The labor world (Duluth, Minn.) 1896-current Browse the title
The Duluth Labor World stated in its founding issue on April 11, 1896, that the paper "will pat no one on the back to gain patronage or support. The labor question will be handled without gloves by the Labor World, and if need be with knife in hand." These strong words were penned by founding editor, Sabrie Akin, a self-described socialist, who would fight for the cause of working men and women in support of labor unions throughout her life. Akin’s brother, Roy Goodwin, was instrumental in arranging for a January 6, 1896 Duluth visit and speech by Eugene V. Debs, a fellow socialist made famous for his involvement in the Pullman strike of 1894 and his subsequent prison term. Shortly after seeing Debs speak, Akin announced her intention to create a publication that focused on labor issues. Less than a year later Akin would make good on her promise. The first incarnation of the Labor World was published as a biweekly 20-page publication in magazine form. In the spring of 1897, Akin purchased and consolidated three local news publications: the Virginia Hustler and Mountain Iron Manitou, the Duluth Citizen, and the Duluth Press. After these additions, the Labor World was published weekly as a four-page tabloid. The official motto of the paper was "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
The Labor World focused local coverage on the so-called "Twin Harbors" cities of Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin. At the turn of the century, the northern and central regions of Minnesota were growing rapidly because of an expanding iron ore industry, and Duluth’s status as a port city made it a major hub for railroad and Great Lakes shipping routes. The population increase also brought greater demand for domestic services. The diversity of Duluth and Superior’s growing labor class was not missed by Akin and the Labor World, which featured labor news for iron ore miners, laundry girls, and everyone in between. Weekly editorials reported on topics such as labor organizing, union events, and gender issues. The paper also included advertisements for Duluth and Superior union businesses and organizations. However, businesses against organized labor were black-listed within the Labor World’s pages, with encouragement from Akin to boycott their services.
In January of 1900, Akin died suddenly from catarrhal enteritis, an intestinal condition. William McEwen, a member of a local plumbers union, purchased the paper from her estate in probate court. McEwen was a Democrat and very politically active. During his term at the helm of the Labor World, he would temper the activist appeal of the subject matter with an even-keeled application of Democratic Party principles, encouraging civic participation and discourse over discord. He received national acclaim for his Labor World editorials, many of which were reprinted in national trade journals and other smaller trade publications across the country. William McEwen and the Labor World were instrumental in Democrat John A. Johnson’s successful 1906 Minnesota gubernatorial campaign in which McEwen served as a top advisor.
McEwen maintained the paper until his death in 1933. At that point the Labor World was purchased by the Duluth Federated Trades Assembly, which eventually became the Duluth American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, or Duluth AFL-CIO. The Labor World continues to be published by Labor World Newspaper, Inc., which is governed by a local labor union affiliated board of directors.
Helmes, Winifred. John A. Johnson: The People's Governor. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1949.