Portland Labor Press
Report by Kristin Peasley
Abstract: The Portland Labor Press is the oldest continuously published labor newspaper in the Pacific Northwest. Founded in 1900 as the "official publication for the Central Labor Council of Portland and vicinity and the Oregon State Federation of Labor," it changed its name in 1915 to the Oregon Labor Press and in 1986 to the Northwest Labor Press. This report focuses on the years between 1905 and 1915.
Subscription Price: $1.00 per year; $0.50 six months
Publisher: Labor Press Publishing Association (Incorporated August 1900)
Editors: K.G. Kundret, R.A. Harris, Wm. A. Marshall, A.H. Karris, H.J. Parkison, C.M. Rynerson
Business Address: 325 Fifth Street, Portland OR
Collection: University of Washington library microfilm A1021
Status: December 29, 1905- September 4, 1915 Incomplete Collection
The Portland Labor Press was the official publication of the Central labor Council of Portland and vicinity and the Oregon State Federation of Labor. Its main purposes were to create awareness for what different unions were doing and to endorse union supported political candidates. In later years the newspaper broadened its focus, writing about a variety of topics including socialism and the status of women.Union Support
The Portland Labor Press existed to serve the interests of the many unions affiliated with the Central Labor Council and much emphasis was placed on the need for members subscribe and support the paper: "The Labor Press is owned and controlled by all the unions of the city and it should be taken by every one of their members. One cent per week is the cost" (6/25/1909 p.1). During the week prior to that invocation, the newspaper had gained 164 new subscriptions. It reported that all but 20 of Portland’s’ unions subscribed to the Portland Labor Press at that time (6/25/1909 ).
One of the key functions of the Portland Labor Press was to publicize union activities, including meetings of the various locals affiliated with in the council. Many issues of the Portland Labor Press contained a column titled "Trade Union Directory" (12/29/1905). This column listed the days of the week and the name of each union meeting on that date., with the time and location for each meeting. "Fair List" was another column in the Portland Labor Press. Subtitled the "Union People’s Ready Reference Sheet," this column contains lists of products (for example men’s suits and woman’s shoes) and the names and addresses of stores that sold the goods. All of these establishments sold union-made goods. In the column there is a notice "To Merchants" saying, "This is not a complete list of the union made goods sold in Portland; therefore, any merchant having for sale union made goods of any description, can have same inserted, free of expense, in this list by notifying the Portland Labor Press of what goods they may have in stock." (12/29/1905) Sometimes the newspaper would add special features highlighting particular consumer products. For example the July 27, 1911 issue featured the "Complete List of Union Meat Markets" (p.5).
The Portland Labor Press was full of advertisements. Advertisers emphasized that they were union companies. For example there were advertisements saying things like "Union Made Cigar" (12/29/1905) and "A Union Store" (12/29/1905). In the August 28, 1915 issue there was an entire page advertisement about supporting union made goods. It is titled "Demand The Label" and then says, "It is the cheapest and most effective way to secure better conditions for the toilers. The great army of wage earners-as represented in the labor movement of this country-with its enormous factory output of $20,000,000,000, by continually advocating the use of the label, is doing more to make this world a better place to live in than all the other organizations combined." The page then pictures several union labels and concludes by saying "Insist on Having these Labels" (August 28,1915). Another interesting advertisement was on a page titled "In Union there is Victory To Succeed We Must Cooperate" (1/13/1910 p.3). The page contained advertisements for "Portland’s Thriving Business-Enterprises Desirous of Being Classed As the Friends of Organized Labor."
The Portland Labor Press supported its advertisers and also policed them. In the April 6, 1906 issue appeared a column titled "Warning to Advertisers." It reads, "A motion was adopted by the Portland Federated Trades Council warning business men not to support or advertise in the name of organized labor, unless endorsed by the Trades Council. Beware of Imposters" (April 6, 1906 p.2).
Articles dealing with political elections often dominated the Portland Labor Press. For example the headline of the January 5, 1906 issue read, "The People Or The Crafters? An Appeal to the Voters of the State of Oregon Shall the "Machine" or the people rule?" The April 13, 1906 front page features a picture of an election ticket saying, "Vote this Ticket Straight." The article says, "Every Republican voter who is opposed to the Trusts and corrupt corporations should mark a cross before each one of the following names. Don’t pay any attention to the enemies of the common people….These are the only candidates who have subscribed unqualifiedly to statement one. Vote for every one of them and help Oregon to get rid of the political corruptionists…" (4/13/1906 p.1). "Candidates With Union Cards A Chance To Elect Your Own People" was the title of page 2 of the April 13, 1906 issue of the Portland Labor Press. This page featured pictures of the candidates as well as descriptions of them. The May 11, 1914 issue features the "Workingmans Ticket" on the front page. The sample ticket is preceded by a caption reading, "The Workingman’s Political Club has endorsed the following list of candidates for nomination for state, district and county offices" (4/11/1914 p.1).
Expanding Labors’ Interests
After 1910 the Portland Labor Press changed its format and opened up its subject matter, adding articles on entertainment and columns on particular issues, including a regular column for women. The women’s column was titled "Woman and Her Interests" around the title were the words, "children, education, recreation, The table, The kitchen, The garden" (December 29, 1913). Many of the articles written here discuss the Feminist Movement.
The Portland Labor Press also developed a relationship to the Socialist Party. By 1913 the paper was offering a regular column titled "Department of Socialism" "Conducted by the Socialists for the Purpose of Studying Governmental Problems in Oregon" (12/15/1913). This column was not necessarily for the purpose of endorsing socialist political candidates. Articles were largely about things happening in other parts of the world, dealing with the socialist way of life.
Today the Northwest Labor Press continues to represent the Portland Central Labor council and the Oregon State Federation of Labor. Current issues can be read on-line at The Northwest Labor Press.
Click to enlarge
In order to keep union members abreast of the happenings in the labor movement, the Portland Labor Press frequently published a "Trade Union Directory," publicizing union meetings and events.
Like many union newspapers, The Portland Labor Press insisted that its readership support stores with union workers and buy products with the union label.
The Portland Labor Press often turned its attention to politics at elections times, urging its readers to vote for those politicians who offered the most to workers.
Expanding Labor's Interests
In its latter years, the paper began to feature news targeted to women leaders. The paper also began to align itself with the socialist party and ran a "Department of Socialism" section.
Copyright (c) 2001 by Kristin Peasley