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September 3, 2013

Leading the way: Honoring a legacy of labor

Parade, beans, banquet fill a day of celebration

TERRE HAUTE — Working together is the symbol of Labor Day, John C. Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, told about 190 people attending the 32nd annual Labor Day Banquet on Monday night.

Zody was born in Vigo County at Union Hospital. His father went to high school at the former Gerstmeyer High School, and his family moved to Martinsville when he was 2. He has two aunts that live in Vigo County.

“I look at the battles and fights that organized labor and the Democratic Party have been in together,” he told the audience, gathered at the Holiday Inn. Zody recalled a rally for prevailing wage in March 1995, when he worked for the late Gov. Frank O’Bannon.

“The whole government center, the west end of the government center was full,” he said. “I don’t think there has been a rally at the Statehouse that has matched the size of that. That was such a pivotal moment in the General Assembly.”

Other important battles include 2011, when the Indiana General Assembly voted to enact the right-to-work law, which removed a require that a worker be required to join a union at a workplace.

“It was another tough fight, but we stuck together,” he said. “It doesn’t always have to be partisan. When we [Democrats and Republicans] can come together, it does come down to common sense. There are opportunities there. You are involved in this [Democratic] movement because you believe in a better quality of life and the opportunities that can come in Indiana,” Zody said.

The Democratic Party, Zody said, has to focus on elections next year and through 2016.

“We are all Hoosiers first, no matter what party you are or no matter what you do for a living,” Zody said. “When we remember that and we remember it does come down to common sense, making sure our friends and neighbors have the best opportunities to succeed with education, with health care and access to that ... it is about making those choices easy and affordable and making sure people have a great job that they can live and work in Indiana and be successful. Those are my goals,” Zody said.

Before Zody’s keynote speech, Mayor Duke Bennett, a Republican, also said improving the city and county “is all about common sense. I really appreciate working with all of you and your leadership teams and rest of the members of your organizations, who are so positive when it comes to Terre Haute.”

Bennett said a carpenters union complained of slow state approval for building permits. The mayor said he has made calls to the state building commissioner to try to speed such approvals.

~ In awards, Mary Harvey, a bus driver for the past 17 years and financial secretary of the Amalgamated Transit Workers Local 1064, was awarded the Pete Culver Award, the highest award of the evening.

“It means a lot to me,” Harvey said. “If there is a volunteer list, I am usually trying to be on the top of it. I always willing and ready to help out with any community projects.”

Other award recipients are: Public Servant, Mick Love, Harrison Township Assessor; Community Service Award, Bob Baesler, owner of Baesler’s Market; Local Union award went to the Sheetmetal Workers Local 20; Local Union Member Award went to Paul Pupska of the IBEW Local 725; and Media Award, Jim Avelis, photographer for the Tribune-Star;

The banquet was the final event of the day, after a parade which had 41 entries and about 2,800 people and a bean dinner lunch, said Bill Treash, president of the Wabash Valley Central Labor Council.

Treash told the banquet audience that the AFL-CIO state convention is scheduled to be held at the Holiday Inn Dec. 2 through Dec. 5.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard. greninger@tribstar.com.

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