Post Busts Pressmen's Union 1975
This set contains two photos of the Washington Post pressmen’s strike in the early morning hours of October 1, 1975 and a photo of pressmen and supporters boycotting a George’s Appliance store in late 1975.

The pressmen were members of International Printing and Graphic Communications Union Local 6 and in the first two images were picketing on the Post headquarters at 1150 15th St. NW. The 3rd image is undated and the location is undetermined but it is probably Beltway Plaza in Greenbelt, MD sometime after George’s resumed advertising in the Post in December 1975.

Labor relations between the Post and its unions had been deteriorating for several years (see set “Post Printers Lockout 1973”) as the Post management began aggressively preparing for a confrontation with the pressmen’s union. From 1973-75, the Post management openly trained dozens of non-union employees on how to running printing presses and other production jobs.

The strength of the unions was further undercut by advances in technology that made new offset printing and computer typesetting possible (eliminating much of the skills of pressmen, printers and photoengravers). The Post overtly made plans to open new offset printing plants in Maryland and Virginia.

The craft unions at the newspaper were also predominantly composed of older, white males during a time when African Americans and women were pushing to break into skilled occupations.

When the strike occurred October 1, some pressmen sought to undercut the Post’s advantages by sabotaging the Post printing presses. A shop supervisor was also assaulted during first minutes of the strike. Some Newspaper Guild members (reporters and editors) who crossed the pressmen’s picket lines were also physically acosted.

The newspaper was forced to suspend publication, but published an edition October 3 using offset presses at other facilities. Helicopters were used to ferry key workers to the Post headquarters and to send copy to the outside printing plants.

Two other unions called strikes of their own and the other craft unions honored picket lines. The leadership of the Newspaper Guild (reporters and editors) issued statements in support of the strike but the violence isolated the pressmen’s union in the community.

The Newspaper Guild members defied their leadership and voted to withhold support of the strike and cross picket lines. The local AFL-CIO labor council voted to launch a boycott against the Post and stickers reading “No Grapes, No Lettuce, No Post” (also refering to the Farmworkers boycotts) were widely distributed throughout the Washington, DC area.

Many businesses initially shifted their advertising to the rival Washington Star. However, as the Post began to restore the publication to its pre-strike condition, busineses began to return to the Post. The pressmen responded by setting up picket lines outside of advertisers who returned to the Post.

The Post management also began exploiting charges of discrimination against the pressmen’s union. A quick settlement was reached with the predominantly African-American Washington Printing Specialties and Paper Products Union 449, which represented paper handlers and press room general workers.

A grand jury investigation into the violence cast a cloud over the strike. The Post hired permanent replacements—mostly African Americans and women--for the pressmen and some members of other unions began drifting back to work. On February, 17 the Mailers union (who sort and bundle the newspapers) reached an agreement with the Post and returned to work along with the printers union (those who set the type)—representing about half of the 1,400 craft union workers. Most of the other unions and their members followed shortly thereafter and the strike was essentially lost at this point.

The U.S. Attorney obtained indictments against 15 pressmen. On the one year anniversary of the strike, close to 1,000 pressmen and their supporters rallied at McPherson Square and marched to the Post building where they burned Katherine Graham in effigy (see set “Pressmen Set Graham Afire 1976”). On May 20, 1977, fourteen pressmen were given sentences that ranged from fines to one year in jail.

Local 6 ceased to exist largely as a result of the strike followed by the folding of the Washington Star newspaper in 1981. In 2005 the national body, by then renamed Graphic Communications International Union, merged with the Teamsters. The Washington Post continues to publish, maintaining its headquarters at the same building on 15th Street NW.

Washington Area Spark/On The Move newspaper had ceased to publish at this time. These images were obtained in one of the periodic attempts to revive the newspaper.

The first two images were scanned from original 8 x 10s. These photos were purchased from the Washington Star in 1976 for publication in On The Move and recently donated back to the Star Collection at the Martin Luther King Library. Photo Credits for first two photos: Pete Schmick, Courtesy DC Public Library, Star Collection, © Washington Post, All Rights Reserved.

The third image is scanned from an original 5 x 7 that has suffered some damage. Original negative is apparently lost. Non-commercial use of this image should be credited to Reading/Simpson. Commercial use of this item is prohibited without express permission.
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