The Saga of the Original Star Wars Action Figures

From the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Editor's note: We originally ran the blog below in 2015, ahead of the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Now that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in theaters, we're resharing the piece. Enjoy — and May the Force Be With You.


A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, Star Wars toys were Made in America.

If you’ve stepped into a retail establishment of any kind in say, the past six months, you have probably been inundated with Star Wars-themed merchandise. It’s all part of the massive money-making blitz surrounding Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opens on Friday. 

It is unfortunate — but sadly, not all that surprising — that most of the toys and T-shirts and gadgets and other tie-ins are made overseas. You can find some Made in America gear if you really look (Tervis is selling Made in America tumblers, for example) but most of the stuff lining the shelves in the big box stores is manufactured outside of the United States.

It wasn’t always this way. The toys for the original Star Wars film came from Cincinnati-based toymaker Kenner Products, who produced action figures, vehicles and playsets in the Queen City. 

And while it’s hard to believe now, Kenner landed the Star Wars contract only after companies such as Mattel and Mego turned down the opportunity to license the tie-in toys, since no one expected the movie to do well. As the Cincinnati Enquirer reports:

At that time, toys from television properties, such as Kenner’s “Six Million Dollar Man” doll, worked because of the lengthy exposure of TV, but movies weren’t in theaters long enough.

Kenner designer Jim Swearingen, a University of Cincinnati graduate, recalled reading the “Star Wars” script and telling his bosses they had to do these toys.

The designers knew they wanted to make toys of the spaceships, but the usual 8- or 12-inch dolls would make that impossible, so they instead created 3 ¾-inch plastic action figures that would become the new industry standard.

The Kenner action figures and other toys brought in $200 million in sales, the Enquirer reported, and are now highly coveted among collectors (especially in the box!).

Early Star Wars merchandise even was chronicled in the documentary Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys. Kenner’s Star Wars action figures were added to the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2012.

Kenner no longer is in business; Tonka bought Kenner in 1987, and Hasbro bought Tonka in 1991. Hasbro now is the official licensee of many Star Wars toys, including for the new movie.

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Reposted from AAM

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work