By Harry Kelber
Harry Kelber, editor of The Labor Educator, received the prestigious George J. Kourpias Award for Excellence in Labor Journalism. at the Machinists union's 38th convention in Los Angeles on Sept. 9-14.
Mr. Kourpias, who was I.A.M. president from 1989 to 1997, began his career as a young machinist in Sioux City, Iowa in 1952. He is especially noted for his leadership as President of the Alliance for Retired Americans, representing more than three million members, with a mission to "support public policy that protects the health and economic security of the country's senior citizens."
Brother Kourpias was in the convention hall, sitting among the 1,900 delegates, as the award in his name was announced. The Kourpias Award is one of the highest awards given to ?communicators.? One award is given only to an I.A.M. member; a second award is given to one person who "exhibits dedication to labor principles in writing and/or various media."
The Award, a rotary-wheel structure in lucite glass, was created, produced and displayed by members at the 38th Grand Lodge at the convention in Toronto, Ontario Canada., where I.A.M. President Thomas Buffenbarger also presented awards to members of local unions who had won awards in the Local Newspaper and Web contests.
The first Kourpas Award for Labor Excellence in Journalism went to Harry Kelber, a 98-year-old columnist, who is still writing three columns a week for an Internet labor audience. Kelber?s relations with Machinists goes back to the 1930s, when he helped a Machinist local start its first local newspaper in 1938.
Harry believes it is never too late to learn, He entered Brooklyn College at the age of 46, and in 5-1/2 years, he earned a Doctorate in American Civilization from New York University. Harry is the only union member ever to run as a candidate for the AFL-CIO Executive Council in 1995.
Harry has had a 75-year career as organizer, strike leader, journalist, college professor, pamphleteer and strong advocate of union democracy and worker rights, says Rick Sloan, the I..A.M. Communications Director, who has worked with Harry.
Unable to attend the convention, Harry was represented by Jack Flynn, a former officer of the Operating Engineers, who was one of his students at the Labor College. Flynn says: ?No one worked harder than Harry Kelber to build a first-class labor college to educate the next generation of labor leaders in the New York area.?
Harry is very proud of his selection for the Kourpias Award and pledges to meet all its obligations and uphold its values.