The Debra E. Bernhardt Labor Journalism Prize

The Bernhardt Prize is an award of $1000 given for an article that furthers the understanding of the history of working people.  The event and the prize honor the vision of the late Debra E. Bernhardt, who worked in so many different realms to share the hidden histories of working people. 


The 2021 Bernhardt Labor Journalism Forum was held Tuesday October 12, featuring a conversation with Nastaran Mohit (NewsGuild) and Edward Ongweso Jr. (VICE) revolving around the questions:  Why are media workers in the midst of an organizing boom right now? What is making those efforts successful - or not? How do these efforts relate to efforts/goals of the larger labor movement / working class? Does organizing news workers affect news coverage of organizing in other sectors?

The 2021 Debra E. Bernhardt Labor Journalism Prize was presented to Martha Pskowski for "Saving Lives and Going Hungry: NYC Ambulance Workers Demand Higher Pay," The Nation, April 6, 2021. Congratulations, Martha!


Check back in the spring for the 2022 contest.  The 2021  deadline was August 30, 2021, and the guidelines were:  Articles must be focused on historical events OR focused on current issues (work, housing, organizing, health, education) and include historical context,.  The article must be published in print or online between August 31, 2020 and August 30, 2021. The prize is given to insightful work that contributes to the understanding of labor history; shows creativity; demonstrates excellence in writing; and adheres to the highest journalistic standards of accuracy. Only one entry per person; publications and subject matter should target the United States and Canada; neither books nor plays are eligible.  For articles that meet the above criteria, the following information was required:  First Name Last Name, "Title of Article," Publication Name, publication place, publication date, URL for article.   (If no URL is available attach a PDF of the entry.)


The New York Labor History Association and NYU's Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives sponsor this award in order to inspire more great writing for a general audience about the history of work, workers, and their organizations.  The award is co-sponsored by LaborArts; Metro New York Labor Communications Council; and the NYC  Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.  The contest committee is: Irwin Yellowitz, NYLHA; Rachel Bernstein, NYLHA and LaborArts; Gary Schoichet, Metro; Kate Whalen, NYC CLC; Shannon O'Neill and Michael Koncewicz, Tamiment.


We are guided by the vision of the late Debra E. Bernhardt, who worked in so many different realms to share the hidden histories of working people. As head of the Wagner Labor Archives she reached out to an astonishing number of people and organizations, to document undocumented stories and unrecognized contributions, and to make links between past and present.  The LaborArts project is dedicated to Bernhardt, and the online exhibit "Making History Personal" explores her work. 


This year we also celebrate the 20th anniversary paperback edition of the book that displays many of the materials she brought to the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archivies -- Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives.


The 2019-2020 prize went to two articles:  Josh Eidelson, How the American Worker Got Fleeced," with data analysis and graphics by Christopher Cannon, Bloomberg Businessweek July 2, 2020 and David Unger, “Which Side Are We On: Can Labor Support #BlackLivesMatter and Police Unions?” New Labor Forum, July 6, 2020. The October 2020 Forum featured  labor journalist and author Steven Greenhouse and Culture Workers Education Center founder Natasha Bunten; Jon Bloom, Joe Doyle and Janet Greene spoke about Bernhardt.  Video of the event available  here.

Jaeah Lee received the 2018-19 Award for "The Real Cost of Working in the House of Mouse," Topic Magazine (online), September 2018.  She was a featured speaker at the 2019 Bernhardt Labor Journalism Forum on October 16, 2019, Labor Journalism - The Next Generation,  with Kim Kelly (Teen Vogue) and Alex Pres (Jacobin); Sonia Bloom spoke about Bernhardt.


Toni GIlpin received the 2017-18 Award for "A Louisville Union Built Its Strength as Blacks, Whites Took on International Harvester," in Louisville Weekly, August 30, 2017.  She received the prize at the Bernhardt Labor Journalism Forum on October 16, 2018 - "2018 - The Year of the Teachers Strikes" with investigative journalists Micah Uetricht (Jacobin, In These Times) and Tom Robbins (CUNY); Keri Amanda Myers spoke about Bernhardt.


Garret Keizer was the 2016-17 Award winner for his article "Labor's Schoolhouse" - Lessons from the Paterson SIlk Strike of 1913," in Harper's Magazine, July 2017.   The prize was awarded at the Third Annual Bernhardt Labor Journalism Forum on Thursday October 12, 2017 at Tamiment Library, with investigative journalists and labor activists Ginger Adams Otis(NY Daily News);  Michelle Chen (The Nation); and Ed Ott (CUNY) participating; Jon Bloom spoke about Bernhardt.


The 2015-2016 winner was Chloe Kent, for her article "The Women of New York's Bravest" in Enchantress magazine, May 2016.  The award was announced at a forum at NYU's Tamiment Library on October 13, 2016.  Columnist and broadcast journalist Juan Gonzalez joined historian Kimberly Phillips-Fein for a discussion about using history to improve reporting on current labor issues, with Tom Robbins returning as moderator; Jon Bloom spoke about Bernhardt.


The 2014-2015 prize was awarded on October 15, 2015 to David Kameras and Emily Harris for their May, 2014 article in the United Mine Workers Journal:  "From Tragedy to Triumph - 100 Years Later, Workers Benefit from Ludlow's Legacy."  The presentation was held at NYU's Tamiment Library, following a program moderated by Tom Robbins, Investigative Journalist in Residence, Graduate School of Journalism, CUNY; with panelists Esther Kaplan, Editor, The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute; and Richard Steier, Editor, The Chief-Leader; Alex Bloom spoke about Bernhardt.