Where Labor and Civil Rights Meet: Over 500 People At 33rd Annual Labor Day Picnic in Ithaca: List of Awards
Over 500 people attended the Tompkins County Workers’ Center and Midstate Central Labor Council’s 33rd Annual Labor Day Picnic @ Ithaca’s Stewart Park on Monday, September 5th. The Picnic organizers focused on the theme: Labor Rights are Civil Rights highlighting the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement locally. The Guest Speaker was Professor Russell Rickford of Cornell University,and also a leader in the Black Lives Matter Ithaca movement. Incredible music was provided by Colleen Kattau and Mike Brant (Gringa Grooves from the Heart), as well as Ithaca-based rap artist, Sammus also a leader in the Black Lives Matter Ithaca movement.
JOE HILL AWARDS: Named after legendary labor activist, Joe Hill (1879-1915). [Hill was a songwriter, itinerant laborer, and union organizer, Joe Hill became famous around the world after a Utah court convicted him of murder and was executed.]
The three Joe Hill Awards were given to the following organizations:
- The Member Farmworkers of the Workers’ Center of Central New York and the Member Farmworkers of the Worker Justice Center of New York for the workers’ and advocates’ of the respective organization’s efforts to support and organize farmworkers; for facing adversity and challenges from those who would deny workers their lawful right to join together in the struggle against injustice, and for proving once again that workers united will never be defeated. The organizing of both organizations has led to a lawsuit against the State of New York which presently doesn’t allow farmworkers to organize into a union;
- The Communication Workers of America, Local 1111 based in Elmira, NY (responsible for the area including Tompkins County) for their leadership in the recent and successful ‘strike’ against Verizon that saw tangible gains made for both present Verizon workers, as well as opening up new possibilities for organizing workers in non-organized call centers and cell phone stores.
MOTHER JONES AWARDS: Named after legendary labor activist, Mother Jones (1837-1930), who once said: “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living. “Forced to support herself, when her husband and children all died, she became involved in the labor movement and helped to found the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or “Wobblies”), in 1905.]
The two Mother Jones Awards were given to the following organizations:
- Cornell Graduate Students United for their stellar organizing to create a union for graduate students at Cornell University–a possibility made all the easier in late August by the National Labor Relations Board decision to consider grad students as employees at all universities;
- The Full-Time Contingent Faculty at Ithaca College, for quickly organizing a union of their own, following the lead in 2015 of the Ithaca College Part-Time Contingent Faculty doing the same in 2015.
The Friend of Labor Award
The Friend of Labor Award was given posthumously to a member of the Tompkins Workers’ Center’s Minimum Wage as Living Wage Organizing Committee, Paula Burke, who passed away in late June of 2016 at the age of 36. Paula was instrumental in our campaign and worked tirelessly to ensure that EVERYONE who worked in Tompkins County was paid a Living Wage (which is presently $14.34/hour).
The Goat of Labor Awards were given to:
Cayuga Medical Center who clashed with nurses earlier this year over the nurses’ right to form a union amid claims that under-staffing was leading to safety issues.
The second “Goat” award went to Syracuse based Hayner-Hoyt construction, who engaged in conduct designed to exploit contracting opportunities reserved for service-disabled veterans.