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THE MIGHTY JOE YOUNG by Cecil Paul

posted 5 Oct 2012, 09:58 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 Oct 2012, 10:00 ]
With the passing of Comrade Joe Young on Tuesday October 2nd, 2012, the Trade Union Movement in Trinbago has lost one of its mightiest leaders and fighters for working people. 

Joe Young in the 1960’s developed a young Union of Bus Workers, which he founded with others, into a powerful working class machine that was hated and feared by some and respected by others. Some in the ruling classes hoped, without success, that this progressive and class conscious revolutionary Trade Union Leader and his milita
nt Union would just disappear or be made to disappear. 

Instead under his visionary leadership the union grew in numbers and scope from Transport to Retail Stores, then into Manufacturing Industries and Automobile Companies. Instead of the get rid of “TIWU and Communist Joe and his Young Upstarts” wish of Employers and the Government of the day, the Union became stronger and more powerful and in the process made vast improvements to the living standards of workers. 

Joe Young and his Comrades soon outgrew their then headquarters at Broadway in Port of Spain and constructed a new headquarters in Laventille where workers would celebrate his revolutionary, militant and uncompromising life, which was fully dedicated to working people. 

To many of us who were youths in the 1960’s and 70’s, we remember Joe Young in his green dashiki strolling tall and strong through the streets of the City to get justice for workers; leading Bus Workers in struggle on South Quay Bus terminus (now City Gate); demanding that the Government repeal the Industrial S
tabilisation Act (ISA).  

We remember Joe explaining to workers and the public at large that the Act was in fact putting workers “In Slavery Again”. We remember him on the tray of a truck in San Juan back in 1970 when we buried the martyred Basil Davis, killed by a police bullet. Most of all we remember his soft-spoken advice and sometimes shy de
meanour. 

All his actions as a Trade Unionist and Progressive Politician were directed towards improvements in the living standards of workers. His participation in the Workers and Farmers Party in the 60’s with CLR James and others. Assisting in the formation of NJAC and the United Labour Front in the 70’s. 

These were vehicles to provide workers with political protection as they seek economic justice through their struggles in their Unions. He never saw the need for any Partnership or Alliances with anti-worker parties. Instead he and his Comrades constantly spawned several self-reliant
workers’ political organizations. 

Joe Young knew the value and power of Unity in Struggle. As a result in the 1960’s he teamed up with his fellow Tocoite George Weekes who was now the leader of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union. With TIWU struggling on behalf of workers in the North/ East and OWTU battling in the South, the two leaders and their Unions provided a coordinated Workers War of Resistance, Struggle and Progress on several fronts. 

This Unity saw the struggle to liberate Sugar Workers from the tyranny of their leader Bhadase Maharaj and Cane Farmers from their compromised leadership – TICFA. As a result we saw the emergence of Basdeo Panday and Raffique Shah as leaders in Central and South Trinidad. 

The Council of Progressive Unions (CPTU) also emerged out of this TIWU and OWTU militant United Front. The leadership of Joe and George also provided space and support to the then Bank and General Workers Union to begin their long, sacrificial and painful struggle to become today one of the most formidable Unions in the country. 

We in the Workers Movement and Trinbagonians must know that history if we are to understand the significant and transformative contribution that Joe Young made to Working People in Trinbago. 

If young workers are to chart a new course for Labour, if we are to defeat
and gain respect from the dark forces of anti-worker business elites and their corrupted and repressive political allies, if we are to understand the purpose, the vision and the mission of the Trade union Movement and Progressive Political activism – We need to know and understand the life, the legend, the struggles and the great achievements of the Mightiest of Trade Unionists – Joe Young. 

As we celebrate the life of Joe Young the great humanitarian, Trade Unionist and Progressive Politician. Let us also remember some of our great Labour leaders. And that we are as strong and can exist today because of their hard work, their vision their dedication to workers and the great mission they carried out on our behalf. 

They did not struggle on our behalf for fame, fortune or political office. Despite the valiant work they did for us, the majority of our great leaders never sought political office or made compromises with the ruling classes. In fact the majority never held national political office outside of Progressive Political Groupings and any office they held was to represent workers on the national front as Workers Representatives.
 
Joe Young exemplified that principle. He gained much for workers and greatly improved their economic well-being but like Butler and others he died a poor man. You see his riches seem to be the many contributions he made to the Working Class. 

And The Mighty Joe Young Will March The Streets No More. But For Those Who Worked and Struggled With Joe. We Will… (As They Sing Of The Great American Trade Unionist Joe Hill) We Will Dream That
We Saw Joe Young Last Night. 

LONG LIVE THE MEMORY OF THE MIGHTY JOE YOUNG. 
LONG LIVE THE TRANSPORT AND INDUSTRIAL WORKERS UNION. 
LONG LIVE THE TRADE UNION MOVEMENT.
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