Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Labor Day

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CLEVELAND — While still in mourning and shock at the unexpected Aug. 20 death of Ohio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the Greater Cleveland community will celebrate her life in an unprecedented Labor Day parade and festival, which her efforts helped bring about.

For the first time, the AFL-CIO Labor Day Parade and the 11th District Congressional Caucus Labor Day parade and picnic have merged in what is expected to be a “humongous” event, according to Andre White, caucus committee co-chair.

The joint event’s theme, adopted with the presidential election in mind, is “Communities United for Change.” Barack Obama has been invited and other dignitaries have already announced they will attend, including Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, White said.

Tubbs Jones would have served as the festival’s mistress of ceremonies as she has since being elected to Congress in 1998. That job will be taken over by her predecessor, former Congressman Louis Stokes.

Tubbs Jones died from a sudden brain hemorrhage. The first Black woman to serve in Congress from Ohio, she rose to chair the House Ethics Committee and become the first Black woman on the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Her father was a skycap at Cleveland Hopkins Airport and her mother was a factory worker. She was a passionate advocate for her heavily African-American district and a fierce opponent of the Bush administration’s policies.

She voted against the 2002 resolution to authorize use of military force in Iraq and was one of only 11 House members to oppose the March 2003 resolution to send troops there. She worked closely with Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Cuyahoga County’s other representative, who called her death “an incalculable loss.”

“She worked so hard and gave everything she could,” he said. “Wherever we’d go, we’d speak of each other as brother and sister.”

Tubbs Jones opposed Bush’s tax cuts for the rich and his attempts to privatize Social Security. In 2005, she opposed certifying Bush’s re-election due to irregularities in the Ohio vote results.

Loree Soggs, president of the North Shore (Greater Cleveland) AFL-CIO, said Tubbs Jones “was always with us whenever we needed her. She had a 100 percent pro-labor voting record just like her predecessor.”

Soggs, who chairs the AFL-CIO Labor Day Parade Committee, said Tubbs Jones enthusiastically embraced merging the two previously separate events.

“Her staff has been wonderful,” he said. “We have been meeting together all summer and they have done everything possible to make this combined event a big success.”

The joining of the two events has attracted more union participation than in previous years, Soggs said. This includes unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win federation who both participate in the North Shore Federation, as well as United Auto Workers locals. Allied groups, including Cleveland Jobs With Justice and the People’s Weekly World, are also taking part.