Labor Review Centennial, 1907-2007
Beginning third decade, Labor Review charged ahead in protest and politics
From the Minneapolis Labor Review, May 24, 2007
By Steve Share, Labor Review editor
The Labor Review published a “Twentieth Anniversary Edition” April 9, 1926 — at the start of the newspaper’s 20th year. (At some point in time, the newspaper began counting anniversaries at the year’s end, just as we’re now marking the 100th anniversary in 2007).
Associate editor Budd L. McKillips wrote a front page feature telling the story of the Labor Review’s founding. Photos of the each of the four editors accompanied the story.
Robley D. Cramer then was beginning his 12th year as Labor Review editor. He wrote a front page story in the “Twentieth Anniversary Edition” attacking the head of the anti-union Citizens Alliance for a policy of “low wages and warfare on the unions.”
(More on the Labor Review’s battles with the Citizens Alliance below).
The “Twentieth Anniversary Edition” was an eight-page tabloid and included 107 ads, including congratulatory ads from Mayor George Leach and Hennepin County Attorney Floyd B. Olson.
An unsigned page one editorial celebrated the newspaper’s first 20 years as “Pioneering and Achieving.” The editorial read, in part, “throughout the years of its existence the Minneapolis Labor Review has sought to echo, as nearly as possible, the voice of the organized workers of the city… In every contest it has flung the full weight of its influence into the cause of those who toil.”
Over the next ten years, the Labor Review would throw its support to organizing campaigns, to strikes, and to the rising fortunes of the Farmer-Labor Party.
The Labor Review’s chief antagonist: the Citizens Alliance, a secretive anti-union business organization determined to maintain Minneapolis as an open shop town. The Labor Review exposed the Citizens Alliance’s influence in the city and the Citizens Alliance in turn worked to cut off the newspaper’s advertising base. (For more on this conflict, see link 1, link 2).
In 1936, a Citizens Alliance complaint led to a criminal indictment against editor Cramer for libel. (The Citizens Alliance, he wrote, was feeding “garbage” to the city’s jobless). After a protracted court battle, the charges were dropped.
Cramer, despite his sharp attacks on the Citizens Alliance and its president, O.P. Briggs, sometimes challenged his foe with a sense of humor. The Labor Review files include a copy of an extra strike edition of the newspaper, bearing in blue ink the imprint of a rubber stamp that reads: Citizens Alliance. File Copy. Not to be taken away.” And, handwritten in pencil, “For Mr. Briggs, complements of Bob Cramer.”
April 28, 1927 Cramer wrote to Briggs asking for a copy of the Citizens Alliance mailing list. The Citizens Alliance, Cramer wrote, had distorted a Labor Review story in a mailing to its members. Cramer offered to mail the Labor Review to Citizens Alliance members free of charge. “This would give the members of the Citizens Alliance the opportunity to read the paper, judge it, and interpret it for themselves.” (Cramer, of course, also no doubt wanted the list so he could expose the members of the Citizens Alliance by running the list in the newspaper!)
Come time for city and state elections, the Labor Review regularly ran front page editorials in the last few issues before voting day to warn readers to beware of last-minute Citizens Alliance “frame-ups” or attacks on Labor-endorsed candidates.
By the late 1920s, the Labor Review was squarley in the Farmer-Labor Party camp and urged readers to vote exclusively for Farmer-Labor candidates.
The newspaper ran notices of Farmer-Labor ward meetings and extensively covered the proceedings of local and state Farmer-Labor Party conventions. Farmer- Labor candidates at the highest levels — Senators, Congressmen Governors— sought Cramer’s counsel and enlisted him to make nominating speeches at conventions and serve on their campaign committees. Cramer became, in particular, a close advisor to Farmer-Laborite Floyd B. Olson, elected Governor in 1930.
In the 1932 election, the Labor Review focused so exclusively on local and state Farmer-Labor Party candidates that the newspaper scarcely mentioned Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt’s campaign for President or his resounding election.
“Olson Leads Farmer-Laborites to Victory” read the page one headline November 11, 1932. Not a word about Roosevelt on the front page. Inside, the paper continued to blast President Herbert Hoover but noted: “Changing presidents, however, does not change the fact that those who toil receive from a fifth to a seventh of what they produce. This must be remedied before there is any permanent depression cure. It will be interesting to watch how much Mr. Roosevelt does towards giving the workers the full product of their toil.” That was it: one word for Roosevelt.
Editor Cramer campaigned for Farmer-Labor Party candidates as a popular speaker at rallies and also on the radio.
While the Labor Review printed the remarks of many of the speakers at political or union events, the story would simply conclude, “R.D. Cramer also spoke.”
One of the local labor movement’s biggest events of the year was the annual Labor Day parade and picnic. The Labor Review reported detailed plans about the order local unions would march in the parade. The newspaper also listed all the games and activities that would be featured. In the late 1920s and into the 1930s, the Labor Day picnic was a mass event. “Throng more than 30,000 at Riverside,” a Labor Review headline ran September 5, 1930. That turn-out typified the era.
In 1936, however, the Central Labor Union Council postponed the Labor Day Picnic. Farmer-Labor Governor Floyd B. Olson, elected three times as governor, had quickly sickened that summer and died of cancer August 22.
For Olson’s funeral, the Labor Review reported, thousands of union members marched from their union halls to the new Minneapolis Post Office, then marched together to the Minneapolis Auditorium.
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