Shelf Life Community Story Project
Amplifying community voices, learning from neighborhood stories, and interrupting narratives of erasure in Seattle's Central District.

A Shit-in at SeaTac

Photo by Jill Freidberg

Photo by Jill Freidberg

Michael Fox worked as a civil rights lawyer, in the Central District, for decades. He worked with Tyree Scott and the United Construction Workers Association as well as with LELO ( Northwest Labor and Employment Law Office). 

Michael Fox

There was a huge remodeling of the SeaTac airport going on in 1969, and this I remember vividly because I went down to the  jail to help get people out of jail who were all arrested at SeaTac. And there were more than 100 people arrested. What happened at SeaTac was a variety of tactics. For example the most dramatic thing that they did is somehow, I don't know how many workers but more than 50, got out on the tarmac, linked arms together, and ran up and down the runway. Planes were diverted from Seattle to Portland, so the airport was in effect shut down. 

Another event that occurred was called a Shit In, and what they did is these construction workers went into the men's room and all sat down in the stalls and just stayed there, so nobody could use any of the stalls, so there were people frantic about to get on a flight, need to go to the john, and the bathrooms were incapacitated. 

Several other workers went to the ticket lines and got in the lines and got up front and said, "Well, I'd like to by a ticket to go to Dallas, and then from Dallas to Mexico City, and from Mexico City to Rio De Janeiro, and from Rio de Janeiro to Cape Town, South Africa." And the people are writing these things down, and then they get to the end of this request for this ticket to be prepared, and they say, "By the way, how many blacks do you have working on this construction project here?" So they'd say, "I dunno." "Well then forget the whole thing, it's a racist airport. I don't wanna fly out of here." In the meantime, the lines for people getting tickets is extending out. 

So there were more than 100 people arrested at that, and I think that was in September, 1969, or maybe October. But these type of job actions were taking place all over town, and this was the big movement, in the Seattle area, expanding employment opportunities for African Americans in the skilled and well-paying construction industry.