NEW YORK — In keeping with its tradition of being a voice of the labor and the working class, the People’s Weekly World is participating in the April 26-28 Labor Voices 3 conference here on multiple levels.
The PWW is represented in the program by national political correspondent Tim Wheeler, speaking April 27 on the life of legendary labor reporter Art Shields, who wrote for this paper’s predecessors going back to the Daily Worker. PWW reporters also are on the scene at the City University of New York Graduate Center to cover the conference, and volunteers are distributing this issue to attendees.
Conference organizers bill the event as uniting “unions, worker centers, international labor groups, journalists, scholars and media activists for the first time to network and develop media strategies to support the emerging global workers’ movement.”
Wheeler says the life of Art Shields is symbolic of what the conference is trying to do.
Shields’ life was like a catalogue of 20th century labor struggles, Wheeler said. But unlike journalists from the corporate press, “he was deeply involved.”
Shields wrote a pamphlet, distributed to 20,000 workers, urging their support for the famous 1919 Seattle general strike. He was one of the first veterans to speak for the strike. This was significant because there were fears that World War I veterans, of which there were many in the Seattle area at the time, would act as strikebreakers.
“Shields was a witness to some of the biggest events of the 20th century,” Wheeler said. He was there at the Battle of Blair Mountain during the 1921 West Virginia coal wars; he campaigned to save Sacco and Vanzetti; he was in Spain during the fight against Franco fascism, barely escaping with his life after the fall of Madrid.
For people interested in the media, says Wheeler, it is important to draw lessons “about what Art’s life meant in terms of his unwavering loyalty to the cause of workers, their emancipation. He was always there. He was ready to go wherever the action was, to cover their struggle.”
The PWW fits well in the conference, Wheeler noted, since it fights every week “for the rights of manufacturing workers, steelworkers, autoworkers, immigrant workers, helping to unite and giving coverage to the role they played in the 2006 elections. Labor played such a huge role in the defeat of the Republicans.”
But the paper is also unique in many ways, he said, including its long history. He cited a recent front-page New York Times story about the donation of PWW and Communist Party archives to New York University’s Tamiment Library. The uniqueness “comes out in this story … saying we have in our archives Joe Hill’s last will and testament. I don’t think any newspaper has such deep and long roots in the labor movement as we do, going back through the Daily Worker.”
It’s unique in another way, he added: “We advocate for basic change, for socialism.”
dmargolis @ pww.org