Labor News
Joe Courter
November/December 1997

The Central Labor Council of North Central Florida is becoming more visible on many fronts locally, and 1998 is looking bigger still. Labor movement visibility was big at the Construction Careers Expo held for high school students at the Oaks Mall on October 24-25 with the Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 234, the Sheetmetal Workers Local 435, the Carpenters Local 75, and the Electrical Workers Local 1205 joining the Central Labor Council with displays among the various contractors and companies (much to their chagrin, I'm sure). One company there, Hyden Construction, is in the midst of a dispute over firing a couple workers who were doing union organizing on their own time at the job site. Details on this are available in the November Moon Magazine in an article by Bill Edwards.

The recent Central Labor Council meeting set up the details for the upcoming annual Spaghetti dinner, this year on Dec. 8 at the CWA Hall, 1949 NE 27th Ave. at 6 p.m. Performing at the dinner will be Judy Gail, an award-winning author, storyteller, singer and songwriter with a strong interest and talent for telling the history of labor struggles. The dinner is free and open to all unionists and friends of labor.

With the public support shown for the UPS workers in their strike coupled with the defeat of the NAFTA-promoting Fast Track legislation, labor seems to be re-awakening in the public mind. We in Gainesville will have a great opportunity to learn about labor's hidden history when--provided the local arrangements and fundraising can get done--Gainesville hosts the first Florida display of the A Philip Randolph Exhibit. A native Floridian, Randolph formed the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters union in 1925 and blazed a trail in African American Unionism; his 1940 civil rights actions and advocacy ignited the fires which grew during the 1950s and 1960s. The great 1963 March on Washington was conceived and brought to fruition by Randolph, providing the stage from which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lept to prominence. The Central Labor Council Meeting on January 12, 1998 will be devoted to initiating a chapter of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute in Gainesville. This organization of black trade unionists will be a welcome and overdue voice of organized labor here in Alachua County and Randolph exhibit will provide all who come to see it an education on this giant of labor and civil rights movement and history. As their memorial committee pledged, to acknowledge A. Phillip Randolph as "a symbol to all minority and oppressed workers of the promise the American Labor Movement holds for them in their struggle for a piece of the American Dream."

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