The Labor Movement and Posters: Promoting Human Rights, Part 1

In this series of blogs the Labor Collections Team would like to highlight the amazing posters on display in the Hornbake Library Gallery exhibit “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America.” These posters encompass a wide range of human rights issues supported by the labor movement. There are nine different human right issues that are covered in the exhibit.  For this post we will be showcasing the posters within the African-American Rights, Women’s Rights, the Eight-Hour Day, and A Living Wage sections of the exhibit.

African-American Rights:


Sucker Poster

MLK Poster

A poster created by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) to promote organizing against discrimination. Check out this amazing gif that students at the University of Maryland’s ISchool made using this poster!








AFL-CIO Posters, Broadsides, and Art Collection.This poster was created by the National CIO Committee to Abolish Discrimination to showcase that every form of hate and discrimination threatens everyone’s freedom.
AFL-CIO Posters, Broadsides, and Art Collection.








Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed that the unity and strength of unions could help the civil rights movement gain equal rights for African-Americans. When Dr. King was assassinated, he was in Memphis, TN supporting a strike by union sanitation workers. If you would like to learn more, check out our blog “The Labor Movement and Film, Part 1: ‘For the Union Makes Us Strong!’” AFL-CIO Posters, Broadsides, and Art Collection.


Women’s Rights:

harassment poster

Sexual harassment is an issue that the labor movement is still fighting to stop today. This poster was created by the Federated Clerks Union to bring awareness to the union resources for the victims of workplace sexual harassment. If you would like to learn more, check out the Labor Collection blog, “’When I Say No, I Mean No’: The Labor Movement’s Fight to Stop Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.” AFL-CIO Posters, Broadsides, and Art Collection.






Lithograph Poster AFL-CIO On Strike

This lithograph has a powerful poem written on it called “Bread and Roses.” The poem speaks about the women in the past who have marched for the betterment of not just women but for everyone: “As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days the rising of the women means the rising of us all.” AFL-CIO Posters, Broadsides, and Art Collection.


Canada Women Poster

When women first started joining the workforce in the 19th century, unions did not want them to be “competition” for men and believed that women would leave the workforce once they were married. Because of this, women’s workplace concerns were not taken seriously. This poster showcases the turn of the labor movement realizing that women and their workplace issues are important and they both need each other in order to fight for workers’ rights. AFL-CIO Posters, Broadsides, and Art Collection.


The Eight-Hour Day:


The labor movement played a central role in creating the eight-hour workday and making sure that it was protected by law. Before the eight-hour day became federal law in 1935, a normal workday could be 12 hours or more and a workweek could be six or seven days long. This powerful poster shows union miners lining up to head underground. Thankfully today, their day is limited to eight hours, with overtime pay for any additional work. AFL-CIO Posters, Broadsides, and Art Collection.

A Living Wage:


Unions are still fighting today for a living wage for everyone. This poster identifies communities and places that would benefit from workers having a living wage which everyone. AFL-CIO Posters, Broadsides, and Art Collection.




The labor movement has advocated for a guaranteed annual wage for many decades. It would ensure that a worker received an annual minimum income or guarantee of employment. Some unions have fought for this protection within their contracts to prevent factors such as the seasons from affecting pay.  AFL-CIO Posters, Broadsides, and Art Collection.

Let us know which poster is your favorite! Look out for the second part of this blog post series.

If you would like to know more about how the labor movement used posters to promote change, check out the Labor Collection’s exhibit or email us at!

Erin Berry is a Graduate Assistant for the Labor History Collection at University of Maryland Special Collections and University Archives. She is pursuing a Masters of Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archives and Digital Curation.

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