Historical mural celebrates working people fighting for social justice
SEATTLE (April 20, 2017) — Installation began Wednesday on the Jackson Street Workers Mural at the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO building at 16th & Jackson. Three years in the making, this historical mural depicts stories of the everyday workers who built Washington state and continue to fight for social justice.
The project has been funded by the state’s labor unions (see list below), plus grants from the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods and M.L. King County 4-Culture.
The WSLC invites all to join local dignitaries, union and community leaders, and neighbors attending the Unveiling Ceremony & Block Party for the mural from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 30 at 321 16th Ave. S. in Seattle. There will be music and entertainment, plus an open mic for artistic and musical performances. Get more details and RSVP at the Facebook event page.
The Jackson Street Workers Mural Project began in 2014. The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO was moving into its new Seattle office at 16th & Jackson, where the city’s historic African American and International Districts converge. The mural would be a gift to the WSLC’s neighbors; telling labor history through the lens of communities that are frequently marginalized and ignored.
“This mural shows labor’s history, and now is a particularly important time to learn from our past triumphs and failures,” said WSLC Secretary Treasurer Lynne Dodson. “Our most successful tools against tyranny and oppression are solidarity and inclusion; working people have no power when we turn against each other, we’re only stronger and able to build a better world when we stand together.”
Artist Beverly Naidus, a faculty member at University of Washington-Tacoma, got the ball rolling on the project. She interviewed diverse artists around the state and convened a series of design sessions, mural workshops, and community meetings to create the stories and vision of the mural.
Katherine Chilcote, muralist and founder of Building Bridges Arts Collaborative, and Devon Midori Hale, a young local artist with roots in the International District, worked with Professor Naidus from the beginning to design the final mural. The artists are proud members, and Building Bridges is signatory, to the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District 5, and they are looking for new ways to expand.
Painting of the mural’s panels began in Spring 2016 at the Inscape Building, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service building that’s been repurposed into studios. It’s an appropriate setting.
The mural depicts labor history through the stories of the working women and men in Washington. Its narrative describes the persistent struggle for economic, racial, and social justice that is labor’s legacy in our state. So much is covered—from the free speech fights, to Seattle’s general strike, to the World Trade Organization march; from migrant organizing, to Rosie the Riveter, to Black Lives Matter.
The project shows pride, solidarity, and hope — and it also tells the truth. We see the Chinese expulsion, the detainment of Japanese, the Everett and Centralia Massacres, the segregation and desegregation of organized labor. We learn from the triumphs and the errors of the past and we see the resilience of workers in the continuing fight for a better world. The mural’s final section depicts hopes and aspirations for the future. The painted panels tell these stories, but they will be supplemented by street-level QSR codes linking to a website with more information on the history and our unions.
The mural installation will be complete later this week. Please make plans to join the WSLC for the mural block party from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 30. Also check out the mural website at JacksonStreetWorkersMural.org.
In addition to the city and county grants, the following unions and organizations were Panel Sponsors. In recognition of their generous contributions, their union logos will appear on the building.
American Federation of Government Employees
American Federation of Teachers, Washington
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Elevator Constructors, Local 19
Friends of Waterfront Seattle
Kitsap County Central Labor Council
International Association of Machinists, District Council 751
* International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 46
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 77
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, State Council
International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 117
* International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 174
International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Joint Council 28
International Longshore & Warehouse Union Local 19
International Longshore & Warehouse Union, Puget Sound Council
International Union of Painters & Allied Trades, Local 1094
M.L. King County Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons, Local 528
Pierce County Central Labor Council
Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action
Puget Sound Sage
Seattle Building and Construction Trades Council
Service Employees International Union, 1199 NW
* Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace
Thurston-Lewis-Mason Counties CLC
United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 21
United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 365
United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 367
Washington Alliance for Retired Americans
* Washington Federation of State Employees, Council 28
Washington State Association of Electrical Workers
* Washington State Council of Firefighters
Washington State Democrats
Washington State Nurses Association
Washington Young Emerging Labor Leaders
* Denotes sponsored more than one panel.