Only 12th labor leader to receive prestigious international award
By ED FINKELSTEIN
In a unique honor for a Missouri Labor leader, Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, was awarded the Roving Ambassador of Peace Award presented by the World Peace Prize Organization at a ceremony Oct. 8 at Maggie O’Brien’s restaurant. He is the first Missouri Labor leader to be so honored.
There are only 11 previous Labor “Roving Ambassador” honorees. Among them are Illinois AFL-CIO President (retiring) Michael Carrigan, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and AFL-CIO President Emeritus John Sweeney.
“Justice is the heart and soul of the Peace Prize,” said Fr. Sean McManus, president of the Irish National Caucus and Chief Judge of the World Peace Prize Awarding Council, in opening the award ceremony. “Mike Louis, a dedicated and fervent union man, eminently deserves this Peace Prize.
In explaining the award, Fr. McManus said “The American Labor Movement, because it works for justice for working men and women locally all over the world, works for peace.”
Echoing the program’s concepts in a video played as a prelude to the award presentation, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “Let’s never stop fighting hate with love, never stop searching for economic justice.”
UNIONS FIGHT FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE
In accepting the award, Louis made the point that unions working for justice means workers united in their unions fighting for a livable wage through strong contracts as the path to economic justice, not allowing those wages and benefits be set by greedy “corporate barons… making 271 times more than the average worker.
“This peace award to me is about my fight, our fight, to give working people the peace of mind to be able to concentrate on work, when you’re giving your all for eight hours (to ensure) your CEO… can pay you a livable wage, health insurance and a pension that will help insure a quality of life upon retirement.”
PEACE OF MIND
“And that’s only the beginning of what PEACE of mind is,” Louis stressed, “There is a lot more that we can do to stand in favor of ending poverty for working families, so that they too can have the peace of mind knowing:
- “Your children are safe, have food and are getting a good education… but I don’t see much legislation in this state or coming from this President’s administration helping working families with those very issues.
- “That you have insurance if you or one of your loved ones has a catastrophic illness that could bankrupt a family.
- “When you grow older you will have enough resources to have a quality of life, including an expansion of Medicare (and maintaining) your Medicaid or Social Security.
- “That after you give eight hours work for eight hours of pay, your family will have food on the table, and you won’t need to choose between macaroni and cheese or medicine.
- “That when your teenage son walks out the door of a Friday night to take his girlfriend to a movie and get a pizza that they will come home safe, not harassed, not attacked, not robbed, because of the color of their skin, because of the way they dress or act, or simply because they don’t look and sound like everyone else.
LEAVING A BETTER WORLD FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
“Look sisters and brothers and friends, we have to be very honest here, we do not have the ability to walk across the world and make countries lay down arms, tear down boarders, work together for a cleaner earth (or) to define what can be done with nuclear medicine, NOT to define how much can be wiped out with nuclear arms, but we can join in, we can participate. That is what peace is, leaving a better world for the generations coming after us.”
‘THANKS FOR BELIEVING’
“Let me end with a quote from my peace achieving hero in life (John Lennon):
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one,
I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.”
Louis, with a warm and obviously humble smile, received a standing ovation from the hundreds of friends, family, union leaders and members in attendance.
The ceremony was chaired by Barbara Flaherty, a Judge of the World Peace Prize Awarding Council and executive vice president of Irish National Caucus.