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Labor Day Commentary By Cecil R. Benjamin, State Chairman V.I. Democratic Party

By CECIL R. BENJAMIN/STATE CHAIRMAN OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS DEMOCRATIC PARTY

On behalf of the Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands, I take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the working men and women of this territory for their contributions to a better standard of living for their families and to the improved social and economic well-being of these islands.

We recognize and pay homage to those who continued in the struggle to maintain democratic freedom and improve our way of life.

It is a time to reflect on the past struggles and perils and enjoy and celebrate the accomplishments and progress of today while hoping and working for a better tomorrow. Nevertheless, the labor struggle has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy and freedom.

As we continue our quest for economic improvement and better standard of living, there is much reason for hope. From an economic standpoint, things are getting better and the unemployment rate has improved.

Our agenda is and has always been jobs and social and economic justice and fairness for all. Our platform is based on the fundamental issues of human concern. We affirm our commitment to the welfare of the workers, employers and the Virgin Islands community as a whole. We are the Party of progress, hope, purpose, inclusion, diversity, opportunity and change. Our democratic administration is working diligently to provide programs in education and housing that benefit the working families, seniors and youth. Now, for the first time ever, our students will receive free college education, an historic achievement of this current administration which has re-instituted the defunct, but important Workforce Investment Board and also the Wage Board that has not been in operation for decades. Retirees deserve much attention. This is also being worked on in an effort that they could enjoy the fruits of their labor by retiring with dignity. Right now, our democratic leaders in both the executive and legislative branches of government are working to create more jobs, helping people stay in and own their own homes, building and repairing roads and infrastructure, providing quality, accessible and affordable health care and reliable and affordable energy.

Nevertheless, the issues of energy, the economy, health care, education, transportation, jobs, housing, security, election reform, the GERS and cost of living are of paramount importance and must be dealt with immediately in a systemic, methodical and effective manner that requires genuine and meaningful collaboration with all stakeholders including the labor community.

The Democratic Party and the labor and civil right movements are synonymous and intrinsically tied together over the years. We are three movements with a common mission or goals for human rights, human development, well-being and progress.

We have begun to make our families more economically secured by raising the minimum wage and making college more affordable. We intend to continue to focus on improving our standard of living and making things better for all of us.

However, we may not be able to do all of the aforementioned without the support, collaboration and cooperation of the labor union community which has a tremendous role to play as well as have a great stake in this partnership. We are, therefore, calling on labor to stand up and play its part. We will continue to protect the individual rights to life, liberty, justice and equal opportunity. But all of this must go with personal responsibility to respect human life and the right of others, and to be tolerant, honest and compassionate. We must be our brothers’ keepers and look out for one another instead of destroying and killing one another. We must turn to each other instead of turning on one another. This senseless violence must stop! We must seek reconciliation and forgiveness over retaliation and revenge. We must seek cooperation and compromise over conflict and confrontation. Working together, we can make these beautiful islands “nice” by being nice to one another. We need your leadership, support, courage and cooperation to assist in moving us forward. We must work to solve problems rather than exploiting divisions and differences. It will take all of us working together and staying focused. There is no time for blaming and condemnation. It’s about all of us. It is time to come together for the benefit of all. Times have changed, conditions have changed and circumstances have changed. Therefore, the strategy and the manner in which we govern or do things must also change.

This moment of challenge, hope and change can be the dawn of new opportunities for all of us. As we are about to celebrate our most important holiday on Monday, we must be confident in our ability to make a difference. Together, we can do better!

In closing, I would like to extend congratulations and profound appreciation to all workers in our Virgin Islands community for your service despite the circumstances. You are the most important resource. Be gentle with yourself; learn to love yourself, to forgive yourself; for only as we have the right attitude towards ourselves can we have the right attitude towards others. When you disrespect others, others will disrespect you; when you despise others, others will despise you. Before you judge, understand why; and before you assume, learn the facts.

We are optimistic and confident that things will be better. The best is yet to come. The future is bright.

Enjoy this important and significant Day and have a safe, peaceful, harmonious and fun-loving Labor Day weekend with your family, friends and neighbors.

In solidarity, hope, peace and change,

Cecil R. Benjamin, State Chairman Virgin Islands Democratic Party

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Cecil R. Benjamin

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