ILCA honors best in labor journalism at DC gathering

WASHINGTON – The International Labor Communications Association (ILCA)  honored the winners of its annual Labor Media Awards at a luncheon on Dec. 12. The awards gathering, which takes place annually, is the only forum in North America that honors labor communicators for their work, and does so in all areas of communications.

Twenty six international and local unions, newspapers, labor organizations, and individuals received one or more awards for writing, video, social media, photography, labor history, union organizing, and political action.

The Peoples World received three awards. ILCA gave an award for best news story to Teresa Albano, co-editor of the Peoples World, for her piece entitled, “Unity was their cry – fast food workers go global.”

The group gave two awards for best news analysis to John Wojcik, co-editor and labor editor of the Peoples World. The second award for best analysis was for his piece entitled “2013: Year of the bold new labor movement” and the third award in the same category was for his piece entitled, “Documents expose new ALEC scheme to kill clean energy.”

In addition to the awards given in each of those categories ILCA gave its Max Steinbock award to Eric Wolfe, communications director of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1245, for his piece titled “Brother’s Keeper. The Steinbock Award is the group’s highest award, reserved for work that demonstrates journalistic excellence in all areas.

An all-inclusive list of winners can be found here.

The luncheon was held at the AFL-CIO’s national headquarters here.

The keynote speaker was George Lakoff, professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley.

Lakoff called for the establishment of a “new progressive infrastructure” to counter the effects of what he said has been  a more than forty-year-effort by the right wing to first establish and then nurture right-wing think tanks and institutes

“We need to talk about things differently,” he said. “Unions are not special interests groups,” for example. “They are a key part of what makes us a democracy.

“What is a pension,” he asked. “It’s not a benefit handed out by the company. It is delayed payment owed to the worker for work already done.”

“It was a pleasure to hear from Lakoff,” said Kathy Cummings, ILCA’s president and communications director for the Washington state AFL-CIO. “The timing for sharing of views on progressive messaging couldn’t be better as we head into the 2016 Election.”

Lakoff’s work on framing and messaging by progressives has been detailed in many books His recently released “Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate,” is considered by many to be a progressive guide on how to deal with issues like climate, inequality, immigration, health care and the economy.

The labor journalists also heard from Steve Early, himself a labor journalist, author and retired organizer for the Communications Workers of America.

Early discussed one of the rare progressive wins of the midterm elections, the story of how the town of Richmond, Calif., beat back the corporate behemoth Chevron.

“In a town with less than 40,000 voters Chevron spent $3.1 million to defeat three people, all three retired union members,” said Early, who lives in Richmond. “But after all that money they were beaten back,” he added, “because they could not compete with a grassroots coalition of labor and community groups carefully built up over a ten-year period of person-to-person and door to door work. It’s the way we can beat back that big corporate money,” he told the cheering crowd at the luncheon.

Cummings said she was pleased not just with the event but with the work being done by labor journalists nationally.

“The stories told by the people here testify,” she said, “to the fact that rumors regarding the death of the labor movement and labor journalism are, to say the least, premature.”

Photo: Smoke billows from a Chevron plant in Richmond, Calif. Attendees at the ILCA awards dinner heard details of how a labor-community coalition beat back the company’s $3.1 million dollar campaign to win the last local elections.  |  Noah Berger/AP


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.