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Union to Protest Government During Celebration of Labor Leader

Oct. 31, 2005 – Saying the Virgin Islands government is "unjust" to the territory’s chapter of the United Steel Workers of America, union officials said they will protest at David Hamilton Jackson Day celebrations on Tuesday.
"David Hamilton Jackson was a man who didn't stand for injustice for any length of time," Union President Abdul R. Ali said in a telephone interview Monday. "We believe this is the same thing he would have done."
Ali was talking about the peaceful protest being staged by members of the local USW at the David Hamilton Jackson Day celebrations in Estate Grove Place on Nov. 1. In a prepared statement issued on Monday, Ali said the protest draws attention to the government's treatment of the supervisory union.
The statement outlined a myriad of grievances the union has with the government, including the administration's refusals over the past three years to negotiate with the union; to accept the union as the legal bargaining unit for local 9488 and 9489; to return the $125,000 in dues paid by the members; to raise the members' salaries; to respect the conclusion of the Superior Court for upholding the rights of the members to choose a representative; to pay the members $35 million in retroactive wages and to utilize a day-to-day contract for the members until negotiations take place with the union. (See Union Threatens Suit Over Second Veto of Raises.)
Ali said the government is "unjust" in its treatment of the union. He said the members believe in what Jackson stood for.
"We believe in his morals, we believe in his ideals and we believe in his philosophy," Ali said.
Jackson organized the first labor union in the Virgin Islands. In 1915, he led a six-week strike to protest unfair wages and poor working conditions when planters resisted paying workers appropriate wages. After the Virgin Islands was transferred from Denmark to the United States, Jackson visited Washington D.C. to protest against naval rule and demanded a civil form of government.
His actions influenced the passing of the Organic Act in 1936. Each Nov. 1 the Virgin Islands celebrate Jackson for his accomplishments as a labor leader, educator, journalist, judge and legislator.
"What David Hamilton Jackson stood for has been erased by the present administration," Maude Cornelius, union secretary said on Monday.
Cornelius said the supervisors are the ones "on the front line, we make sure the job is done."
"Liberty has been converted into debt for us, the working supervisors. They [the government] have failed us," Cornelius said.
The celebration of Jackson's life begins at noon and continues until well after dusk in Estate Grove Place on St. Croix. Government offices and schools will be closed territorywide in observance of the holiday.

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