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Jacksonville labor activists celebrate International Women's Day

By Fern

Terrie Brady, President of Duval Teachers United, addresses the audience.

Jacksonville, FL – Over 75 people gathered together to celebrate International Women's Day on March 8 in Jacksonville. The program was held in the union hall of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

International Women's Day has been celebrated by working-class people and organizers for well over 100 years, initially in honor of the 1908 garment workers strike in New York. It's a day that honors the heroic achievements won by an important section of the working class.

In Jacksonville, local trade unionists Christina Kittle of Duval Teachers United (DTU) and Angela McGill with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) organized a unique event designed to highlight the contributions of working-class women in the leadership of social and economic struggles. The program hosted several speakers who covered women's impact on the fight for a better world, along with an educational area promoting greater involvement in the trade union movement and progressive political causes.

Both the presidents of DTU and IATSE Local 115, Terrie Brady and Susan Phillips, gave powerful speeches about their experiences as women leading local unions and called for further involvement in the movement.

Several organizations had tables set up in the back ready to help get people active. Besides DTU and IATSE, other unions including the IBEW and AFSCME had information covering the benefits of union membership and involvement, along with how to apply for union jobs. Other tables from the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), the National Organization of Women (NOW), Women's March, Coalition for Consent, and the Duval County Democratic Black Caucus also passed out literature and spoke to people. A supportive mother and her daughter, a Girl Scout, hosted a popular table and sold a lot of cookies. Two people from a local Caribbean restaurant provided delicious catering for the hungry audience. Childcare was also offered to encourage attendance and participation in the event.

The audience included many trade unionists, like members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), the International Association of Machinists (IAM), the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and a few other unions. Community members and activists in the crowd were also fired up. Speeches by local Black political leaders Pat McCollough and LJ Holloway called for everyone present to keep fighting Trump and his terrible policies, particularly those policies which hurt women, non-binary folks, working people and oppressed nationalities.

“Women hold up half the sky, and we also hold powerful positions within the labor movement. Teachers have the largest union in the country and it has both a majority women leadership and membership. Nurses' unions are similar. Even within workplaces that have been traditionally male dominated, like IATSE, we have women leaders like Susan helping to grow women's membership and leadership. There is an attack on working-class families going on, and we need to organize and fight it. Women have a very active role in this fight. It’s important to have events like these to remind ourselves how strong we’ve become and how we can continue to grow,” Christina Kittle said.

Everyone who participated in the celebration of International Women's Day in Jacksonville left the event with a renewed determination to fight for the working class and for liberation.

Many organizations from around Jacksonville hosted tables during the event.

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