Monday, April 23, 2012


Harry Targ

For 28 years the Northwest Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO), in cooperation with United Way of Greater Lafayette, has celebrated labor’s role in the community at its annual banquet. The banquet includes a “Peer/Union Counselor Graduation” and the presentation of Community Service Awards to union locals and individual members who help workers and the community.

On April 13, 2012, fourteen union counselors received graduation certificates for completing a ten-week course that included classes offered about Salvation Army services; information about financial health and foreclosure prevention; legal aid; food banks and pantries and other emergency assistance; and workers compensation. The course included a poverty simulation that presented participants with a powerful role playing exercise about the daily struggles of the poor. 

Union counselor graduates, mostly carpenters, and postal, sheet metal, auto, and steel workers in the community but also interested persons not in unions, learn about services available for union and non-union brothers and sisters facing personal crises. They then can more effectively refer those in need to appropriate agencies.

Union counselor graduates pledged to assist all persons who have “problems affecting their health and welfare…. regardless of their race, creed or color.” In addition counselors pledged to “increase my knowledge and understanding so that I may better serve the needs of my Union and the Community in which I live.”

In addition various locals received awards for services they provided to United Way and community organizations during the year. Awards were presented to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 668, Carpenters Local 215, the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 466, and the Tippecanoe Building and Construction Trades Council. 

The Northwest Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO) presented a special award of appreciation to the Building Trades and two of its officers, Eric Clawson and Jim Ogden for "their leadership in the defense of the rights of all working men and women" in the state of Indiana. These union brothers were thanked particularly for their organization of large and visible protests in 2011 and 2012 against Indiana's push to make the state a Right-to-Work state.

The annual banquet culminates a year of labor/community activism and recognizes how critical organized labor is to the functioning of the Greater Lafayette area, especially in its collaboration with United Way of Greater Lafayette.

Earl Cox, Director of Labor Relations at United Way and the AFL-CIO Community Services Liaison, closed the banquet with a statement about the critical role labor plays: 

“With increasing job losses, energy crises, economic injustice, health care crises, housing and foreclosures, bankruptcies, the increase of personal and national debt, increasing homelessness—especially with veterans and children, and the list goes on…. this all adds up to a lowering of the standard of living and quality of life for huge segments of the population, especially for many middle class people who are falling through the cracks. This is a depressing picture…… we need to do something about it to bring change….

Many years ago a Southern Baptist Minister was at the forefront of another type of attack. He was a leader that preached that these protests must be non-violent no matter what was said or done. These protests led to a monumental change in this Country, the Civil Rights Act. While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led this crusade he had a lot of support from many different organizations one being organized labor…. Dr. King spoke frequently that the Civil Rights Movement and labor had a lot in common and had the same mission that is equality.

,,,,We must remember that when Organized Labor stands up for the common good we are not only fighting for ourselves we are fighting for all working men and women. We are Nurses, Teachers, Firefighters, Carpenters, Electricians, Machinists, Laborers, Factory Workers, and Construction Workers. We Are One!!!!

Thank you for all that you do….   and will do….   and must do!”