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Jacksonville young workers celebrate May Day

Vow to 'Fight for our future' and rebuild a fighting labor movement
By staff |
May 5, 2014
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Jacksonville, FL - Around 40 workers from Jacksonville attended a backyard May Day cookout to celebrate International Workers Day. The event, hosted by the newly-formed Young Workers of Jacksonville (YWJ), drew workers from across many industries and unions. A giant black-and-white banner welcomed them, “The future is ours, Young Workers fight back.”

The atmosphere was alive with solidarity as workers discussed the problems at their workplaces over burgers and union beer. Union members from AFSCME, International Association of Machinists, Teamsters, American Federation of Government Employees, and International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees came out, with many wearing their union shirts to the cookout. Non-union workers who also attended work in warehouses, floral design shops, cafes, retail outlets, call centers and fast food restaurants.

The North Florida Central Labor Council (NFCLC) sponsored the event. Several veteran union members, including officers from the NFCLC, came out to show their support for the new generation of labor leaders. As darkness set in, speakers stood on chairs and addressed the lively crowd by torchlight.

“We're often told that if you're a worker, you didn't make it in life, like it's something to be ashamed of,” said Richard Blake, a Teamster and an organizer for the YWJ. “But I'm here to tell you that I work alongside some of the greatest people of my generation. Many coworkers work two part-time jobs to take care of their families. Others work long hours at work and come home to take care of the kids. And then there are the people who work while going to school. These are good people, and we should honor them.”

Other speeches talked about the importance of the workers’ struggle in the U.S.. “In the U.S., we're told constantly that we live in a democracy and that every four years you get to go vote for who becomes president,” said Dave Schneider, a Teamster and organizer for the YWJ. “But I challenge each of you to think of this: for at least eight hours a day, we struggle under a vicious, ruthless tyranny of the bosses, the corporations and the banks. That's not a democracy. It's a workplace autocracy.”

As the speeches came to a close, the crowd broke out into song. A chorus of voices belted out the lyrics to Solidarity Forever, a famous union song written for the Industrial Workers of the World in 1915. The song, which talks about capitalist exploitation and workers organizing to fight back, became an anthem for the labor movement in the U.S. Solidarity Forever is sung on picket lines across the country.

The Young Workers of Jacksonville will hold its next general body meeting at 2:00 p.m. on, May 31 at the Communication Workers of America hall. To find more information, see the YWJ's Facebook page or follow its twitter (@JaxYoungWorkers).