Labor Review Centennial, 1907-2007
The Labor Review's tenth decade: Longtime editor Wally Nelson retires, newspaper goes monthly, launches
From the Minneapolis Labor Review, December 20, 2007
Part 10 of a 10-Part Series
By Steve Share, Labor Review editor
The Minneapolis Labor Review began its tenth decade in 1997 following a familiar schedule publishing two times a month. Wally Nelson, editor since 1978, would serve in that position until 2003 — making him the newspaper’s second-longest serving editor.
(No one will ever match the longevity of Robley D. Cramer, who served as Labor Review editor from 1915-1963).
In the ten years leading up to the newspaper’s 100th anniversary, the publication would undergo several changes and face the questions of how a printed newspaper can survive in the digital age.
Rising newsprint costs forced a continuing reduction in the size of the newspaper page: from a page 11 inches wide by 16-1/2 inches high, to a page 11 inches wide by 13 inches high, and — after additional changes — to a page today 11 inches wide by 12 inches high.
In January 1998, the newspaper also found itself scrambling to find a union printer when the Anoka Shopper — which printed the Labor Review with a union-run press — shut down its web press and moved to a non-union printer.
February 25, 1998 the newspaper issued an apology: “The last issue of the Labor Review was printed without the printer’s bug while arrangements were being made with the Allied Printing Trades Council to secure the Allied printing bug, Minneapolis M-22, which is now proudly displayed in this paper on page 3.”
Printed since February 25, 1998 at the Star Tribune, the M-22 bug continues to appear in the Labor Review.
Along with rising printing costs, rising postage costs continue to challenge the Labor Review. Postage rates have increased, exacerbated by an exodus of union members from the city to the suburbs. Postal Service bulk rates provide nearly a 50 percent savings for copies mailed to addresses inside Hennepin County compared to copies mailed outside Hennepin County — provided that the majority of copies are mailed to Hennepin County.
At some point, likely in the next very few years, that in-county discount will be lost forever and the Labor Review could face an immediate doubling of its postage costs (postage currently averages nearly $7,000 per month, thanks to the latest July 2007 postal rate increase).
Labor Review circulation continues to grow — thanks to increasing labor union affiliation with the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council.
In October 1998, the Labor Review published an annual statement reporting that an average of 56,656 copies had been mailed in the previous 12 months.
During this 100th anniversary year for the Labor Review, the newspaper has been mailing more than 68,000 copies each month — a 20 percent increase in circulation in just under 10 years.
A change in editors
In 2003, Wally Nelson retired after serving 25 years as Labor Review editor. The newspaper’s 96th anniversary issue, published May 21, 2003, was Nelson’s last issue as editor.
At the time of Nelson’s retirement, CLUC president Bill McCarthy implemented a major change for the Labor Review — he cut the publication schedule from twice a month to once a month, shifted per capita payments from the newspaper to the CLUC’s political program, and thus secured funds to hire additional political organizers.
For Nelson’s replacement, the CLUC hired Dania Rajendra, a Macalester College graduate who had served as an interim editor of the St. Paul Union Advocate. She produced four issues of the Labor Review from June through September 2003 and then resigned.
The writer became Labor Review editor with the October 2003 issue.
Shortly after I arrived, union donations and union volunteers helped to realize a dream envisioned by retiring editor Wally Nelson: to create on online digital archive of all back issues of the Labor Review.
The archive is and will be an amazing resource for anyone researching labor history.
For these past ten issues of the Labor Review, I’ve truly enjoyed pouring through our back issues and accessing the online archive to reproduce stories, photos and graphics. I hope, perhaps, you’ve been inspired to do your own research on your own union or explore a topic that interests you.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this 10-part history of the Minneapolis Labor Review. In this installment, I’ve focused more on the history of the newspaper itself than on the times.
These past ten years saw the death of labor champion Paul Wellstone, the increasing economic dislocations caused by so-called free trade, and an unrelenting assault on the right to organize unions by corporations and their backers in government.
The American labor movement fractured at the national level in 2005 with the split of the Change to Win Federation from the AFL-CIO. Locally, however, we’ve continued to find a high degree of cooperation between locals of the rival federations.
During this ten-part series, I’ve only skimmed the surface of a 100-year struggle by working men and women seeking social and economic justice through their unions and through political action.
As editor during this 100th anniversary year, I wonder about the future of the Labor Review: Will there be a 150th anniversary? Or even a 125th anniversary? A 110th?
Readers: what do you think?
From the time the Labor Review goes to press until it arrives in your mailbox, an entire week has passed. Meanwhile, I can post a story on our website within moments after writing it. In this era of the internet and e-mail, what is the future of the Labor Review?
I invite you to share your thoughts:
312 Central Ave. Suite 542
Minneapolis, MN 55414
back to top