 years. Looking to the past and present, how can Labor and Independent Politics at the local level help turn the tide of history back to a progressive and democratic future?
  • Thomas McCarthy was born on Ft. Lewis in Washington State, earned an M.A. in Liberal Arts at St. John’s College, and is an instructor at Pierce College near Tacoma. Tom visited the 1999 WTO protest in Seattle, and has been involved in community and union organizing ever since. From 2007-09, he organized a newly eligible class of workers in higher education, successfully pioneering the first three locals formed under that enabling legislation. Currently he is an active member in the American Federation of Teachers. His scholarship covers social movements in the United States, with particular focus on the Labor Movement of the 1930s and the social origins of the GI Bill. His latest research breaks ground on the early CIO in Washington State addressed by this presentation.
  • James Kahn is a Campaign Organizer for the Kshama Sawant Re-Election Campaign, and he was the Volunteer Coordinator for the Jess Spear Campaign for State House. Both campaigns refused to accept corporate cash and ran independently from both corporate parties, the Republicans and Democrats. James will speak about his experiences working alongside Kshama Sawant, the first Socialist elected to Seattle City Council in a century, who led the movement to raise Seattle’s minimum wage to the highest in the nation.
  • Labor and the Seattle Boeing Bust — Andrew Hedden
  • Location: Room 7/8
  • As the 1960s tipped into the 1970s, the city of Seattle underwent a dramatic recession. Vast layoffs at the Boeing Company, the dominant engine of the city’s economy, spurred unemployment, poverty and a demographic exodus from the city, infamously captured in a billboard sign reading: “Will the last person leaving SEATTLE – Turn out the lights.” While this was a difficult moment for the city, it also signified a moment when the politics and economics of the city were up for grabs. New Left movements took action in the streets, while a new regime in city government sought to modernize the city’s operations. Amidst this crisis, what was labor doing? How did Boeing unions, municipal unions, and workers elsewhere respond to the economic recession? And what consequences, if any, did their actions have on the city’s later shift from a blue-collar (Boeing, shipyards, and timber) to a white-collar (e.g. High tech, service and trade) economic profile?
  • Andrew Hedden is the program coordinator of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies and a graduate student in History at the University of Washington.
  • Book Talk & Sing with the Seattle Labor Chorus: Sharecroppers’ Troubadour: John L. Handcox, the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union, and the African-American Song Tradition — Mike Honey

6:30 – 7:00 PM             Social                                                      

Location: NW Ballroom

7:00 – 8:30 PM             Awards Banquet                                                      

Location: NW Ballroom

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8:30 PM                        Entertainment                                                      

Location: NW Ballroom

  • The Songs of Joe Hill — Jon Bartlett & Rika Ruebsaat

Sunday, May 3

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9:30 – 11:00 AM           Plenary                                                      

Location: NW Ballroom

  • Seattle Civil Rights: The Legacy of Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes — Terri Mast, Richard Gurtiza, John Foz, Emily Van Bronkhorst
  • A movie on labor activists Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo and the struggle to bring those responsible for their deaths to justice. Discussion to follow.
    The presenters Terri Mast, Emily Van Bronkhorst, John Foz and Richard Gurtiza were all Alaska seafood cannery workers who worked many years in the industry. They along with all other Alaska seafood workers have since been classified and identified by the term “Alaskeros”. Alaskeros come from many different backgrounds and circumstances and their experiences have been chronicled in many forms and mediums. They worked the long and arduous hours on the processing floor in difficult and unsafe working conditions for minimal wages and benefits. Their story is a reflection of the film and the impact it had on the workers that followed in their footsteps. They all were a part of the reform movement in their union ILWU Local 37 to regain union democracy.
  • Terri Mast is currently the National Secretary/Treasurer of the Inlandboatmen’s Union.
  • Emily Van Bronkhorst is currently the Executive Vice President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1199NW,
  • John Foz is currently working for the Inlandboatmen’s Union as an Administrative Assistant.
  • Richard Gurtiza is currently the Inlandboatmen’s Union Regional Director for Region 37 representing the Alaska Seafood workers

11:15 AM –Noon               Finale                                                      

Location: NW Ballroom

  • Poetry by Angelica Guillen
  • Seattle Labor Chorus

12:30 PM                           PNLHA General Membership Meeting & Elections

Location: NW Ballroom

Double Tree by Hilton
18740 International Blvd
Seattle, WA 98188

Room Rate: $119 plus taxes before April 24 – go to link below


Registration Fees

  • Registration fees include all conference workshops and plenaries, materials and refreshment breaks. They do not include accommodations, meals or transportation
  • All conference attendees are expected to pay registration fees.

Conference Fees:

Early Registration by April 15:

(Purchase via mail-in or online forms)

After April 15:

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Friday Social

(No fee, but please RSVP via mail-in or online forms)

Saturday Lunch

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  • Sat. May 2nd Lunch $20 US / $25 Can
  • Sat. May 2nd Awards Banquet $40

Saturday Awards Banquet

(Purchase via mail-in or online forms)

  • Sat. May 2nd Awards Banquet $40 / $50 Can

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    Graham, WA 98338, USA


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Cancellation Policy:

We regret that refunds are not possible, however substitute registrants are welcome.

Tom Lux
WA PNLHA Vice-President
17502 47th Ave. NE
Lake Forest Park, WA 98155
phone: 206-551-1371