Japan

When Violent Union Dislike for Affordable Food Nearly Led to War with Japan

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Fascinating and news-to-me history I came across today that reminds us that thuggish opposition to people who can outcompete existing businesses in price and/or consumer happiness is timeless (and alas continuing, as see the world of Uber and its competitors for one example) and that it once almost led to a violent international incident, from the Eccentricculinary.com site.

Seems turn-of-the-20th-century Japanese immigrant-run restaurants were outcompeting locals with good 10 cent meals. This obviously could not long stand while a proud union man draws breath:

Local 485 of the Waiters and Cooks Union [in Spokane] In 1902….organized a boycott of a ten-cent Japanese restaurant run by a Mr. K. Takahashi. Unfortunately, it was an imperfect tactic, one that did not succeed, mainly because it was hard for workingmen to turn down a cheap meal. So hard, that the union had to institute a $2.50 fine for any member caught entering a Japanese restaurant.

But there were some successes. In 1907, unions and American restaurant owners succeeded in convincing the Seattle city council to mandate a fifteen cent minimum price for a meal, erasing part of the Japanese price advantage….

And in San Francisco, in December of 1906, unions conspired…to get Japanese children banned from public schools.

On May 20, 1907, however, things blew up. A group of union men caught four of their fellow unionists eating at the ten-cent Horseshoe Restaurant at 1213 Folsom Street. Beatings were handed out to the two men who were foolish enough to exit the restaurant through the front door….

When the police declined an invitation to become involved, the fun spread to a Japanese bathhouse across the street. The demonstrations resumed again the next night, with less vigor, and four more nights after that….

For Washington, however, the most important thing happening in San Francisco was that the trashing of the Horseshoe had become an international incident.

Over the coming weeks, newspapers in both countries, including William Randoph Hearst's San Francisco Examiner, whipped up the war frenzy. Opposition politicians in Tokyo called for war, while a group of high-ranking Japanese officers argued they could defeat the Americans in the Pacific (and probably could have).

Teddy Roosevelt dispatched special commissioners to investigate, and theGreat White Fleet to intimidate. It worked. The Japanese had second thoughts about war, and racial and labor tensions were calmed for a few years.

If you can eat affordable ethnic food in your town, thank labor unions, I guess, for failing to completely destroy them for all time, despite their efforts.

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  1. If you can’t beat’em, scratch’em…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJXk4A-HGlM

    1. The metaphor that makes all other metaphors crawl in a corner and suck their thumb.

    2. apropos

      the question is, will this man’s future dental bills/reconstructive work be greater than 10K? this is why nationalized health is a bad idea. people dont consider the costs associated with risky behavior.

  2. Teddy Roosevelt dispatched special commissioners to investigate, and theGreat White Fleet to intimidate. It worked. The Japanese had second thoughts about war, and racial and labor tensions were calmed for a few years.

    Well, there was also the Gentlemen’s Agreement.

    Roosevelt had a way of getting things he wanted outside normal legal channels. The Progressives’ Progressive.

  3. When the police declined an invitation to become involved…

    THIS IS WHAT LIBERTARIANS WANT. The China-men should have suggested to the po-po there were drugs involved in the situation. MRAP’s ho!

    1. That weren’t no opium addled China-men, consarn it! It was them sneaky Nipponese!

      /hawks, spits, resumes marching with protest sign

  4. If only Truman or Eisenhower had given the Japanese internees a large housing program and lots of free shit after WWII then Japanese-Americans would be in much better shape.

  5. It didn’t take long after this that a war in the Pacific did happen. I guess when you experience a culture through thuggery, joining forces against it’s the logical course.

    1. You do know that the cause of the War in the Pacific was the Japanese invading China and that before this incident Japan had already been at war with China and Russia over Korea?

      1. True, though things like the story gave the imperialists things to point at, adding to their ascendancy.

        1. “We must seize Manchuria from China, and rape the shit out of anything we can…because America!”

          /Imperial Navy

      2. You do know the Japanese had been happily isolated because they saw what the Europeans had been doing to Asia ever since the Spanish took over the Philippines, and they embarked on their own colonial expansionism only after the Americans forced them to open up? The foolish little yellow slant-eyes somehow thought aping white man colonialism would bring them membership in the big boys club. Ha ha we fooled them!

  6. Yes, what union members did over 100 years ago is completely relevant to political affairs today. I don’t understand why people here are so rabidly anti-union. Even if union members don’t always see things this way the labor union is the perfect free market tool to empower workers. A contract is signed between the employees and the employer, there is no use of force, there is no state action against worker or business, the issue of wages and other compensation is settled through voluntary association. To every fool calling for a $15 minimum wage I say let the workers organize rather than call upon the state to solve our problems. If fast food workers want a higher wage let them negotiate a wage that their employers can afford to pay them rather than a flat national minimum wage that makes no economic sense.

    1. For the most part nobody here in my experience is anti-union in principle. People have the right to freely associate with each other, to form voluntary organizations for mutual benefit, and to freely enter into contracts, whether bargained individually or collectively. What most of us object to is compulsory union membership, forcing employers to negotiate with the unions through the power of government, and the like. Unions have managed to get a number of exceptions for themselves carved into law that grossly violate the freedom of association and have in the very recent past used intimidation, even outright force, to get their members (and non-members) to comply. Therein lies the problem many of us have with unions. Hope that helps.

      1. For the most part nobody here in my experience is anti-union in principle

        Does ‘in principle’ exclude emnity from being forced to join the most broken, bumbling union in the history of New York state? Oh wait, that’s not principle, that’s experience. Carry on.

      2. “Yes, what union members did over 100 years ago is completely relevant to political affairs today.”

        See below links to recent $15 laws in Seattle and NY. If you don’t see the relevance….

        “For the most part nobody here in my experience is anti-union in principle”

        I am, provided they are public employees, in which case I think the state should be prevented from engaging in a symbiotic system of taxpayer extortion with their union employees.

        i.e. ” let them negotiate a wage that their employers can afford to pay “

        The ’employers’ (politicians) are hired by the unions in a reverse-market arrangement.

        The ‘management’ then uses their political influence to push for revenue-generating taxes in any area humanly possible to provide for the liquidity needed to increase the union’s benefits.

        These ‘costs’ are often imposed in areas completely unrelated to the performance of the unions or the value of the services they provide.

        There is no “negotiation”. The unions do not offer anything in exchanged for their steadily-increased benefits except the promise to keep providing their political lackeys the votes they need to stay in office.

        Private-sector unions i’m less absolutist about, but they can have problems too, depending on the degree their industry becomes similarly politically-protected.

        1. Good points, but don’t public sector employees have the same freedom of association as private sector workers? Voters have an obligation to hold politicians responsible for the contacts they sign with unions. I know it’s not working that will in practice but that would be the ideal.

          1. don’t public sector employees have the same freedom of association as private sector workers?

            Sure, and in a world where employers had the same freedom of association, I wouldn’t care if anyone unionized.

            But, employers don’t have any choice. They are forced to associate with unions by law. If you exercise your freedom of association to deny me mine, well, fuck you.

            I would have no problem with pubsecs unionizing, as long as governments were prohibited from collective bargaining with unions.

        2. Private-sector unions are narrow government agencies. They are certified by NLRB and hold monopolistic rights to control some labor pricing and business practices for a specific business or industry. They exact taxes from their members in the form of dues. The business cannot decline to participate by exercising its freedom to contract or right to property – other than by closing the unionized operation.

          In other words, the union rolls in and stakes a claim, the employees get to vote, the feds certify the result, and the actual business managers and owners do not get to make the decision. Although many companies are at peace with their unions today, and some even allow or encourage unionization, this cooperation is at best very secondary.

          Public-sector unions are a serious conflict of interest, but there is no libertarian principle at stake beyond the corruption of cushy jobs and overgenerous payments and kickbacks. But private-sector employers ought to be able to decide whether their business can use the free market to hire and manage employees, or should be shackled to a single arbiter of employee relations. The fact that companies do not generally receive payments in exchange for unionization drives should show how little employer consent is typically valued in a certification fight.

          Private-sector unions certainly aren’t evil. But they are definitely government agencies.

    2. Then there are always the intimidation tactics so beloved of many labour unions. “Nice bakery you have here. It’d be a pity if something was to happen to it…”

    3. They were still tossing caltrops at the vehicle entrances to the workplaces they were striking as late as the 90s.

      And they still intimidate those who refuse to join the strikes.

      1. I’m not seeing a lot of that where I’m at. I work for a refractory company gunning furnaces inside a steel mill in Indiana. It used to be a closed shop but since the right to work law was passed we’ve got a few non-union guys here as well. They’re not being bothered, but things may be different elsewhere.

      2. I’m not seeing a lot of that where I’m at. I work for a refractory company gunning furnaces inside a steel mill in Indiana. It used to be a closed shop but since the right to work law was passed we’ve got a few non-union guys here as well. They’re not being bothered, but things may be different elsewhere.

      3. I’m not seeing a lot of that where I’m at. I work for a refractory company gunning furnaces inside a steel mill in Indiana. It used to be a closed shop but since the right to work law was passed we’ve got a few non-union guys here as well. They’re not being bothered, but things may be different elsewhere.

        1. Damn squirrels.

        2. You protest too much.

    4. A certified union is a quasi-governmental agency. It is certified by the NLRB, it holds elections, it has a monopoly over certain decisions, it can call upon the bureaucracy, courts and law enforcement agencies to enforce its decisions, and it often has the power to collect taxes in the form of dues. It’s not a private contract, because the employer can’t decline to participate and the shareholders can’t elect out of it, only the employees can.

      Voluntary groups of workers, as in employees who join a professional association or trade group, are not coercive. But then, they typically don’t act as cartels unless the government enforces their licensure requirements to exclude people from the profession. When they try to act as cartels without government force, the employer will try to hire non-member workers or lower-paid workers, neither of which a union can easily stomach. Eventually, the union members (like those mentioned in this article) have to defect against the cartel, because it’s a better alternative for them personally (e.g. better to eat low-priced meal than overpay, or better to work for half-pay than none).

      So the way a union works is coercion. The way certified unions operate today is through the government, which allows workers the choice to vote that a business can no longer engage in a free market for labor services.

      A voluntary union is a trade group. A certified union is a government-enforced miniature cartel.

  7. If you can eat affordable ethnic food in your town

    I can’t. I can’t even go to A food truck with a sense of humor because of the state I’m in. Forget brick and mortar establishments with the property taxes and the compliance costs.

    1. “Wandering Dago”?

      Epi made it all the way out to your state?!

      *rimshot*

      1. “Wandering Dago”?

        He and Rufus are good friends. They go to the same meatball store..

  8. Sounds like some serious business to me dude.

    http://www.Total-Privacy.tk

  9. OT: Hey, looks like Hillary’s server folks has Swiss contacts! http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/se…..m/41611378

    *another rimshot*

  10. Once again reminding us why we have a problem with border control now: the Braceros program that made it possible for Mexicans to easily and legally find employment in the US was killed by LBJ.

  11. “In 1907, unions and American restaurant owners succeeded in convincing the Seattle city council to mandate a fifteen cent minimum price for a meal”

    Something about this sounds so familiar

  12. It’s nice to know Seattle hasn’t really changed.

  13. Ya gotta love the first caption in the linked article:

    To get to 84 James Street, you had to almost literally walk by this: Jacob Riis’s famous ‘Bandits’ Roost’ was taken in 1888 at 59 1/2 Mulberry St, the notorious Mulberry Bend in the heart of Five Points, about 200 yards from 84 James Street. Riis’s collection of photos of abject poverty so moved the people of New York to act, that in 1896 the entire area was demolished and converted into Columbus Park.

    “Oh, the plight of those poor people! We must do something! Let’s demolish their housing and create a park!”

  14. Unions marinated in overt racism for decades on end.

    Yet, oddly, none of the usual racialist predators have gone after them, even though they are still pushing for “reparations” for wrongs done 150 years ago.

    Principals, not principles.

  15. I guess that’s what they mean by “If goods don’t cross borders, armies will”

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