Welcome to The Labor Press Project. This site brings together information about the history and ongoing influence of newspapers and periodicals published by unions, labor councils, and radical organizations in the Pacific Northwest.
Labor newspapers have been a critical part of American labor movements since the early 19th century and an equally critical, if largely unacknowledged, part of the history of American journalism. Today more than a hundred periodicals serve the labor movement. Thousands more have done so in the past.
The History of Labor Journalism
The history of labor journalism in the United States is a huge but relatively unexplored topic. Karla Kelling Sclater surveys 180 years of labor journalism and discusses key books and articles about labor journalism in her essay:
The Seattle Union Record is one of the most famous examples of labor journalism in the Pacific Northwest. It has a fascinating double history. A daily newspaper with a circulation that sometimes reached 80,000, it was the voice of labor from 1900-1928. It became so again in the fall of 2000 when it was resurrected by members of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild during their seven week strike against the Seattle Times and Seattle Post Intelligencer.
The Industrial Worker was the principal newspaper of the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World. Published initially in Spokane, the Industrial Worker moved to Seattle in 1916. Here is a detailed report:
Washington State Labor News, a monthly, was published by the Washington State Labor Council from 1924 until 1965. Distributed to hundreds of AFL local unions and the county labor councils, WSN reported on political issues of importance to labor and publicized campaigns, strikes, and boycotts. We have compiled a year-by-year database of more than 500 articles from the Washington State Labor News from 1930 to 1937.
The Northwest Labor Press of Portland is the oldest continuously published labor newspaper in the region. Since 1900, the Portland Central labor Council and Oregon State Federation of labor have made sure that the Labor Press remains a strong and active voice for unionism. We report on the early years of the newspaper when it was called:(1905-1915) by Kristin Peasley
The Guild Daily was the paper of the American Newspaper Guild. In the 1930s the guild organized journalists across the country. But the strike that solidified that union took place at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1936. Striking journalists not only brought the Hearst corporation to its knees, they published a daily newspaper of their own that kept the city informed of local, national, and strike news:
The Timber Worker and The International Woodworker were the official publications of the International Woodworkers of America. The IWA was formed in 1937 when unionized workers in the timber industries broke with the AFL and joined the CIO. The papers provide invaluable information on the union and its causes: the struggle to establish legitimacy in early jurisdictional disputes, the union's campaign to improve safety conditions in the woods, and internal debates over communism. We report on both of the union's papers:
The Pacific Coast Longshoreman was the newspaper of the Pacific Coast District of the International Longshoremen's Association. The ILA’s Pacific Coast District was formed after a coast-wide dockworkers’ strike in 1934. Protesting poor wages, dangerous working conditions, and unscrupulous hiring practices, waterfront workers in West Coast port cities went out on strike on May 9th. After eighty-five days of violence, arrests, and attempted strikebreaking, the Pacific Coast’s dockworkers won the strike and coast wide union recognition. The paper was founded a year after the strike and published weekly until 1936 when the Pacific Coast longshoremen left the ILA and formed the ILWU. Our report on it is below:
The Aero Mechanic was published by Local 751 of the International Association of Machinists. During World War II The Boeing Company became the Northwest's largest employer and Boeing workers joined what was to become one of the mainstays of the region's labor movement, IAM Local 751, International Association of Machinists. Local 751 began publishing the paper in 1939. Below is our report:
The Washington Teamster was the publication of Washington State's International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The union has long been a powerhouse in Seattle. From his base in Seattle's Joint Council 28, Dave Beck organized delivery drivers and long-haul drivers up and down the coast. We have a report on joint Council 28's newspaper:
The Washington State Teacher was the official organ of the Washington State Federation of Teachers (WSFT), which was allied with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the American Federation of Labor (AFL). As a result, the paper had a two-fold objective: to strive for the the betterment of public education and to advance the organized labor movement. Our report focuses on the publication from October–November 1945 until January 1951
Public sector unions dated back to the early part of the century but were hard to legitimate until the 1960s when federal workers were finally accorded bargaining rights similar to what private sector workers had won in the 1935 Wagner Act. Postal workers in Seattle had maintained a union since before World War I and a newspaper since 1947. In 1971 they became part of the American Postal Workers Union and the newspaper changed its name to the APWU News.
Protective service workers (police and fire) also have a long history of unionism. Seattle Firefighters Local 27 (International Association of Firefighters was formed in 1918. The Third Rail is its monthly newspaper.
Representing nearly all of the AFL-CIO union locals in Seattle, the King County Labor Council has published various newspapers throughout the past century, starting with the Union Record. In 1968, KCLC began publishing, the Scanner, a monthly that lasted until 1968.
The Bellingham Labor News was established in 1939 as the paper of the Bellingham Labor Council. The paper not only sheds light on the Bellingham labor movement, but as "the official paper of Bellingham," it also provides insight into the history of this important Northern Puget Sound city.
The Socialist Party exerted considerable influence over Northwest politics and within the broader labor movement during the first two decades of the 20th century. Gary Siebel sorts out the factions and issues in an introductory essay, The Squabbling Socialists of Washington State, followed by reports on four Socialist papers published in Seattle:
Five Socialist newspapers were published in Everett:
Two Socialist newspapers were published in Tacoma:
The Anarchist Movement had an active presense in the Pacific Northwest, centered in the community of "Home" just across the narrows from Tacoma. Founded in 1896, the anarchist colony attracted radicals from all over, including Emma Goldman who visited twice. Residents published several newspapers. We have reports on two:
The People's Party briefly dominated Washington state politics, electing a governor and many other public officials in 1896. The populist movement was strong both in the cities and in rural areas and laid the ground work for long-lasting radical tendencies among farmers as well as workers. Of the many Pacific Northwest newspapers that carried the Populist message only a few survive. We have a report on the influential Chehalis, WA, newspaper:
Radical journalism in the 1930s and 1940s took new forms. The socialist-linked Seattle Labor College launched a newspaper in 1930 which helped galvanize one of the most effective unemployed movements in the country. By late 1931 the Unemployed Citizens League had tens of thousands of members organized in "self help" production and barter clubs. See the report on:
The Communist Party initially organized competing Unemployed Councils in Seattle but later joined the Unemployed Citizen's League, a move which set off a struggle for leadership in that organization. Here is a report on the CP dominated newspaper:
The Washington Commonwealth Federation was a coalition of progressive organizations and unions that nominated candidates for state and local offices under the banner of the Democratic Party. Communists were initially excluded but after 1936 played an important role in the WCF. The Federation was a major force in Washington state politics from 1934 to 1949 and published a series of influential weekly newspapers during that fifteen year period. Three of them are profiled here.
Ethnic Community Newspapers
The Northwest has been home to many newspapers that have served minority communities. Some like The Philippine-American Chronicle were associated with labor organizations. The paper supported The Cannery and Farm Laborer's Union, which was launched in 1933 by Filipino workers who made the annual circuit from the Alaska canneries to the fields of eastern Washington and California. See:
Here are reports on other newspapers serving various ethnic and racial communities:
Several dozen other historical labor newspapers from the Pacific Northwest have been collected and preserved by the University of Washington library and the public libraries of Seattle and other area cities. Here is a list of these holdings.
About the Project: This site has been developed through the contributions of many people. Special thanks to the students in HSTAA 353 (Class and Labor in American History) who wrote the research reports; to Steve Beda who collected and digitized the newspaper pages with help from Jessica Albano, Glenda Pearson, and Suzi Freelund at the UW Library; to Brian Grijalva who designed an earlier version of this web site, to Fred Bird for much useful advice.
This site is one of a collection of Pacific Northwest Labor and Civil Rights Projects directed by Professor James Gregory and sponsored by the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington. See below for copyright and citation information.