2017 Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Award

Ken Fleming

Ken Fleming

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that Ken Fleming of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and SIPTU is the recipient of the 2017 Spirit of Mother Jones Award.

Ken has been an inspector in the ITF since 2006 and the ITF Co-coordinator for Britain and Ireland since 2012 and has sought over the past decade to prevent the exploitation of seafarers on some vessels operating under Flags of Convenience visiting various ports including Cork.  Ken has recouped millions of euro in unpaid wages for foreign seafarers in Irish ports, has had several vessels detained and has ensured their crews are repatriated home.

He has tenaciously and passionately fought for the rights of seafarers and fishers on the seas and has become one of the best known and respected trade union officials in the world.

More recently, Mr. Fleming has been engaged in an international campaign to ensure decent working conditions, employment rights, proper wages and legal protection to the migrant fishers who work in the Irish and the UK fishing fleets. He called for a major overhaul of the Irish fishing industry, claiming in a submission to an Oireachtas Committee that the current regulatory permit scheme for migrant fishers has not worked and instead has led to legalised slavery for many hundreds of migrant fishers.

According to James Nolan, spokesperson for the Cork Mother Jones Committee,which presents this annual award:

“Ken Fleming has been willing to challenge the official silence on the blatant exploitation of many seafarers and migrant fishers in ships operating under Flags of Convenience in Ireland and the UK. He is a fearless, passionate and a determined defender of the workers who have been denied their rights and continually he exposes and challenges a system which treats many of them as virtual slaves”

James Nolan continued,

“Ken has bravely exposed the exploitative working practices in sections of the marine and fishing industries and he has sought to organise the migrant fishers. He has repeatedly called on the relevant State agencies to enforce a recent permit system which would allow these fishers the right to protect themselves against exploitation. We should not allow our fish to be caught or our goods to be transported or our passengers to be carried on the back of slave labour!  Ken Fleming is a worthy recipient of the 2017 Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Award.”

Responding,  Ken Fleming stated,

“I am deeply touched by the belief the Mother Jones committee have shown in my work, by selecting me for this very special award. It has been a very long and hard road, but this award has electrified me. The knowledge that a fully independent group not only recognise the work we have done, but fully support the determination to stamp out the scandalous abuse of workers completely, is inspiring. This award represents the most satisfying moment of my career.”

“It places the work of the ITF amongst a very special group of people that have devoted a great part of their working lives to see justice done. And it’s been a team effort – my fellow UK Inspectors, Liam Wilson and Darren Proctor, have faced the aggression with me head on in most ports in Ireland.”

“We can now look to the Spirit of Mother Jones for inspiration as I have a sense that she is now aware of our struggle, and my hunch is she will find a way to lend a hand.”

Video above shows Ken Fleming addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on 4th July 2017

Ken Fleming is a native of Dublin. He started work as a bus driver and worked his way through the SIPTU organisation until he was seconded from SIPTU to succeed the late Tony Ayton in the International Transport Workers’ Federation in 2006.

Ken attended the 2013 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival where in an unforgettable speech he spoke movingly and with empathy of the exploitation endured by many seafarers and fishers.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is privileged that Ken has accepted this award which is presented to people who act and work in the Spirit of Mother Jones. We are satisfied that our selection of Ken Fleming for the 2017 award is very true to this spirit.

The 2017 Award was presented to Mr. Fleming by the Cork Mother Jones Committee on today (Thursday) afternoon August 3rd at the Firkin Theatre, in the Shandon Historic Quarter of Cork.

Note:

The Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Awards to date have been,

 

  • 2013, Margaret Aspinall and Sue Roberts (Hillsborough Family Support Group)
  • 2014, Gareth Peirce, solicitor.
  • 2015 Fr Peter McVerry. Campaigner for the homeless.
  • 2016 Mr.  Dave Hopper (RIP) General Secretary, Durham Miners’ Association.

 

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Spirit of Mother Jones Festival – Day Three (Thursday, 3rd August)

Timetable for Day Three of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival – Thursday, 3rd August 2017.

There is an environmental theme to today’s events which begin at 11.00am with what promises to be an interesting and topical talk by Councillor Marcia D’Alton on “The Environmental Battle for Cork Harbour”.

We will have Music at the Maldron Hotel at 1.00pm and at 2.30pm at the Firkin Crane we will be showing the thought-provoking documentary “A Plastic Ocean” by Australian journalist and film-maker Craig Leeson.

at 7.30pm we will have a lecture at the Maldron entitled “Climate Change – Our Response” by Fr. Sean McDonagh who has written extensively on environmental issues and is currently President of An Taisce.

All are welcome.

Photos from opening day of the 6th Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School

Above: The Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Tony Fitzgerald, Tony Fitzgerald being presented with an ornamental urn containing earth from the grave of Mother Jones at Mount Olive by Jim Goltz of the United Mine Workers of America – on the opening night of the 6th Spirit of Mother Jones Festival at the Maldron Hotel, Cork, last night. Photo via William Hammond.

Julianna Minihan

Julianna Minihan who gave a most interesting talk about the life and work of U.S. social reformer and campaigner Florence Kelley,

James Goltz

James Goltz with framed proclamation from the International President of the United Mineworkers Union of America. This and two other proclamations presented by James to the Cork Mother Jones Committee can be seen in full on the Spirit of Mother Jones festival website.

Ethel Buckley

Ethel Buckley of SIPTU who gave an informative lecture on “Revitalising the Labour Movement”

Ed Byrne (ASTI)

Ed Byrne, outgoing President of the ASTI who spoke on “Challenging Injustice, Inequality and the Unethical”

Ann Piggot makes presentation to James Goltz

Ann Piggott of the Cork Mother Jones Festival (and former President of Cork Council of Trade Unions) presents a memento to James Goltz on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee

Ann Piggott presents Ethel Buckley

Ann Piggot makes presentation to Ethel Buckley on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee

Ed Byrne of the ASTI with presentation from the Cork Mother Jones Committee presented by Ann Piggott of the committee.

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School has started

1st August

Timetable for Tuesday, 1st August 2017

1st August 2017, is Mother Jones Day in Cork and it is also the opening day of the 6th annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School in the Shandon area of the city.

Today’s events start with the official launch of this year’s festival by the Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Tony Fitzgerald at the Maldron Hotel.

After the opening ceremony takes place, at 2.30pm there will be a showing of “Mother Jones: America’s Most Dangerous Woman” by Rosemary Feurer.

This will be followed at 3.00pm with a lecture by Julianna Minihan who will talk about the life and career of Florence Kelley entitled: “Slums, Factories and Child Labour: Florence Kelley (1859-1932)”.

At 4.00pm there will be a showing of “Mother Jones and her Children” by  Cork based Frameworks Films which was shot in Cork and the United States in 2014.  This will be followed by a discussion with the film-makers and others involved in the project.

At 7.30pm there will be a series of lectures (The 2017 Mother Jones Lectures) as follows:

  • “Revitalising the Labour Movement – What can we learn from the Justice for Clery’s Workers’ campaign victory?” – by Ethel Buckley of SIPTU
  • James Goltz of the United Mine Workers Association (USA) will formally present the proclamations from the AFL-CIO and UMWA (see news item on this site 31/8/2017) to view the proclamations
  • “Challenging Injustice, Inequality and the Unethical” – Ed Byrne, President of the ASTI.

The day winds down at 9.30pm with a session of music from the Cork Singers’ Club in the main bar at the Maldron Hotel.

 

Karen Underwood Sings the Blues – concert at the Maldron Hotel, Cork this Wednesday (2nd August)

Karen Underwood

Tickets are still available for the Karen Underwood concert which takes place at the Maldron Hotel this Wednesday night at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, starting at 9.30 pm.

Karen was born in Chicago in the early 60s at a time when the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum. Her home was full of music and song and she absorbed many musical influences as a young girl from Nat King Cole to Church and Gospel music.

She arrived in Cork in her 30s around 1997 and settled in the city. Here she experimented with various musical genres however the music of her heroine Nina Simone was celebrated in her show “The Nina in Me” where she sings many of Nina Simone’s songs interspersed with commentary of life, her memories of America and the tragedy, joys and experiences of her life in Cork.

Karen’s version of “Mississippi Goddamn” is awesome while “Strange Fruit”, with its echoes of lynching in America resonate the growing fear in today’s Trump’s America. Her live performances are a tribute to her extraordinary versatility and her embracement of what life throws at one.

Karen has performed all over Ireland, including the National Concert Hall, the Olympia, the Gaiety and she has appeared on numerous TV and radio programmes.

Tickets for this festival fundraising show are €15 euro each (limited to 70) and are available from the Maldron Hotel, or from Nolan’s (Victuallers) 21/22 Shandon Street or phone 086 1651356. This show is highly recommended

Unions representing millions of U.S. workers salute Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Festival

AFL-CIO

AFL-CIO Proclamation

The Cork Mother Jones Committee has received commemorative scrolls from a number of trade union groups from the United States which collectively represent many millions of American workers.  The proclamations express gratituted and appreciation of Cork born Mary Harris Jones (a.k.a. “Mother Jones”) and her pioneering work on behalf of U.S. and migrant workers in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th century and also express thanks to the City of Cork and the Cork Mother Jones Committee for hosting the festival and summer school in her honour.

The proclamation from the American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO), the largest federation of trade unions in the United States, and its affiliates, representing in excess of 12.5 million U.S. workers, states: “On behalf of the 12.5 million members and 55 affiliates of the AFL-CIO, we are proud to support the Cork Mother Jones Festival.  America is a nation built by immigrants like Mother Jones whose Spirit lit a flame in our hearts”.

AFL-CIO Illinois

AFL-CIO Illinois Proclamation

A second proclamation, from the Illinois AFL-CIO Board, “We are honored she (Mother Jones) chose Illinois as her final resting place.  We give special thanks and recognition to the annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, for keeping her Irish Spirit alive in her birthplace, the Shandon area of Cork City, County Cork, Ireland. We thank you for sharing this grand individual with us. We are a grateful nation and a better one thanks to her. Blessed are all of you for keeping her spirit alive”.

The third proclamation is from the United Mineworkers of America, a union that Mother Jones had a close association with during her life.  It includes a personal word from the union’s International President, Mr. Cecil E. Roberts: “I, Cecil E. Roberts, International President of the UMWA, proclaim on behalf of a grateful miners’ nation, its friends and allies, that we will never forget this remarkable Irish-born woman, who showed us how to fight against injustice with every breath, fiber and essence of her being. We give special thanks and recognition to the remarkable annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival for keeping her Irish Spirit alive in her birthplace, County Cork, Ireland, in the Shandon area of Cork City”.

UMWA

United Mineworkers of America – Proclamation

Mother Jones – tourist attraction!

Tourist Office Cork

Cork Tourist Office

It’s that time of the year again and members of the Cork Mother Jones Committee have been busy preparing for this year’s Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School.  Once again this year we are privileged to have permission to showcase the event with a fabulous window display in the main Cork City tourist office at Grand Parade.

This year’s display focuses on Mother Jones’ links to mining, especially coal-mining and a colourful display it is indeed.  Our sincere thanks to Diana and the staff at the tourist office and to Fáilte Ireland, Ireland’s official tourism authority.  Thanks also to our own committee members Ann Piggott and Dominic O’Callaghan for creating the dazzling display.