Addressing the annual Irish Labor 50 awards night Monday, LIUNA General President, Terry O'Sullivan, said the honorees "reflect and embody the greatest traditions of the Irish American Labor Movement."
"They are, he said, "without exception dedicated and committed trade unionists who are defined by their courage and tenacity."
The LIUNA leader stressed the connections between Irish and American labor movements. "The cause of Ireland and the cause of labor are intertwined. They are inseparable and woven into our DNA," he said.
We stand shoulder to shoulder as proud Irishmen and women whose ancestors were courageous, heroic fighters for a united, independent, Ireland, who understood how unions empower workers.
"Both an independent Ireland and the trade union movement were born out of strife and struggle, founded by men and women who banded together to fight against oppression, discrimination, imprisonment and the murder of freedom fighters in Ireland and of trade unionists in the United States," he said.
The Bobby Van's steakhouse venue for the gathering was O'Sullivan said, in the shadow of Ground Zero.
"This is a sacred place where Irish American trade unionists answered the call, not only during the construction of the World Trade Center in the 1970s but at the rescue, recovery and clean-up after the atrocities of 9/11. And today we stand proudly in the shadow of the Freedom Tower, our monument to our fallen Americans."Warning that working families in the U.S. and Ireland were "under siege," O'Sullivan urged a fighting response.
"Today, many families in Ireland are being broken apart by misguided austerity measures. Too many American families have lost their homes to bank foreclosures. Just as too many working men and women in Ireland are once again being forced to leave their country to find work, too many working class Americans have been jobless year after year. In both countries, working families are under siege and under assault."
O'Sullivan pledged to continue to build the labor movement.
"There's only one way to build a new economy based on justice and equality and that's by coming together and working together. Our opponents try to rule by dividing and conquering, dividing Ireland North from South, Catholic from Protestant. Dividing Americans by race, by creed, dividing workers union from non-union.
"But by embracing unity and solidarity, that's how we gain the power to take back our countries for the benefit, not of some, but of all."