Labor Review Centennial, 1907-2007
In Labor Review's seventh decade, the labor movement responded to era's social movements and anti-war cause
From the Minneapolis Labor Review, September 20, 2007
By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor
Look through the pages of the Minneapolis Labor Review from 1967-1976 you’ll find many of the same national, state and local issues now appearing in this publication’s more recent pages. Growing opposition to the deployment of U.S. troops in an unending war abroad. A state legislative leader who pledges “no new taxes.” Discussion about building a new domed stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. A debate about whether and how the Hennepin County and Minneapolis public libraries might be merged.
Yet 1967-1976 also was a unique era: the baby boomers entered young adulthood and rocked the nation with new cultural ideas. The civil rights movement continued to press for gains for people of color. The women’s movement asserted equal rights for women. And a new environmental movement also was born in this time of social change.
The labor movement sometimes found itself leading change, sometimes resisting change and, in the end, the labor movement began to change with the times.
The Labor Review entered its seventh decade in 1967 with editor Iowerth Jones. Jones took the helm in 1964, following the retirement of Robley Cramer, the weekly newspaper’s editor from 1915-1963.
The newspaper had cut back from a weekly schedule at the time of Cramer’s retirement, due to a financial crunch, and the 1967 schedule saw the newspaper publishing sometimes twice a month, sometimes three times a month, sometimes weekly.
April 20, 1967 the Labor Review announced: “After 40 years at one address, Labor Review editorial and business offices will be at a new address next week.” The the newspaper would be leaving the Sexton Building at 529 S. 7th Street and moving to the Floyd B. Olson Memorial Labor Temple at 117 S.E. 4th St.
Two months later came the announcement that both Jones and Robert Gomsrud, the Central Labor Union Council president since 1961, would be leaving their positions. The June 22, 1967 issue was the last edition listing Jones as editor.
The newspaper continued publishing — without the naming of a new editor — until May 2, 1968, the first issue listing Ronald G. Cohen as editor.
Cohen had been a CLUC delegate for two years, representing Local 125 of the Postal Workers, and had been editor of his local’s newsletter, The Northern Light.
Cohen took over as Labor Review editor just right inbetween the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. The nation was in shock after the racial violence following King’s murder.
An editorial published April 11, 1968 asked, “will we respond with understanding and love, or with repression and hate?”
An earlier editorial published June 27, 1967 in response to urban racial violence declared: “Peace must be preserved but justice must also be served without delay. We have waited too long to include the Negro American in the American Dream and as a result, the so-called American Dream is rapidly becoming a nightmare.”
The Labor Review during this time reported national and local labor efforts to expand job opportunities for people of color but also reported how Building Trades unions were being charged with discrimination in the admission of minorities into apprentice programs.
In the case of gun control, national labor leaders’ liberal policies provoked a rank and file backlash.
June 27, 1968 the Labor Review reported a national AFL-CIO initiative urging a strong gun control law as “essential.”
A few weeks later, the newspaper reported a vote by Local 292 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers opposing any gun control legislation. The CLUC announced a hearing to consider Local 292’s resolution. “Gun Control Hearing Triggers Big Turnout, CLUC Meeting to Act,” read a headline August 8, 1968. Indeed, the CLUC followed IBEW Local 292’s lead and passed a resolution opposing gun control.
The year 1968 and the election pitted organized labor against a surge of more liberal, youthful activists in the DFL Party (see Ron Cohen’s account).
In 1969, the CLUC endorsed a Republican candidate for mayor of Minneapolis and in 1971 endorsed Independent Charles Stenvig over the DFL candidate.
At the national level, the labor-liberal split in 1972 led to AFL-CIO president George Meany refusing to allow the federation to endorse Democratic candidate George McGovern for President. (When the Colorado Labor Council endorsed McGovern, Meany went so far as to put that state federation into trusteeship and remove its officers).
Curiously, the growing movement for women’s equality emerged at the same time that the Labor Review prominently featured the annual “Miss Union Maid” contest. Local unions nominated Queen candidates, ages 17-24, who must be a union member or daughter of a member. For many years during this era, the winner of the “Miss Union Maid” contest was announced before the Twins game at Metropolitan Stadium on Labor Day.
In addition to running page one photos of the “Miss Union Maid” contestants, the Labor Review also regularly ran photos of union women in bikinis.
With the February 14, 1975 issue, 24-year old Richard Viets became editor. He began reporting extensively on the activities of the Coalition for Labor Union Women and their campaigns for daycare and equal pay for equal work.
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