Seattle's CIO Radio: Reports from Labor
Jerry Tyler and Labor Radio - part 2

   [Jerry Tyler--An Activist Life]     [Jerry Tyler Photos]    

On the air
"Trudy" Strong Kirkwood and Jerry Tyler (center), and Paul Robeson (right).

 

Listen to selected 10 minute broadcasts of Reports from Labor (courtesy Ronald Magden):

 

December 3, 1948: Marine Cooks and Stewards Union and ILWU celebrate victory in the 95-day Maritime strike; interviews rank and file members (pdf transcript)


 

November 7, 1949: Show focuses on unemployment insurance; Interview with unemployed worker (pdf transcript)


 

May 2, 1950: Tyler examines the Red Scare and CIO expulsion of the leftwing United Electrical Workers Union (pdf transcript)


 

May 11, 1950: Show about the Alaska Cannery Workers strike; interviews Ernesto Mangaoang, Local 7 leader. (pdf transcript)


 

July 11, 1950: Atomic bombs, nuclear terror, and Cold War tensions (pdf transcript)


 

August 1, 1950: Show describes gill netting on the Columbia River with the Fisherman's Union (pdf transcript)


 

October 5, 1950: Highlights Group Health medical clinic, need for national health insurance, and medical lobby that blocks it (pdf transcript)


 

Paul Robeson sings "Far and Wide"


 

Paul Robeson sings "The Ballad of Joe Hill"


 

Transcripts of all of Tyler's weekly radio broadcasts are preserved in the Jerry Tyler Collection, University of Washington Special Collections. Accession number 5553-001.

 

by Leo Baunach

Reports from Labor was a fifteen-minute, biweekly labor radio show that aired in Seattle between July 1948 and October 1950, making it a rare pro-labor voice during difficult times for working people and progressive politics. Transcripts for almost every show are preserved at the University of Washington Libraries, and form the basis of this essay.

The program began as a tactical tool during the maritime strike of 1948 and then grew to become a dynamic source of news and progressive viewpoints for the working people of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Host Jerry Tyler’s commentary on topics like the Taft-Hartley Act, the Hawaii International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) strike, fair housing, and his constant coverage of Seattle unions provided an alternative to the corporate dominated mediascape of the late 1940s.

The show’s greatest strength was its effort to bring the voices of workers directly to the airwaves. Unfiltered interviews and broadcasts from union halls provided a rare window into the everyday lives of workers and their unions, embodying community unionism and going beyond the initial goals of the show to build public sympathy during labor disputes. In a reactionary era of intense anti-communism, Reports from Labor faced censorship from station managers and was forced off the air because of the show’s controversial nature. Though its run was brief, the program possibly reached 20,000 people every week and was an atypical attempt to challenge the dominant narratives of anti-communism and American prosperity by bringing working class politics and culture to the mass media.[1]

In the 1930s and 1940s, radio reached an unprecedented number of people, becoming a key point of cultural reference and formation. Recognizing the inestimable importance of radio in reaching the masses and shaping opinion, unions made repeated attempts to harness its power. The American Federation of Labor (AFL)-affiliated Chicago Federation of Labor launched its own station in the 1920s and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) began using spot announcements to aid organizing campaigns soon after the organization’s foundation.[2]

By 1939, the CIO’s Committee on Press and Publicity concluded that for a union, the “most effective means of reaching its own members and the public is radio.”[3] This concerted attempt to forge working class consciousness through radio represented a direct threat to the emerging paradigm of corporate media, and threatened the interests of businesses who found themselves the targets of on-air criticism. In response, the National Association of Broadcasters, the main radio industry organization, passed a restrictive code in the 1939 that barred controversial topics. This effectively removed union access to the air by providing local stations a legal guise to cut off the ability of labor to buy and produce segments.

The CIO was well aware of radio’s potential in organizing, mobilizing and contesting the claims of employers, and immediately launched an aggressive campaign to regain access. The effort continued until 1943, when pressure on the Federal Communications Commission led to a series of decisions that undermined the anti-labor implementation of the code. The CIO took full advantage of these decisions, leveraging them to regain the ability to pay stations to air programs made by the unions.

Along with gaining access to radio, the CIO developed a sophisticated set of strategies to use the media to reinforce the organization’s fundamental goals. The CIO was built on a rejection of narrow forms of organizing that focused solely on the workplace and specific crafts. Instead, the CIO advocated industry-wide mobilization and building ties with the community; thereby fighting attempts by employers to divide-and-conquer their workforce. Cultural historian Michael Denning argues that the “CIO’s culture of unity was built on leisure and recreation, sponsoring labor radio stations, picnics, summer camps, softball teams” and other methods of labor association beyond the workplace.[4] This program of community unionism that built working class unity through cultural activities was reflected in the directives of various CIO radio manuals. Organizer Ben Segal advised that labor shows let “ordinary workers tell ordinary stories in their own language,” and William Friedland of the Michigan Radio Council called for engaging, listenable shows that were produced by the rank and file. He also advocated that producers pay close attention to local issues, an approach pioneered by United Auto Workers programs that profiled different shop floors and locals every week.[5] The development of authentic, effective labor radio was inseparable from the wider efforts of the education departments of CIO unions to better involve members and give them a lasting, politicized commitment to industrial and community unionism.

Efforts to build a militant labor movement reached a new height in 1946 as a wave of post-war strikes sent a strong message to corporate America. The back and forth battle for access to radio continued, reaching another point of intensification as businesses increased their public relations budgets and leveraged their position as advertisers to pressure stations to remove labor programs from the air.[6] Meanwhile, the CIO continued to encourage local unions to band together and form radio councils as part of the wider strategy to slow the onslaught of corporate pressure that manifested in the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. [7] Red-baiting became an increasingly common tactic to push pro-labor voices off the air, beginning with an investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1945 that forced several New York commentators from their positions.[8]

The effects of this onslaught, in which radio became a critical terrain of struggle, can be seen throughout the Northwest. In 1944, there were pro-labor shows in Aberdeen, Everett, Bellingham, Vancouver and Longview. Howard Costigan, of the progressive Washington Pension Union (WPU), hosted a show beginning around 1942 that aired on corporate-owned networks across Washington State.[9] Costigan’s broadcast and other WPU radio spots aired across most of the state and became an effective tool to bring people together for discussion and planning of WPU campaigns, which were often conducted in coordination with the CIO. Reflecting the broader anti-labor national trend, these programs disappeared from the air by 1947. [10]

Strike Radio

Jerry Tyler emerged as an important and exceptional voice in this increasingly hostile environment. Initially, Reports from Labor was a short program sponsored by the major maritime and longshore unions in the lead-up to the seminal strike of 1948. The program was intended to deliver a multiple front challenge against waterfront employers on air as well as on the picket line. This was a strategic move focused on winning public opinion and preventing the unions from being isolated during the fight. Tyler found clever ways to build solidarity between workers and the public, cutting through the corporate distortions that the public usually heard on the radio or read in the press. This use of the radio as a pillar of union outreach and public education in Seattle was a strategy that built on the experience of previous progressive radio in the region and CIO radio in other parts of the nation.

Reports from Labor premiered on July 12, 1948 as a modest, ten-minute segment on KING AM 1090, sponsored by the National Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards (NUMCS). Other members of the Northwest Joint Action Committee, a grouping of eight maritime unions that included the ILWU, began to sponsor the show in the following weeks. The Waterfront Employer’s Association (WEA) refused to move on core contract issues and in June, President Truman executed the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act to prevent the unions from striking before September 1st. At the time, Tyler was a member of the MCS, the vice-chairman of the Northwest Joint Action Committee and the secretary of the CIO’s Seattle Industrial Trade Union Council. He previously served as publicity chair during the 1946 waterfront strike, which involved many of the same waterfront unions. Thus, he became a natural choice to serve as host and lead organizer of a maritime radio program that could fight the WEA’s public relations machine, which held sway over major newspapers and published the WEA Shoreshide Report, a periodical created for the express purpose of attacking the maritime hiring halls. [11]

Tyler spoke on behalf of a group of unions that were systematically maligned as communist-dominated and greedy. He attempted to shift the discourse by depicting the maritime and longshore union members as hard-working, reasonable, and committed to fairness. In its early months, Reports from Labor sought to make clear the demands and perspectives of the unions and even mobilize listeners to put pressure on the employers through a letter-writing campaign.[12] The contrast between the glorification of maritime and longshore workers during World War II and their degrading work conditions in the late 1940s was the theme of the first broadcast, and on subsequent programs Tyler continued to find ways to demonstrate the reasonable nature of the worker’s demands. These shows also took an educational tone, presenting the history of the maritime unions, the consequences of the Taft-Hartley Act, and the pernicious power of the National Association of Manufacturers as strategies to tell the deeper story behind the demands for increases in wages and benefits.[13] Tyler was particularly effective at telling stories of the everyday lives of waterfront workers to build public sympathy for the union membership. In August 1948, he devoted part of the show to describe the MCS fictive kin practice of holding Christmas parties in their union halls for members who were not in their homeports.[14]

The mission of Reports from Labor to build a positive image of the unions and articulate their demands became all the more urgent as the federal injunction ended and the unions launched a coast-wide strike in September 1948. Tyler stressed that his show was the only reliable and authorized place to hear the positions of the Northwest Joint Action Committee and used several broadcasts to respond to the claims made by the WEA and their pro-employer allies in the press.[15] In the words of Tyler, “this radio program is a very handy gadget. It is through this broadcast that you are able to get our side of the story. And it is over this broadcast that we are able to bust the shipowner’s propaganda balloons.”[16] This was effective but also controversial, evidenced by Reports from Labor moving to independent station KOL just two weeks after the 1948 strike began. The successful strike lasted until the beginning of December. As news of the favorable settlement broke, Tyler headed to the meeting hall of the Seattle branches of the ILWU and MCS, where he broadcasted member reactions in what would become one of his proudest on-air moments.[17]

Local Labor News

The program’s usefulness during the strike demonstrated the enormous potential of labor radio, motivating Tyler to use his position as secretary of the Seattle Industrial Trade Union Council to mobilize other local unions for a permanent program. At the end of 1948, Tyler moved quickly to gather sponsors and create a new format that would primarily be an open venue to help unions follow in the steps of the maritime unions and use the radio help bolster their negotiating position, strengthen strikes and win other disputes with employers. The Northwest Joint Action Committee agreed to fund the program until February 1949 and Tyler formed the ‘Labor Radio Committee’ to find additional sponsors and provide ongoing oversight. [18] On-air, Tyler explained that “we, men and women of organized labor, must step up our own campaign, we must have our own voice speaking out with the truth about labor. We must shout into the wind, we must explain the issues, we must expose the rotten lies that are being told about us…We believe that this radio program is the most valuable weapon we have.”[19] The show had already expanded to 15-minute, twice-a-week format when it switched from KING to KOL, and made a seamless transition into covering other local union issues. Initial sponsorship, which meant a monthly financial pledge and a seat on the Labor Radio Committee, came from ILWU Locals 19 and 9, International Fishermen and Allied Workers (IFAWA) Local 3, Cannery Workers Local 7 of the Food, Tobacco, Agricultural and Allied Workers of America (FTA) and the Marine Division of the American Communication Association. In contrast to today’s system of radio and television production, in the 1940s it was common practice for a group to buy a segment of air time to use as they pleased. For Reports from Labor, the cost was a sizeable sum of $200 per month. [20]

Though all sponsors were CIO unions with a progressive and leftist character, they wanted the show to be a time for all sectors of the labor movement to express their views, inviting AFL unions to come on-air or become sponsors.[21] On Reports from Labor, Tyler made the call “to all unions in this area, AFL, CIO or Independent,” telling them “if you have a legitimate beef, if you have a story you want to tell the public…this program is at your disposal. Make use of it, won’t you?” [22] In a letter of advice to a union activist in Alaska who was starting a radio program, Tyler explained that unity across the lines of the AFL and the CIO “broadens your listening audience and lends your program more wallop.” The sponsoring unions understood that it was isolating and self-defeating to attack others in the labor movement, and instead sought to create a “spirit of unity” between the rank and file of all unions.[23] Though Tyler was deeply tied in with the left-wing of the CIO, and as Secretary of the Seattle Industrial Trade Union Council was a public figurehead of this tendency, he actively reached out to any union that was involved in a “beef” and invited them onto the show.[24] The most fruitful results of this effort was the coverage of bus drivers, both the City of Seattle drivers in the AFL’s Street Car Men’s Union and the Greyhound workers represented by the AFL’s Motor Coach Employees. During the Street Car men’s negotiations in the first half of 1949 and the Motor Coach Employees strike in the summer of 1949, Tyler extensively covered the day to day news of the two unions and helped drum up support.[25] The Street Car men’s Local would eventually become the show’s lone AFL sponsor, a point of satisfaction for Tyler.[26]

However, on an overall level, Reports from Labor came to be firmly rooted in the tenacity of local workers fighting unjust working conditions and inequality, particularly people of color in left-leaning CIO locals. Cannery Workers Local 7 of the Food, Tobacco, Agricultural and Allied Workers of America (FTA) was one of the most consistent topics covered on the show. This was a significant choice because the union represented Filipino workers on the West Coast who were seasonally dispatched to canneries in Alaska and had a strong leftist contingent. The show documented a tumultuous two-year period that saw a failed raid by the Seafarer’s International Union-AFL, the arrests of Business Agent Ernesto Mangaoang and longtime leader Ponce Torres by immigration officials, a merger with the ILWU and a lockout by the Alaska Salmon Industry.[27] Mangaoang, the FTA’s Bob Kinney and many other members were interviewed on Reports from Labor, and Tyler would often devote a small amount of time on the show to give an update on the union.[28] The interviews allowed Local 7 members to clearly lay out their demands and expose other workers to their unique position as immigrants and seasonal cannery workers. Tyler’s decision to cover the union was more than a political choice to back up the left-leaning union and aid its leftist faction; it was a stand on civil rights.[29] Broadcasting to a broad range of workers who were part of a labor movement which had often fallen short on issues of racial equality, Tyler actively built new bridges of understanding and solidarity. The same can be said of Tyler’s coverage of his own union, the National Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards, a trailblazing union on issues of racial integration that was also a frequent topic and was portrayed as an exemplary model of unity and democracy.[30]

For Tyler, this was part of a larger project of bringing the daily lives of workers to radio, demolishing the separation of community and workplace and the ensuing alienation and degradation that demobilized workers. Tyler mused that “it’s kind of odd when you stop and think of it, that we know so little about the other man’s job,” concluding that, as a result, “over a period of years, the average American has [acquired] a sort of inferior feeling over the fact that he’s just plain old Joe Doakes, working man.”[31] Reports from Labor revalorized the daily toil of “the working stiff,” describing the working conditions of union members whenever a dispute was covered on the show. Tyler had a remarkable ability to describe and educate about a particular job. The approach was epitomized by an in-depth portrayal of the challenges faced by a Greyhound bus driver over the course of one shift, which covered every aspect of the job from mechanical inspections, the challenges of driving a bus on rural roads and dealing with customers to the grueling addition of hours of paperwork at the end of every shift.

This style of methodically laying out the details of a situation, be it daily work patterns or the negotiating demands of a union, was matched by Tyler’s delivery style. Tyler always spoke at an even pace, laying the groundwork for an overall point and developing it in a logical, easy to follow manner. This pacing, with regular pauses partway through every sentence, allowed Tyler to stress certain parts of each sentence and added a conversational aspect to the show. He believed that a host should “sit down and knock out a script just as if you were talking to a friend who wanted to know the score...then say it over the air.”[32] Tyler understood that labor unity and community unionism would never happen because of top-down, national initiatives, but had to happen through person to person exchanges between workers. By giving his show an approachable tone that presented daily work and workers in a positive light, Tyler helped to facilitate these kinds of exchanges between his listeners.

In order to retake the airwaves from corporate influence and counter unrealistic, demeaning depictions of workers, it was essential that Reports from Labor let the rank and file speak for themselves. Tyler often interviewed union leaders and members at the radio station, but whenever possible packed up his equipment and took the show directly to the union halls of those affected by that week’s news. This added liveliness and authenticity to the recordings, showing leaders and members in their element as brothers and sisters united against unfair conditions. Ideally, Tyler would have recorded workers while on the job, but this was not possible with the recording technology of the time. Nonetheless, the show broke new ground by playing excerpts of union meetings and speeches that showed union democracy in action. In writing to the Lumber and Sawmill Workers-AFL to arrange coverage on the program, Tyler asked an official to have “someone to show me thru the mill, let me talk to a few rank and filers, then gas with the officials so I can make a transcribed broadcast that night in the union meeting using rank and file names, giving a picture of the work they do and hit on some of the union problems.”[33] This same formula was used in covering ILWU Local 9, IFAWA Local 3, the Seattle NUMCS and International Woodworkers of America (IWA) District 2 in Everett, among others.[34] In other cases, Tyler recorded interviews at the NUMCS hall with officials from other unions, symbolically building unity between industries.[35] In a media landscape in which it was hard to find a pro-labor program, Tyler took Reports from Labor a step further and made it a show by and about unions.

The Red Scare

Reports from Labor was grounded in local news coverage, but also consistently provided progressive commentary about national and political issues. Amid the anti-communist climate of the times and the need to keep the show’s various sponsors satisfied with the content of the program, Tyler walked a fine line between opposing forces. The sponsoring unions that formed the Labor Radio Committee wanted Tyler to avoid discussing issues that their respective unions disagreed about, and the management of KOL and KRSC, where Reports from Labor moved in 1950, censored content they felt was too controversial. Still, it is surprising that Tyler’s commentary was usually moderate, brief and avoided many subjects like the 1948 Presidential election given his strong political views and membership in the Communist Party.[36] Instead, he was cautious and focused on common issues for the CIO and the AFL, especially ones that were winnable and applicable in the Northwest region. Commentary was always tied to the issue’s salience and ended with a way for listeners to get involved, learn more and work to change the problem. When discussing the worsening problem of unemployment throughout 1949, he consistently ended by announcing the next meeting of Trade Union Conference on Jobs and Relief, a joint CIO and AFL effort to fight unemployment in Washington State[37]. The repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act was the biggest source of commentary on Reports from Labor, especially in the first half of 1949 when there was a palpable sense of urgency and possibility around the repeal efforts. It was mentioned, even if briefly, almost every week for months on end. Signaling the importance and sizeable listenership of the program, Senator Harry Cain, Senator Warren Magnuson, and Representative Hugh Mitchell all promptly responded to Tyler’s requests for letters explaining their stance on the repeal efforts, which Tyler read on-air.[38] The Taft-Hartley focus would eventually recede as the possibility of repeal declined, and was replaced by commentary on corporate profits and proposed anti-labor legislation like the Mundt-Nixon-Ferguson bill.[39] Tyler also expanded into discussions of civil rights, fair housing, social services and immigration, explaining their importance to the labor movement.[40]

Tyler rarely mentioned the Red Scare in a direct manner, but often questioned the use of anti-communism as a union-busting tactic. This approach was particularly evident during a contentious strike by the ILWU in Hawaii during the summer of 1949. Fighting assertions in the mainstream press that the strike was the result of a greedy, communist-run union, Tyler asked “Moscow plots? Red plot to rule the world? No ladies and gentlemen. A plot of a financial empire… in a ruthless, arrogant, mad drive to smash Hawaiian unions and increase that financial empire’s profits.” On a program just weeks later, Tyler condemned Truman for acting truly ‘Un-American’ by using the Marshall Plan to funnel money to big business and the military.[41] The concentration of wealth and the contrast between rising corporate profits, like those of GE, and the declining living standards of many workers extended this analysis to the rest of the country on other broadcasts.[42] Tyler only mentioned capitalism and put the oft-cited idea of corporate profit in a broader context once, in July of 1950, when he said “the reason we’ve talked about profits here, and there’s plenty more to tell, is this: this nation operates under a capitalist form of economy.” This was, not coincidentally, the day that the contract with KRSC to air Reports from Labor expired, and Tyler likely thought it might be his last time on air and abandoned some of the self-censorship he usually exercised.

Tyler also had to contend with close scrutiny from station management, who shied away from controversial material that would attract undue attention or endanger relationships with the Federal Communications Commission and businesses that also bought air time. The coverage of ILWU President Harry Bridges’ third deportation trial in 1949 is a striking example of constraints facing Tyler when bringing a script to air. Tyler had to write three drafts of a segment on the Bridges trial for a May 30th broadcast, all of which heavily edited by KOL’s staff. In a letter to a fellow ILWU member and radio host in Oregon, Tyler wrote “the ‘Iron Curtain’ dropped on us…the first was cut to hell, when I turned in the second it too was all cut to hell. Actually, out of 14 minutes talking time, about three minutes of the script was left!”[43] Tyler refused to back down and applied his own pressure on the station management, who he privately called “Republican of the worst type,” and was later able to broadcast portions of his script. In other cases, he read verbatim from a script from Sidney Rogers, a San Francisco radio reporter and one of Tyler’s few contemporaries in West Coast pro-labor radio. By using Roger’s script, Tyler could evade censorship by arguing that the censors of at a San Francisco station had deemed it acceptable.[44] Just two months later, Tyler broadcasted an interview with members of the AFL Motor Coach Employees who were striking against Greyhound Bus Lines. The station management was unaware of that night’s content, which meant that Tyler broadcasted the interview in his regular timeslot, immediately after a special segment purchased by Greyhound to convince the public of the company’s position. Following the incident, every script was reviewed by the management of KOL, adding another layer of restriction to the content of Reports from Labor.[45]

The sponsoring unions that funded the program were another factor shaping the show’s content, and their influence was particularly evident in the area of international news and commentary. Reports from Labor gained popularity throughout 1949, reflecting the efficacy of Tyler’s various rhetorical and stylistic strategies and the limited availability of labor radio. As a result, the show gained sponsors, peaking at 16 at the end of 1949. The show continued to be anchored by the CIO’s left, gaining sponsorships from locals of the Transport Workers Union, and the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, among others. Tyler was allowed a good deal of editorial control by the Labor Radio Committee made up of representatives from the union sponsors, shown by his stance against the Marshall Plan.[46] Still, Tyler only mentioned the Korean War, one of the year’s most important events, on a single show in July of 1949. He explained the unions held different positions on the issue and that, as a result, Reports from Labor had avoided it. [47] The issue of opening trade with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was a wholly different matter, and Tyler often advocated for an opening of trade with the communist nation despite the Red Scare. [48] For the ILWU and NUMCS, who remained the core sponsors of the program, trade with the PRC meant more maritime work on the West Coast, where unemployment and lack of work was a persistent problem. In this way, Tyler was able to take a stand with leftist implications while maintaining good relations with the sponsors and keeping the show’s commitment to labor unity and local bread and butter issues.

Turmoil in 1950

In December 1949, following the refusal of KOL to renew the contract for Reports from Labor, Tyler signed a new six-month contract with KRSC, another independent station in Seattle.[49] However, shortly after the contract was signed, the station was sold to new management who refused to honor the agreement. After a month of negotiation and pressure, Reports from Labor began airing on KRSC on January 31st, 1950. The problems with KOL and KRSC were indicative of a worsening climate for the labor and the left in America that soon manifested in a public backlash against Reports from Labor. On the first KRSC broadcast, Tyler immediately reaffirmed that the tone of the show was unchanged, saying “we don’t claim, nor do we want to be, quote respectable unquote. The only people we want to respect us is the working stiff. We call the shots as we see them and never refuse a challenge to fight for the rights of working men and women, no matter who we have to buck up against, no matter whose toes we step on.”[50] Beginning in April of 1950, particularly after a stridently-worded program warning against a slide toward fascism in American, KRSC became the target of significant right-wing pressure. It is unclear if it was an organized campaign or merely part of the broader anti-communist wave, but the station began receiving phone calls and letters demanding they stop carrying the program. Throughout April and May, Tyler tried to deflect pressure from the station, asking opponents and supporters to write directly to him, not call station management. Tyler was clearly maneuvering around station management by both assuring listeners that KRSC was not censoring him and asking them to write letters of support for the show’s controversial content. To any close listener, it would have been clear that the denials of censorship were said with a nod and a wink, as Tyler always read any letter written to him condemning station censorship, even though he would for end with a cursory disclaimer that not censorship was taking place. [51] Overall, the increasing problems involving station management showcased the worsening climate for the show, in spite of Tyler’s persistence in fighting censorship and right-wing pressure.

Meanwhile, the official expulsion of eleven unions from the CIO marked a major change in Reports from Labor, and the program soon became a tool in the acrimonious aftermath of raiding and mudslinging. Previous to the official expulsion of the unions, Tyler had actively denied rumors of divisions or a split and had generally avoided covering any news related to the CIO’s problems, including the 1949 convention resolutions that laid the groundwork for the expulsion.[52] Veiled references to the power struggle can be seen early on in brief discussions of the resolution of the 1949 ILWU convention calling for political autonomy for CIO unions, but Tyler maintained that rumors of a split were unfounded.[53] Tyler was more open about the parallel breakup of the Washington State CIO, but only relatively. Speaking on August 15, 1949, Tyler noted “We’ve never mentioned anything about the split in the CIO, ladies and gentlemen, because we considered it as family business and not for public consumption. But is has become so well publicized that we feel we’ve got to make some comment,” and went on to explain the left-right divisions that had made the State CIO Council moribund.[55] In March of 1950, Tyler began to acknowledge the realities of the divisions and oppose the direction taken by the national leadership of the CIO. When the final expulsions were carried out in May and June, his tone quickly became combative. From there on out, much of the local and national coverage focused on the wave of raids and union splits that accompanied the expulsions. Labor unity remained the frame used by Tyler to present the news, but instead of calling for cooperation, he attacked the National CIO for undermining unity.

By July of 1950, Reports from Labor was fully caught up in the storm surrounding organized labor and the left in America and the program began to decline before its final cancellation. Jerry Tyler took a job as a international representative for the ILWU in late June and was sent to Astoria, Oregon to help defeat a raiding attempt by the National CIO on a local of International Fishermen and Allied Workers of America, another expelled union which had merged with the ILWU a month earlier. Knowing the power of radio and having the necessary experience, Tyler soon began hosting a segment on an Astoria station targeted at IFAWA members.[56] However, he was clearly trying to do too much in producing two radio programs and fighting a pitched battle with National CIO representatives. From Astoria, Tyler continued to produce Reports from Labor, but the show began to rely more and more on repeating items from various union newsletters. The consistency and vigor of the program suffered as a result, though it remained a clear and confident source of pro-labor news and commentary. IFAWA won the election that resulted from the raiding attempt by a significant margin, and Tyler returned to Seattle at the beginning of September. However, the show’s run as an oasis of progressive, pro-labor content on air soon came to an end. The ownership of KRSC, which never wanted Reports from Labor to air on the station even when bound by an existing contract, made the decision in October to discontinue the show after three months without a contract.[57]

The cancellation of the show removed an important voice in Northwest radio, and signaled the increasing closure of dialogue under McCarthyism. In evaluating the importance of the show, Tyler put it best in surmising that “this series of broadcasts has, since July 12, 1948, become a sort of an institution. It is the only place left where the public can come and get first hand reports right from union headquarters. It is the only news source which goes right to the union involved, gets the facts first hand, and then presents the union’s view-point, uncensored, to the public. The only one.”[58] On the final broadcast of October 19, Tyler fittingly called for labor unity to defeat the union-busting tactic of screening waterfront workers and decried the 20-year stock market high amid rising unemployment and declining wages. It was a return to the show’s most effective rhetorical strategies, which had sometimes been lost amid the hectic and contentious series of raids following the CIO breakup. Even when the program became a tool of internal struggle within the labor movement, it was immensely important in giving workers, especially those in the most marginalized unions, a place to speak for themselves. The silencing of progressive viewpoints became increasingly common in the following years, and shows like Reports from Labor became even rarer than in 1948, when Tyler first took to the airwaves.

For over two years, Reports from Labor provided a space from which working class politics and culture could be communicated, strengthened and intertwined. Tyler set out to create a program which would be a hard-fighting voice for workers to build unity and make concrete gains in working conditions. He was largely successful, covering a wide range of topics and reaching a broad audience with becoming unfocused or alienating. By supporting fights like the one between FTA Local 7 and the Alaska Salmon Industry, the Washington Pension Union’s Initiative 172 and the IWA’s strike against Weyerhaeuser, the show was became a useful tool for disseminating a set of militant but broad politics based around union rights, social services and labor unity. Reports from Labor stands as one of the few pro-labor programs to gain access to the air at a time when the labor movement was under attack from the outside and inside. Tyler rose to the challenge, becoming a beacon of working class action and culture that stands as a lasting example of the power of grassroots media.

©Leo Baunach, 2011
HSTAA 499 Spring 2011



[1] Letter to ILWU Local 136, July 8, 1949 & letter to Streetcarmen’s Union Local 587, September 21, 1949. Jerry Tyler Papers,

Box 1, Correspondence Folder. University of Washington Special Collections. Accession number 5553-001.

[2] Elizabeth Fones-Wolf. “Promoting a Labor Perspective in the American Mass Media: Unions and Radio in the CIO Era, 1936-1956.” Media, Culture, Society 22 (2002): 286.

Nathan Godfried, WCFL: Chicago’s Voice of Labor, 1926-78. (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1997)

[3] Elizabeth Fones-Wolf. “Promoting a Labor Perspective in the American Mass Media: Unions and Radio in the CIO Era, 1936-1956.” Media, Culture, Society 22 (2002): 287.

[4] Michael Denning, The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century. (New York: 2011) 20.

[5] Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, Waves of Opposition (Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2006). 178-180

[6] Ibid, 166

[7] Ibid, 144

[8] Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, Waves of Opposition (Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2006. 131

[9] “Summary of Radio Programs” Seattle Times (Seattle, WA), April 9, 1942, 25.

[10] Elizabeth Fones-Wolf. “Promoting a Labor Perspective in the American Mass Media: Unions and Radio in the CIO Era, 1936-1956.” Media, Culture, Society 22 (2002): 296.

Margaret Miller. “The Left’s Turn: Welfare Politics and Social Movements in Washington State, 1937-1973.” (PhD diss., University of Washington, 2002). Costigan’s show ended in 1946. The exact end dates of the others shows cannot be verified, though Tyler lists pro-labor shows on the West-Coast in 1949 the ‘Correspondence’ folder of the Jerry Tyler Papers and none of these programs are mentioned.

[11] Betty Schneider and Abraham Seigel. Industrial Relations in the Pacific Coast Longshore Industry. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1956), 78.

“8 Maritime Unions Hold Joint Session.” Seattle Times (Seattle, WA), May 23, 1946, 18.

Jerry Tyler, interview with Harvey Schwartz, April 24, 2002, Oral History Collection, ILWU Library, San Francisco, 37

Reports from Labor, July 12, 1949. Jerry Tyler Papers, University of Washington Special Collections.

[12] Reports from Labor, August 12, 1948. Jerry Tyler Papers, Box 1, University of Washington Special Collections.

[13] Reports from Labor, July 12, 1948. July 19, 1948.

[14] Reports from Labor, August 16, 1948.

[15]Reports from Labor, September 2, 1948 & September 9, 1948.

[16] Reports from Labor, September 13, 1948.

[17] Jerry Tyler, interview with Harvey Schwartz, April 24, 2002. Oral History Collection, ILWU Library, San Francisco, 38

Reports from Labor, December 3, 1948. Jerry Tyler Papers, Box 1, University of Washington Special Collections

[18] Reports from Labor, December 13, 1948.

[19] Reports from Labor, November 29, 1948.

[20] Letter January 6, 1949. Correspondence. Jerry Tyler Papers, Box 1.

[21] Reports from Labor, January 10 1949, February 7, 1949, February 25, 1949, April 22, 1949 & July 23, 1949

[22] Reports from Labor, February January 31, 1949.

[23] Letter to Oscar Erickson of the Ketchikan CIO, October 13, 1949. Correspondence, Jerry Tyler Papers.

[24] Correspondence. Jerry Tyler Papers. E.g. letters to Registered Nurses Guild, Canadian Seaman’s Union.

[25] Reports from Labor, January 14, 1949,

[26] Reports from Labor, February 7, 1949 & October 14, 1949.

[27] Reports from Labor, January 17, 1949, May 6, 1949, May 9, 1949, August 5, 1949, August 29, 1949, April 27, 1950 & May

11, 1950.

[28] Reports from Labor, May 16, 1949 & June 10, 1949.

[29] Micah Ellison. The Local 7/ Local 37 Story: Filipino American Cannery Unionism in Seattle 1940-1959 .Seattle Civil Rights

and Labor History Project, < http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/local_7.htm#_edn31>

[30] Reports from Labor, March 4, 1949 & July 11, 1949

[31] Reports from Labor, August 3, 1950.

[32] Letter to Oscar Erickson of the Ketchikan CIO, October 13, 1949. Correspondence, Jerry Tyler Papers.

[33] Letter to John Collins, September 14, 1949, Correspondence, Jerry Tyler Papers.

Reports from Labor, September 26, 1949.

[34] Reports from Labor, December 17, 1948, January 31, 1949 & June 10, 1950,

[35] Reports from Labor, April 27, 1950 & June 13, 1950.

[36] “Left-Wing Demos for State Legislature! Few Rightists in County Win Places.” Seattle Times (Seattle, WA), July 10, 1946, 1.

Harvey Schwartz, Solidarity Stories: An Oral History of the ILWU (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2009).

[37] Reports from Labor, February 18, 1949, November 4, 1949, November 7, 1949.

[38] Reports from Labor, February 7, 1949 & February 11, 1949.

[39] Reports from Labor, June 3, 1949 & April 18, 1950

[40] Reports from Labor, March 4, 1949, September 2, 1949, December 2, 1949.

[41] Reports from Labor, August 8, 1949. August 29, 1949.

[42] Reports from Labor, August 31, 1949.

[43] Letter to Don Brown, June 22, 1949. Correspondence, Jerry Tyler Papers.

[44] Reports from Labor, March 7, 1949, March 21, 1949 & April 4, 1949.

Letter to Don Brown, June 22, 1949.

[45] Reports from Labor, July 1, 1949. Jerry Tyler, interview with Harvey Schwartz, April 24, 2002, Oral History Collection, ILWU Library, San Francisco, 13 (part 2,: tapes 3&4)

[46] Reports from Labor, August 29, 1949, September 7, 1950.

[47] Reports from Labor, July 18, 1949. It is unclear if this was the real reason for avoiding the subject of the Korean War, or if

Tyler used the Labor Radio Committee as an on-air justification for his own content choices. No records of the Labor Radio

Committee’s proceedings or actions could be found.

[48] Reports from Labor, December 23, 1949, February 23, 1950, March 30, 1950 & April 20, 1950.

[49] Letter to Helen Laughlin, January 3, 1950. Correspondence. Jerry Tyler Papers.

[50] Reports from Labor, January 31, 1950.

[51]Reports from Labor, April 11, 13 & 18, 1950. May 4, 1950.

[52] Reports from Labor, April 15, 1949 & November 4, 1949.

[53] Reports from Labor, April 22, 1949. April 8, 1949.

[55] Reports from Labor, August 15, 1949.

[56] International Fishermen and Allied Workers of America & Correspondence. Jerry Tyler Papers, Box 1, University of Washington Special Collections.

[57] Correspondence. Jerry Tyler Papers, Box 1 University of Washington Special Collections

[58] Reports from Labor, October 17, 1950. Jerry Tyler Papers, Box 1, University of Washington Special Collections


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