Labor Review Centennial, 1907-2007
The Labor Review's eighth decade: a lagging economy brings mass rallies for jobs and against 'Reaganomics'
From the Minneapolis Labor Review, October 18, 2007
Part 8 of a 10-Part Series
By Steve Share, Labor Review editor
The Minneapolis Labor Review passed the 70-year mark with its April 8, 1977 issue. That issue was an eight-page tabloid and featured full-page ads from Plywood Minnesota, First Bank, and Northwestern National Bank (now known as Home Valu Interiors, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo).
The editor was Richard Viets, who took charge two years earlier as a 24-year-old. Viets came to the Labor Review from the Pine City, Minnesota Pioneer, where he was editor and publisher. When Viets was hired, the Labor Review assured readers February 14, 1975 that their new editor “has previous experience with the Twin Cities labor movement.” While a student at Macalester College, Viets had worked for both the Labor Review and the St. Paul Union Advocate.
Leonard B. Peterson was advertising manager for the Labor Review. His work showed in the 184 ads running in the 16-page May 20, 1977 issue, which officially celebrated the newspaper’s 70th birthday.
An ad from U.S. Senator Hubert Humphrey offered a special tribute: “I am pleased to salute the Minneapolis Labor Review on its 70th anniversary. It is to be commended for its deligent [sic] efforts in presenting issues, advancing causes and always seeking to keep America strong.”
(Humphrey, one of Minnesota labor’s foremost political heroes, would die in office in January 13, 1978).
That 70th anniversary issue also ran ads from many, many other elected officials — some still serving in office today (although they look much younger in those now 30-year old photos).
Virgil Moline, then president of the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council, wrote a column each issue, “Moline speaks out.” He had this to say about the 70th anniversary of the Labor Review:
“Through thick and thin, with the fortunes of the union movement, the Labor Review has always been there, to help further the cause.
“Especially during election time, when the political battle is so important to all of us, the Labor Review is our means of informing voters in the unions who are labor’s friends.
“Another special way that the newspaper has been useful is because it is a local publication, locally controlled, especially responsive to local needs of the labor movement.
“And we must continue to be heard, speaking out on issues and fighting for the welfare of the working people in the Minneapolis area.”
Renewed interest in labor history
Along with the Labor Review 70th anniversary in 1977 came a renewed interest in labor history. In 1977, the CLUC secured a $30,000 grant through the federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act to create and produce a play about the “Minneapolis Labor Wars” of the 1930s. The grant provided for the hiring of three staff — playwright Mark Lynch and two writer-researchers, Wally Nelson and Mike Cannon.
The play was completed and scheduled for production in fall 1978 — but never was staged. According to one source who was present at the time, CLUC president Virgil Moline wanted to see the play performed on the Guthrie Theatre’s main stage. The Guthrie offered another venue, the Guthrie Lab stage, but Moline refused. Playwright Lynch was incensed, the source reported recently, and he quarreled with Moline about who had the rights to the script. (If any readers might have a copy of the script or know who has one, please contact the Labor Review office).
A new editor: Wallace Nelson
While the CETA-funded project didn’t result in staging of the play, it did bring the Labor Review a new editor: Wally Nelson.
In fall 1978, Labor Review editor Richard Viets took a leave of absence to work full-time on DFLer Don Fraser’s U.S. Senate campaign. (Fraser would lose the race).
Nelson, who had worked on the CETA project as a writer and researcher, became associate editor during Viets’ leave. When Viets ultimately resigned as editor October 5, 1978, Nelson was hired to replace him.
The first issue listing Nelson as editor was dated December 1, 1978. He would continue as editor for nearly 25 years.
Labor leadership, political leadership
Virgil Moline, who came out of Building Services Local 63, was elected CLUC president in a surprise election result in 1973. He became a leader not just in the local labor movement but also a prominent community-wide leader.
Moline was elected the 1979 President of the Minneapolis Area United Way. As the Labor Review observed February 16, 1979: “This is the first time that a labor leader has held that position in any major city in the U.S.”
Moline resigned as CLUC president in 1985 and was succeeded by Bob Lindahl from City Employees Local 363 after a run-off election August 28, 1985.
November 22, 1985 the Labor Review reported: “If you have spent longer than five minutes around the new CLUC President, Bob Lindahl, you have heard him say, “all the rest of this stuff is BALONEY — it boils down to one thing — POLITICS!”
With Lindahl as CLUC president and Nelson as editor, the Labor Review took its role promoting labor-endorsed candidates to new levels. In the 1986 campaign, for example, a photo of Governor Rudy Perpich filled the newspaper’s entire front page September 5, 1986.
DFLer Perpich, who reclaimed the Governor’s office in 1982 after losing it in the 1978 DFL debacle, was re-elected in 1986.
The Labor Review celebrated with the November 7, 1986 front page devoted entirely to photos of Perpich and other winning Labor-endorsed candidates. “Winning is everything,” read a page one quote from CLUC president Lindahl.
The eight years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, 1980-1988, brought high unemployment, cuts in social services, and anti-union federal policies — all reported in the Labor Review.
The newspaper also reported Labor’s response: thousands of workers turning out for protest rallies in numbers not seen in years.
When Reagan fired striking federal air traffic controllers, the Labor Review used the entire front page of the August 14, 1981 issue to reproduce candidate Reagan’s letter thanking the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) for their endorsement and pledging his support in return.
A Solidarity Rally in support of PATCO drew 400,000 union members to Washington, D.C. September 19, 1981. The Labor Review noted, “400 union members from Minnesota made the long trip to Washington by bus to participate in the event.” The Minnesota delegation, the newspaper reported, was the largest state delegation west of the Mississippi.
A few months later, the Labor Review reported, 2,500 union members and allies turned out for a January 19, 1982 “Rally for Full Employment” at the Minnesota State Capitol.
Four years later, the Labor Review reported, “over 2,500 workers rallied on the steps of the Capitol March 15 to protest legislation to slash unemployment insurance benefits and to support Gov. Rudy Perpich’s pledge to veto any unfair bill.”
Rising postage costs bring cuts
One lasting legacy of the Reagan era: rising postage rates forced the Labor Review to substantially reduce its frequency of publication. In 1977, the newspaper published the first three Fridays each month (36 issues per year). After 1980, the publication schedule was cut to two times per month.
“Postal rates threaten labor papers” read a June 12, 1981 headline. The story continued: “The estimated cost increase for mailing the Minneapolis Labor Review will go from $1,250 per issue to over $2,000.” Since then, Labor Review postage costs have more than tripled.
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