Voice Of Action

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Voice Of Action
Dates of publication
Available online
24 April 1934 - 28 June 1935 (49 issues)
Washington State Committee of Action
Place of publication
Seattle, Wash.
Began in 1933? Ceased in 1936.
Usage rights
No Copyright
Seattle (Wash.) - Newspapers.
Washington (State) - Seattle.

The Great Depression severely impacted Seattle's residents, creating an unemployment rate of up to 50% in some areas and widespread poverty by 1931. Citizens began to organize due to the lack of state response to help workers and their families. The Unemployed Citizens League (UCL) formed to pool food and labor resources, and to create a unified voice to call for government action. The UCL collaborated with the Seattle Labor College to begin publishing their first newspaper, The Vanguard, later renamed Unemployed Citizen, a socialist-influenced newspaper that regularly reported on labor issues and called for citizens to mobilize. UCL's goal to maintain a unified voice for the labor movement was constantly being challenged, and in 1932 communist members were banned to prevent a threat to factionalize the organization.

Labor tensions continued to rise until March 1, 1933, when 3,500 marchers descended on Washington's capital city of Olympia, demanding repeal of the McDonald Bill, distribution of emergency cash relief to the unemployed, and passage of the Jobless Social Insurance Bill. It was not the first of the "Hunger Marches" in Olympia, but it was a significant catalyst in the UCL's direction after a series of setbacks and another failure by the governor to hear their concerns. The momentum of the UCL finally diminished and split, with some members seeing the path of communism as a better solution despite the ban.

In response, the communist influenced Voice of Action began circulation on March 25, 1933, to help maintain momentum from the march and defend the rights of workers during the worst of the economic downturn. The State Committee of Action (SCA), a board elected by members of 114 labor, farmer, and youth organizations, brought in editors Lowell Alvin Wakefield and Alan Max to publish "A New Weekly Paper." The first two issues maintained this title until the name Voice of Action was chosen by readers. Early publications cost 2 cents per issue, or $1.10 per year, to produce a four-page to six-page weekly issue, expanding to eight for special occasions, such as the May Day labor celebrations. The Vanguard ceased publication in November 1933.

The April 24, 1934 issue announced a new enlarged edition with new rates at $2.00 a year and new ambitions for the future of the paper. The Voice boasted about these new, special feature columns, including the "Women's World," "Around the World in Three Minutes," and "The Introduction to a Sensational Series on Fascism in Seattle." The editors justified the rise in single issue rates from 2 cents to 5 cents to cover the cost of the larger format with more news and to help pay for their own union print shop. Fundraising efforts to bring in a minimum of $1,500 were underway to have their own Seattle printing office operated "by volunteers from Typographical Union No. 202." They assured readers that the editorial policy would remain the same, and they were "pledged to the same unceasing struggle for the rights of the unemployed and employed workers and farmers." They insisted that the papers four publishers— the Washington State Committee of Action, the National Lumber Workers' Union, the Fishermen and Cannery Workers' Industrial Union and the Unemployed Citizens' League—would remain its guiding forces.

The Voice continued to advocate for the issues raised at the March 1st protest and took a stance against racism, war, and fascism, with frequent updates on national and global labor events. Though it was never explicitly a communist paper, it was clear that it supported the Communist Party and many socialist causes. It even ran a fundraising contest for a trip to the Soviet Union in March 1935, won by aspiring actress Frances Farmer. The paper ran entirely on volunteer labor, from reporting by union members, to printing, and distributing. It included artwork created by local members of the John Reed Club, a Marxist oriented organization of writers, artists, and poets. Of particular note was woodcut artist Richard "Dick" Van Dyke Correll, who had moved to Seattle in 1934 and established the Washington Artists' Union.

In September 1936, with dropping circulation, the Voice was in peril. The editors published a notice that the paper would merge with another local publication, The Washington Commonwealth, published by the Washington Commonwealth Federation. The merger with the stronger paper would still meet their early goals to reach a wider audience, unify the labor movement, and protect the rights of workers. The editors published theVoice final issue on October 9, 1936.