Roberta “Bobbie” Wood, 54, was recently named labor editor by the People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo editorial board. Wood, a retired jouneyman instrument mechanic and member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 9, is legislative vice-president of the Chicago Coalition of Labor Union Women.
Wood was also a steelworker in South Chicago, an officer of Steelworkers Local 65 and founding co-chair of the District 31 Women’s Caucus. Being the mother of three daughters, Jessica, Megan and Corina, makes Wood the World’s first labor editor ever to have truly been “in labor.”
Wood has been embedded in working-class and labor struggles for over 30 years and will carry on the great labor editor tradition of this newspaper. From her reporting and ability to convey the voices and struggles of working people, to her strong commitment to expanding the number of working-class writers, Wood will do a job that few newspapers have anymore.
Media expert and professor Robert McChesney has written that the single greatest casualty of the corporate media system has been coverage of the labor movement. In the 1940s, during the great working-class upsurge and the organization of the CIO, nearly every daily newspaper had at least one full-time labor editor or reporter. But, according to McChesney, in the 1990s there were fewer than ten labor reporters on the staffs of all the daily newspapers in the entire nation.
The Guild Reporter’s recent summer reading list highlighted four books about labor journalism and two women who made a tremendous contribution to it – Eva Valesh and Mary Heaton Vorse. But, it also bemoaned the lack of experienced labor reporting and the dearth of labor-oriented columnists, saying, “Today, ‘labor news’– such as it is – tends to be buried in the business pages of major dailies.”
“That’s another reason the PWW/Nuestro Mundo is a breath of fresh air,” Wood said. “Labor coverage in the tradition of a Vorse or Valesh is our very heart and soul. Without ‘harangues and exaggerations’ the telling of the struggles and stories of our multi-racial working class has always been the very reason we exist.”
At the recent Jobs with Justice conference the PWW hosted a hospitality room for participants to meet the new labor editor. Wood stressed that the World/Mundo is part of the labor movement and the struggle to defeat Bush. “Our paper is not just about one labor editor or reporter,” she said, “but each writer is personally involved in the struggles of our working class and people. And that’s what helps to make our reporting unique.”