Barb Kucera, editor of Workday Minnesota.org, was recently honored as a Working Class Hero, an award presented by the Jobs Now Coalition at its annual meeting. For Kucera, who usually covers events and takes the photos in her role as editor, the presentation took her by complete surprise.
A native of Germantown, Wisconsin, Kucera has a passion for writing that goes all the way back to when she started up a family newspaper while still in grade school. Her interest in the world beyond, even as a child, is evidenced by her analysis of the 1968 presidential election in that little handwritten newspaper. Later she was editor of her high school newspaper.
While attending the University of Minnesota, Kucera worked at the student newspaper, the Minnesota Daily, which she describes as a “ a great experience.” After graduation Kucera went to work as a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. She later received her Masters degree in Industrial Relations from the University of Wisconsin. She went on to serve as editor of the Saint Paul Union Advocate for 14 years.
In 2000 Kucera helped create the Workday Minnesota.org, a website that covers news and issues that are important to working people, and is affiliated with Labor Education Services at the University of Minnesota. She also assists with producing “Minnesota at Work,” a weekly cable TV program. She also does some teaching and off-campus workplace training, as well as teaching labor history classes.
Always a champion for workers’ and human rights, Kucera continues to devote her life to the everyday people, the workers, the immigrants, the vulnerable who cannot speak for themselves, in Minnesota and throughout the world.
In November Kucera traveled to New Orleans for the Labor Communications Association convention. Instead of conducting the series of meetings usual at conventions, participants went into the community in teams to interview residents of New Orleans. Seventy labor journalists grouped into 17 teams and went out to take pictures, and listen to the stories of the residents who are victims of Hurricane Katrina. Working together, the teams created articles and multi-media presentations that capture the issues behind Katrina. Kucera says, “what the journalists found there has implications for the entire nation.” To view the pictures and the commentary go to the New Orleans Labor Media site.
Kucera says that she considers it a privilege “to do what I do. I just get to document what [workers] are doing. You see some very courageous people out there. We have all these people … they’ve never marched, they’ve come together across their differences … I just get to go along for the ride. I am just representing a lot of other people.”
Kucera considers this an exciting time for the labor movement and working people. “There’s time to advance a really progressive agenda. It will not be easy. Sometimes the obstacles to overcome do not come from the outside, but from within… the membership is there. We need leadership to stand up and speak up. People are in sync with issues that the labor movement has been talking about for decades.”
Kucera is active in the Minnesota Newspaper Guild Typographical Union; National Writers Union; the Labor Project, Twin Cities Labor History Society, and the Resource Center of the Americas, which, sadly, ceased operation in August of this year.
Kris Jacobs, Director of the Jobs Now Coalition, stated it well as she presented Kucera with the award, “For being our teacher and our leader and our friend, Barb Kucera, you are a working class hero.”
Mary Thoemke, a lifelong resident of Saint Paul, lives in the North End neighbood. Now working as a free lance writer, Mary is retired from Saint Paul Public Schools, and served as editor of the North End News, a community newspaper.