The Max Steinbock Award is given in recognition of an outstanding journalistic writing effort that explores an issue of concern for working families, with particular sensitivity and insight into the human spirit.

The award is named for a much-respected past ILCA president. Topics can range from human rights issues to individuals’ acts of courage or conscience, economic justice initiatives to community service activities or commentary about the American labor

The 2014 Max Steinbock Award Winner is Eric Wolfe, IBEW Local 1245 for “Brother’s Keeper.”


In his story “Brother’s Keeper,” Eric Wolfe takes on one of the most important subjects labor journalists must face—safety on the job.

In this instance Wolfe drills down to a particular instance of the topic—how do workers help their co-workers maintain safety standards as brother and sister unionists without the threat, authority or intent to enforce code violations with penalties.

Wolfe does this by taking his members inside a union-sponsored training for “safety stewards,” a progressive experiment going on in his local, IBEW 1245, the employees of one of the country’s most documented violators of safety, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). IBEW 1245 has set up an informal network and program where members, not as representatives of the union or the company, take on the task of finding “brotherly” ways of making collective safety the norm on the streets. As he says in the story, the goal is “to remind people that we all want to get home alive each day.”

Through the words of members training to become safety stewards, Wolfe has them explain how they try to do this, and how they feel about it as workers who have been injured on the job or have some co-workers hurt and killed. Their perceptions are touching and compelling, and Wolfe gets them across without preaching.

You can read Eric Wolfe’s award-winning piece here: IBEW1245_Feature_Brother_Keeper