Monday, November 21, 2005

Chicago's Voice of Labor

On Wednesday night-July 21, 1926 WCFL 620AM , Chicago's Voice of Labor, premiered over the airwaves with two hours of music. This event marked the beginning of the first radio station in the United States dedicated solely to the cause of labor unions and their members. The driving force behind the creation of WCFL was a man named Edward Nockels.

WCFL continued to survive and even flourish over the following decades even were publishing a magazine. In the fall of 1927, Nockles introduced the quarterly publication of the WCFL Radio Magazine for it's listeners and union workers.

WCFL's General Manager Ken Draper altered the format in 1966. He captured the 18-35 year old audience, with the introduction of rock n' roll, and and the station beame even more successful. In 1967, WCFL was Chicago's number 1 CHR outlet!

It was in the late 1970's that things began to fall apart. As the organized labor movement in the United Stated began to decline, so did the Voice of Labor. The decision was made to sell WCFL because the finances were running low, and a progressive decline of community interest around their home base Chicago.

WCFL's ratings had tumbled by 1975. Lew Witz announced that on March 15, 1976, they would change from Top 40 to the dreaded beautiful music format. Most announcers were fired or quit. In April 1978, WCFL, the Voice of Labor, was sold to MBS (Mutual Broadcasting System)which was owned by Amway [Michigan-based pyramid-sceme marketing Co.] for $12 million. The sale of WCFL in 1978 marked the end of labor radio. But even without radio, the legacy of the labor movement lives on today. [Ex. I had to deal with a union shop just last month in Philly.]

In the fall of 1980, WCFL changed to a adult contemporary format. Then in 1983, MBS sold WCFL to Statewide Broadcasting and it hit the ratings bottom as a religious talk station. These days AM 1000 is currently ESPN Sports Talk...WMVP Chicago

Hear clips here: http://www.radiotimeline.com/am1000wcfl.htm

sombody wrote a book: http://www.press.uillinois.edu/s97/godfried.html