President of the Hotel Trades Council and Business Manager of UNITE HERE Local 6 Peter Ward joined esteemed Irish Consul General Noel Kilkenny as a speaker at the March 27th St. Patricks Day Celebration banquet, hosted by NYC Department of Records and O’Dwyer & Bernstien, LLP in honor of New York’s Irish Labor Force.
As Ward celebrated the legacy of Irish labor he also cautioned that the "human, legal and social institutions" that Irish and other immigrant laborers helped build over the last century are under attack. Today, Ward said, labor has a responsibility to protect the public education system, public university system, public parks and all the other institutions that are the pillars of a democratic New York City.
Peter closed his speech reminding the audience that the fight that Irish and other immigrant workers started over a century ago to ensure that New York "belongs to its people" is nowhere near over.
Here are some powerful excerpts:
"As I’m sure many of you would agree, when I look at those black and white pictures of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island from many countries, I don’t see the inferior subhumans that many of the so-called native Americans saw. I see heroes and heroines with courage and determination, ready to work and fight for a better future. They gave us the right to say ‘We Built this City.’ That’s how I think of my grandparents and great grandparents.
"And they are still coming. The pictures are now in color. The clothing and the luggage is different. They arrive at JFK, not Ellis Island, but they are no different than our grandparents and great grandparents. They bring with them the same courage and determination, and they too face persecution, prejudice and vicious exploitation.
"Like our grandparents and great grandparents, they came here to build a life and a legacy for themselves that their children’s children will look back on with pride. Our future, and the future of this great city are inexorably tied to them. They are also who we are.
"So when we say ‘We Built this City,’ let us remember two things: first, that the word ‘we’ includes all the working people of New York, from Europe, Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas; and second, that the work of building this city, and the fight to ensure that it belongs to its people are far from finished."
To read the full, speech visit the New York Hotel Trades Council website.