Labor Leaders Given World Peace Awards In D.C. Ceremony

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Above Photo: By Bill Hughes

On Capitol Hill, on Tuesday afternoon two stalwarts of the cause of Organized Labor, John Sweeney and Elizabeth Powell, were awarded with the “Roving Ambassador for Peace” award.

Sweeney is the President-Emeritus of the AFL-CIO and Ms. Powell is the Secretary-Treasurer of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU).

The ceremony was held in the headquarters of the AFL-CIO, on the eighth floor, with a splendid view of the White House and Washington Monument in the background.

Friends and family members of the honorees were in attendance. They were joined by officials of the AFL-CIO, such as Ms. Elizabeth Shuler, its Secretary-Treasurer, and Mark Dimondstein, a member of its Executive Council, also the President of the APWU.

(I enjoyed sharing with Mr. Dimondstein and Ms. Powell, that my grandson Schuylar Mark Hogan has recently joined the U.S. Postal Service. He is also a proud member of Local 888, APWU, in Springfield, MO.)

Mr. Sweeney served for five terms as the President of the AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2009. In his salad days, the Bronx, NY native joined SEIU Local 32B in NYC. He is also an author, with a degree in Economics. While with the SEIU, Mr. Sweeney “led two citywide strikes of apartment maintenance workers during the 1970s.”

To learn more about Mr. Sweeney’s career, go here.

Ms. Powell hails from the town of Logan, in the state of West Virginia. She attended West Virginia State College. Ms. Powell joined the U.S. Postal Service in 1970, in a post office in Hempstead, NY,  on Long Island. She worked her way up through the ranks in the APWU and became, in 2009, the “union’s national Secretary-Treasurer.” This made Ms. Powell “the first woman executive officer in the union’s history.”

To learn more about Ms. Powell background, go here.

The awards were presented before a capacity audience by Fr. Sean McManus and Ms. Barbara Flaherty. He is the President of the Washington, D.C.- based Irish National Caucus, and the Chief Judge of the World Peace Prize. Ms. Flaherty is the Executive V.P. of the Irish National Caucus and Corporate Manager of the World Peace Prize.

Fr. McManus said: “Mr. Sweeney and Ms. Powell were selected for this Award for the year 2016, because of their life-long dedication to social justice and fair employment. The latter are the very foundation of peace, because peace is the fruit of justice. Those who work for justice are therefore, the real peace workers.”

He continued, “It’s easy to talk about ‘peace’ if one leaves out justice…Working for justice is not a part-time endeavor. Rather it is, instead, the work of a life time…Peace Prizes can too often be associated with politicians or so called ‘Great Statesmen,’ who may have just spent a short time actually working on a peace agreement.

“So, we felt that Peace Prizes also ‘belong to people’ who spend their lives, day in and day out, working for justice … The way for the ordinary person to get a chance at basic justice is to get a decent job, with a just wage, without any discrimination for any reason.

“Fair employment is … the nexus between justice and peace … Those who spend their lives working for decent jobs with just wages, are indeed the true and steadfast ‘peace builders.’ And if any American group personifies this, it is surely ‘the Labor Movement and the AFL-CIO …’ And that is why…the 2016 recipients of the Roving Ambassador for Peace prize are John Sweeney and Elizabeth Powell.”

Background on the World Peace Award – The World Peace Prize, according to the program from the event, “was founded in 1989, by the Rev. Dr. Han Min Su. He is from Seoul, Korea and is a Presbyterian Minister…The World Peace Prize is not only International, but also Inter-faith. The Board of Judges symbolically represent the nine major religions of the word.” To learn more about Rev. Dr. Su and this matter, go here.

Fr. McManus ended his remarks with this cogent statement. He said: “Mr. Sweeney has for a long time been a legend in the Labor Movement. And, Ms. Powell is well on her way to becoming a legend, too. Both are worthy recipients of the ‘Roving Ambassador for Peace’ award.”