Racine Labor Paper

The Racine Labor Paper was a labor newspaper founded in 1941 and ran for 60 years until January 4, 2001. (Image from Bob Sprague.)

Growing up in Racine in the 1970s and 1980s, I looked forward to getting a copy of the Racine Labor Paper so we could look through the Free section of the classified ads. We used this section to get old bicycles that we would fix up, old tube radios, vacuum cleaners, etc. We got lots and lots of projects from the Free section!

From the 1946 Racine phone book
From the 1954 Racine phone book
September 2, 1960 Racine Labor paper (Image from Nick Comande)

December 23, 1988 Racine Labor paper (Image from Nick Comande)

Plant closings bring down Racine Labor newspaper

(Racine Journal Times, December 21, 2001, by Michael Burke)

RACINE – Like individual generators being shut down, years of factory closings have finally turned the lights out at the one media outlet that devoted itself entirely to labor unions.

The Racine Labor newspaper – formerly a weekly, but more recently a biweekly – will publish its last issue on Jan. 4. At Tuesday’s annual meeting, delegates voted 18-7 to adopt the board of directors’ recommendation to shut down for good.

“Sixty years (of publishing) will come to a silent end,” said Editor Dan Sharkozy. “After all the plant closings, it’s just cancerous.”

With each factory that closed, the Labor Paper lost another bundle of subscriptions.

“It was a difficult decision … it breaks my heart,” said board Vice President Terry Biarnesen.

“The board had been looking at the situation for some time, and had made a unanimous recommendation to close the paper for nonprofitability,” he said.

The paper, based at the local union hall, 1840 Sycamore Ave., had been in business for about 60 years. Racine Labor was at one time a thriving weekly paper with its own printing press, several people on staff and about 25,000 or more subscriptions, Sharkozy said. It presently has only 4,000 subscribers.

Biarnesen said the board, seeing the end coming eventually, didn’t want to wait until it was painted into a corner.

“It’s going to be clean,” he said.

This way, the paper can pay its current obligations and use what money is left to assemble a severance package for its two remaining employees – “Rather than waiting ’til it dies, and they get 10 cents on the dollar,” Biarnesen said.

“We have done a lot of creative things over the last several years, and particularly this last year, to try to keep the paper afloat,” he said. “Everything we did certainly helped. But it wasn’t enough to survive.”

On Tuesday, some of the delegates wanted the newspaper to stay in business, Biarnesen said. “But no one was able to come up with any answer as to how to keep it open,” he said.

In 2001 alone, Racine Labor has tried to absorb multiple blows from the closings of Artech Printing, Acme Die Casting and Jacobsen-Textron, although the latter closing began last year.

“This last year has been more than we could withstand,” said Sharkozy, sighing deeply and repeatedly as he talked.

“The concern was: If we have any more plant closings, then what? We’re not in debt, but we certainly were not going in the right direction.

“This is Racine, Wis., our hometown, and there’s a tremendous amount of labor history here.

“I’m still in a world of hurt about it.”

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