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NEPM premieres new radio documentary: ‘At Sword’s Point’

A historical exploration of the labor fight in Greenfield, Massachusetts in the 1950’s

April 25, 2024, SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — New England Public Media (NEPM) will premiere a new radio documentary, "At Sword's Point," on Saturday, May 4, at noon on 88.5 FM, with a repeat broadcast on Sunday, May 5, at 3 p.m. The documentary will also be available on demand at nepm.org/swordspoint.

Produced by Ian Coss and hosted by local public historian Tom Goldscheider, this one-hour program delves into the labor conflicts in Greenfield, Massachusetts, during the early 1950s — a time when American organized labor faced significant challenges amidst the fervor of Sen. Joe McCarthy’s Red Scare.

"At Sword's Point" explores a critical period in U.S. history when Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist crusade impacted American labor unions. Unlike many stories of capitulation to overwhelming pressure, this documentary showcases how a small town’s labor leaders stood their ground and fought back.

“This project is every historian’s dream,” said Goldscheider. “I stumbled onto a cache of union meeting records and newspaper clippings from the 1940s that allowed me to reassemble a piece of local history that had been completely forgotten. The story of what happened in Greenfield is really a window onto a much larger story that speaks to possibilities in our present day. Manufacturing and democratic labor unions are in the news again. I also see this as a cautionary tale about how unions can be divided and defeated, or not; and about what happens when the rule of law is subverted to a hyper-partisan political agenda. History matters!”

Listeners will learn about the history of the machine tool industry in Greenfield, once a hub of global innovation, and the formation of the United Electrical Workers Union (UE). The documentary also highlights a largely forgotten chapter of labor history through dramatic reenactments and expert commentary.

“I think for my generation, the millennials, there is just so much we don’t know about labor unions and labor history, because we grew up at a time when organized labor was in decline,” said Coss. “The reason I love this story about Greenfield and the Red Scare, is that it illuminates so vividly what the labor movement used to mean in this country, and also how we lost it. Yet it’s still a story about hope; it imagines another way the country could have gone, and maybe could still go.”

“This is a story of a community and courage,”said John Voci, senior director of radio at NEPM. “Tom Goldscheider and Ian Coss have done an exceptional job of unearthing the story of Greenfield Tap and Die and the local union and telling it in a compelling way. ‘At Sword’s Point’ helps to illuminate the industrial history of the Pioneer Valley.”

"At Sword’s Point" is produced with support from New England Public Media, Mass Humanities, the Museum of Our Industrial Heritage and the Greenfield and Montague Cultural Councils.

For more about the documentary, and to listen to the trailer, visit nepm.org/swordspoint.

Listening Details

The documentary airs on 88.5 NEPM on Saturday, May 4 at noon and will be repeated on Sunday, May 5 at 3 p.m. It is also available on demand at nepm.org/swordspoint.


Tom Goldscheider, “At Sword’s Point” host and producer, is a public historian and working farrier based in western Massachusetts. His research on Greenfield labor history was published in the Historical Journal of Massachusetts (winter 2019) and shared through a series of talks given at area venues. He has also published and spoken on the origins and significance of Shays’ Rebellion and developed an interactive curriculum on local abolitionist history for the David Ruggles Center for History and Education. He holds a master’s in history from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Ian Coss, producer and sound designer for “At Sword’s Point,” is also a creator of acclaimed podcasts. His nine-part documentary “The Big Dig” was named one of the best podcasts of 2023 by The New Yorker and Vulture, while spending over six weeks in the top 100 shows on Apple Podcasts. Previously, his audio memoir "Forever is a Long Time" was named one of the best podcasts of 2021 by The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Apple Podcasts. His work has appeared on “Snap Judgement” and “99 Percent Invisible”; it has been featured at the Tribeca Film Festival and recognized with multiple Edward R. Murrow Awards as well as a nomination for podcast of the year from the Podcast Academy.


New England Public Media enriches people’s lives in western Massachusetts and beyond by nurturing curiosity, inspiring community engagement, and reflecting the unique joys of living here. NEPM is the region’s source for PBS and NPR programs and for locally produced news, video and music content.

For more information, visit nepm.orgor follow NEPM on Facebook, Instagramand LinkedIn.


Vanessa Cerillo
Senior Director, Marketing, Communications and Events
New England Public Media