Labor Review Centennial, 1907-2007
Labor Review's second ten years: editor defies injunction, goes to jail
From the Minneapolis Labor Review, April 19, 2007
By Steve Share, Labor Review editor
First published April 4, 1907, the Labor Review passed its 10th anniversary in April, 1917 with not one word of mention of the milestone. President Woodrow Wilson delivered his war message to Congress April 2, 1917. Four days, later, Congress passed the war resolution which brought the United States into World War I.
“Huge problems confront Labor in coming War,” a headline read in the April 6, 1917 Labor Review.
Labor Review editor Robley Cramer had been writing editorials advocating the cause of peace since he first became editor in 1915 (see “Beat the Tom-Toms,” published March 16, 1917).
Like many in the Labor movement, Cramer didn’t want to see American workers fighting German workers when they in fact shared a joint cause in battling for the interests of workers against the captains of industry.
April 20, 1917, the Labor Review editorialized: “With the shadow of war already settled upon the land, the American workers face the biggest tasks of patriotism that have ever confronted them.
“Shall the war (if war is here) be for democracy at home as well as abroad? Shall the United States engage in the war and conduct it and emerge from it with its citizens freer than they have ever been, with social and industrial justice more securely founded than they have ever been? Or will this critical and perilous period see democracy less secure, wealth and power in the hands of the few more concentrated, and the advance toward a truer civilization set back perhaps a generation?”
Along with the American Federation of Labor and its president, Samuel Gompers, Cramer and the Labor Review would now support the American workers sent to battle against the German Kaiser.
Back to the April 6, 1917 Labor Review (the un-noted 10th anniversary issue). The newspaper was an eight-page broadsheet. That issue featured 117 ads. Budd L. McKillips was listed as associate editor and prominent American radical Scott Nearing was listed as a contributing editor.
The newspaper wasn’t all about politics, war, strikes and bettering wages and working conditions, however. That April 6, 1917 issue also featured the “Official Schedule of the Trade Union Baseball League of Minneapolis.” The schedule listed 42 game dates and 84 games (for example, the Milk Wagon Drivers vs. Printers or Painters vs. Carpenters). The paper also ran “Union Baseball League Bylaws.”
The end of the war in 1918 brought demands by Minneapolis workers for improved wages, in recognition of their sacrifices for the war effort and in expectations of hoped-for prosperity with the war’s end (see story on 1918 telephone operators strike).
Minneapolis business interests, however, were organized as the “Citizens Alliance” and waged a relentless campaign against workers and their unions to defend the “open shop.” The Citizens Alliance used strikebreakers, intimidation — and the courts.
In July 1920, the Labor Review became the center of the fight against the Citizens Alliance when editor Cramer refused to abide by a court injunction to stop running calls for a boycott of the Wonderland Theatre, which had fired its union movie projectionists and replaced them with cheaper workers.
Ordered to pay fines or go to jail, Cramer and three officers of the Minneapolis Trades and Labor Assembly chose jail. Cramer and the three union officers went to the courthouse August 28, 1920 to turn themselves in — with 20,000 union members parading with them, accompanied by a marching union band.
Cramer and the others spent 63 days in the jailhouse. Cramer continued to edit the Labor Review from the jail, however, and the newspaper continued to urge readers not to patronize the Wonderland Theatre.
The Citizens Alliance tried to put the Labor Review out of business, writing advertisers and asking them to pull their ads. The Labor Review obtained a copy of the letter and published it, asking wasn’t the letter, too, calling for an illegal boycott?
Two years later, the Labor Review was championing candidates of the new Farmer- Labor Party as they began winning election to local and state office. The 1922 victories were led by the election of Farmer-Labor candidate Henrik Shipstead to the U.S. Senate.
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