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About The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current | View Entire Issue (July 25, 2019)
THURSDAY, JULY 25, 2019 // 19
Radical activism on the red coast
Book focuses on lumber,
maritime workforce uprisings
Oregon State University Press touts its new book,
“The Red Coast,” as a “lively” informal history of the
radical activism that roiled Southwest Washington from
the late 1800s up to World War II.
But this book was a project among three academics, so
there is that unavoidable whiff of academia. Brian Barnes
and Roger Snider are both professors affiliated with Saint
Martin’s University in Olympia, and Aaron Goings is a
senior researcher at the University of Tam-
pere in Finland.
THIS WEEK’S BOOK
“The Red Coast” By Aaron Goings, Brian Barnes and Roger
OSU Press – 256 pp – $24.95
“The Red Coast” won’t ever be a bestseller at air-
port newsstands, but this paperback history does cover a
dynamic period of time when extractive industries, siz-
able immigrant populations and militant activists were
linked components of the region’s economic vitality.
The authors focus on the blue-collar work-
force that rose up in the lumber and maritime
industries in Centralia, Woodland, Aberdeen,
Hoquiam, Cosmopolis, Raymond, Ilwaco and
In chapter after chapter, they detail the work-
ers’ lives. Many jobs involved seasonal stop-
pages that left workers without income. When
they did work, their pay wasn’t commensurate
with the difficult and dangerous jobs they per-
formed. There were few protections in place
when injuries or even death occurred on the
And so the workers organized.
They held solidarity picnics and marches.
They organized classes, opened soup kitch-
ens, ran political campaigns and went on
strike, agitating to claim their due from
employers and establishment powers that
weren’t inclined to give it to them.
“Red” Finns, Communists, I.W.W. “Wob-
blies” and union activists found themselves
pitted against not only their employers,
but others in the community. Local news-
papers, politicians at both local and state
levels, a robust Ku Klux Klan and other
self-appointed and often violent enforc-
ers of the status quo were formidable
The authors share some of the fright-
ening stories of mob attacks on union
halls and murders of picketing workers
and labor organizers. They also point out
law enforcement’s often lackadaisical
response in seeking out and prosecuting
Still, the workers persevered, and
over time many of their efforts paid off.
They won victories in the form of
pay raises, hiring practices and safety
measures. The shingle weavers’ union
even won the remarkable concession
of a six-hour workday.
But much of the region’s history of radicalism has
faded with time, and the authors suggest that in the
intervening half century-plus, there has been a “wide-
spread practice of rewriting, distorting and sterilizing” –
of “whitening” the region’s Red history.
For example, the authors lament that in histori-
cally Red Coast counties, for the first time in over six
decades, those who were the grandchildren of Wobbly
immigrants voted “along with their bosses” for a Repub-
lican presidential candidate in 2016.
If readers wish to learn more about the Red Coast,
the authors provide a short but informative chapter on
a quartet of proletarian novels written by Grays Har-
bor writers who lived through that time and sympathized
with the workers’ causes.
“The Red Coast” may not be zippy reading, but it
does breathe life back into a turbulent and consequen-
The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who
writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors
and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at
PENINSULA SADDLE CLUB
74th Annual Long Beach
July 27 & 28, 2019 1:00 PM
Rodeo Parade Friday 6:30PM Downtown Long Beach
Family Night starts Saturday after Rodeo
Featuring Free Fun events for kids up to 12
Latigo & Lace Drill Team • Concessions • Mutton Busting
Rodeo Clown • Mechanical Bull • Beer Garden
Admission: PRESALE Adults $9.50 • Seniors $8.50 • Children (6-12) $4.50
Adults $10.00 • Seniors $9.00 • Children (6-12) $5.00 • Children (5 and under FREE)
Sunday- Military & First Responders get $1.00 off admission!
Sat. & Sun. 7 - 11 AM
6407 Sandridge Rd. Info: 1-800-451-2542
LONG BEACH, WA