Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pickets Rattle Racist Cemetary Managers

By Dee Knight
Bronx, N.Y.
Published Nov 19, 2011 10:54 AM

“Bury Racism, Not Workers!” was a main chant as close to 200 unionists and community activists picketed Woodlawn Cemetery here on Nov. 12, making life uncomfortable for the plantation-like managers of the sprawling burial ground.

Strong delegations came from city administration workers in Communication Workers union Local 1180; Sotheby’s auction house workers in Teamsters union Local 814; city transit employees in Transit Workers Union Local 100; Service Employees union Local 32BJ/Schools Division; Freedom Party chapters from the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens; the Bail Out the People Movement; and the South Bronx Community Congress.
WW photos: Ellen Catalinotto

Called by the Labor-Community Forum of the South Bronx Community Congress, the protest attracted media coverage from numerous Bronx newspapers and Bronx 12 TV News, as well as ABC Channel 2. The message to Woodlawn management was simple: Keep up with your plantation-style practices and you will get no peace.

“This is an opening shot in a new campaign,” said Ramon Jimenez of the South Bronx Community Congress and the Bronx Freedom Party. “We’ll keep the pressure on until Woodlawn stops with its racist abuse of the workers.” Gavrielle Gemma of the Bail Out the People Movement said, “No matter how long it takes, we’ll win.”

Some speakers connected the current struggle to their personal experiences with Woodlawn Cemetery’s management. Allan Janczewski, whose father was a New York City firefighter killed in 1958 and whose mother is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, told the spellbound listeners of his bitter memories of official cynicism and hypocrisy. He said his mother would be proud that he was protesting the racism of Woodlawn management. Cemetery worker Frank Russo, who has job-related cancer, told how Woodlawn management has punished him for standing with the union and against racism.

Other speakers included Nadya Stevens, assistant to the president of CWA Local 1180; Andrew Smith of Occupy Wall Street; Jose Alfaro of Occupy the Bronx; and a leader of the workers at Sotheby’s.

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