Independence Day Labor Celebration in Eastern Maine Attracts Hundreds; IBEW 1837’s Cynthia Phinney Receives Solidarity Award

July 4, 2008 - More than 400 union members and other supporters of working people in Maine gathered in Brewer for the 8th Annual 4th of July Solidarity Celebration. This wonderful event featured great food, two U.S. Congressional Representatives, live folk music, fireworks, an original stage musical, and a large, rolling museum bus powered by bio-diesel. Clearly, this was not your average holiday picnic.

Especially noteworthy for members of IBEW Local 1837 was the presentation of a Solidarity Award to our own Sister Cynthia Phinney in recognition of her 16 years of service to our union and to the labor movement as a whole. Cynthia was selected to win the award by the Eastern Maine Labor Council, a local labor federation representing more than 6,000 individual workers.

“The award represents my gratitude for all the hard work and Cynthia’s efforts on behalf of Eastern Maine,” said Rep. Mike Michaud, who had the privilege of presenting the award to Cynthia. Brother Michaud, a former mill worker, is one of the few card-carrying union members serving in the United States Congress.

“I was completely surprised about this award when I got an email . . . that said it was going to be presented to me,” said Sister Phinney. “I’m deeply, deeply honored.”

The award to IBEW 1837’s Business Manager comes on the heels of a vicious anti-union campaign being waged in both Maine and New Hampshire by the so-called “Union Facts” front group. Their television ad campaign targets unions and people who they call “Union Bosses” for their support of the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would make it easier for people to join unions. Cynthia was elected to by our members to help lead our union in a secret ballot election, although the Center for Union Facts would likely label her as a “Union Boss.”

“I’m proud to be part of the labor movement,” Sister Phinney continued, “making sure working people have a voice in their workplaces and in Washington.” Click here to watch video of the award presentation on YouTube.

Top-notch musical performers at the celebration included renowned folk singers Dave MalletBill Morrissey and Shawn Mercer. Rep. Tom Allen, Maine’s other representative in the U.S. Congress and a candidate in this year’s Senate race also addressed the crowd. Allen detailed his continued support of working people and sought to highlight the differences between himself and incumbent U.S. Senator Susan Collins.

Parked by the side of the Solidarity Center property on the banks of the Penobscot River was a large bus emblazoned with the words “The Bush Legacy.” People stepping into the bus found a large, multi-media museum display detailing the policies of the Bush Administration and their resulting fallout on the American people. It was an impressive and disturbing tour of the last eight years.

On a lighter note—but carrying a serious message—was an original stage musical production written by William Rice and featuring IBEW 1837’s Bob Toole as part of a large ensemble cast. “Unconventional Wisdom” gave the enthusiastic crowd a chance to laugh and sing along as an imaginary “National Issues Convention” explored the broad range of challenges facing working people today. It was a hilarious tour de force.

An afternoon filled with a great variety of culinary treats and celebrations of solidarity was capped off as night fell by watching Bangor’s aerial fireworks display just across the river. The 4th of July event was sponsored by the Eastern Maine Labor Council,Food AND Medicine and the AFL-CIO.