Three cheers for John Samuelsen, union champion and true friend of Belfast
I don’t usually pen a blog of a Friday but decided to share with you my delight at news that John Samuelsen, a revered union figure in the US, is to be honored for his work. I am a fan of John’s not least because he has put his money where his mouth is — and the mouths of his 44,000 mass transit workers in New York City — by backing plans for a James Connolly interpretative centre in West Belfast.
This pivotal project, just yards from where James Connolly once lived, is the most potent example of American workers supporting the community of West Belfast. In my book, it’s on a par with the groundbreaking work of the US pension funds which made equal opportunity a bedrock of the workplace here by sponsoring the MacBride Principles.
The full story from today’s Irish Echo is below:
One of America’s most respected labor figures, John Samuelsen, International President of transit workers union TWU, has been named as recipient of the Irish Echo’s coveted Irish Labor Leader of the Year award.
The New Yorker, who also heads up TWU Local 100, will be presented with his award by Gerry Adams TD and LiUNA President Terry O’Sullivan at a gala event in the Big Apple on Friday 8 September.
A torchbearer for the New York transport union and for transport workers across the US, Samuelsen has pioneered a series of bridge-building contacts between labor in the US and Ireland. He recently told an audience at the American Irish Historical Society that the Irish revolutionary spirit lived on in the TWU. “Although our union was organized in the New York City subway system in 1934, our story begins in Ireland,” he said. “Many of our founding fathers, including our first president Michael J. Quill, came across from Ireland’s 32 counties.”
Samuelsen is also a strong supporter of the planned James Connolly Center on the Falls Road, Belfast, which has been subsidized by labor unions across the US. “This Centre will keep Connolly’s legacy alive and thriving and form a constant reminder that workers standing together, regardless of craft or what the final line on the paycheck reads, remains the most powerful force for freedom in the world.”
Samuelsen will be joined by other champions of labor at the Irish Echo’s seventh annual Irish Labor Awards gala in the Edison Ballroom, Manhattan, on the evening of Friday 8 September.
Keynote speakers at the event will be Terry O’Sullivan, President LiUNA, and Gerry Adams, President Sinn Féin.
Nominations for this year’s awards have closed. Ten supporting honorees will also be recognized on the night.
To see full details of the awards, go to IrishEcho.com. For tickets, call Tracey Quilligan on 212-482-4818 or email [email protected].
Founded in 1928, the Irish Echo is the largest and oldest newspaper serving Irish America and boasts readers in every state in the Union.