NEW HAVEN, Conn. – In his keynote speech to the historic 2002 People’s Weekly World Newsmaker Awards rally, John Olsen, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, paid tribute to the pioneering leadership of the left in our country’s history and its role in galvanizing broad movements to win labor and people’s gains.

Olsen warned of the reactionary swamp that George W. Bush wants to take the country into and emphasized that the corporate and Republican far right can and must be defeated in 2002. He criticized Bush for attempting to put across his anti-labor, anti-peoples agenda under cover of fighting terrorism, and encouraged the overflow audience to make their voices heard for working people.

‘The people in this room can make a difference,’ Olsen told the 100 activists at the ‘Stopping Bush at Home and Abroad’ rally held at the New Haven People’s Center. He urged participation to defeat Republican incumbents Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons as steps toward ending GOP control of the House of Representatives. He also called for defeat of Governor John Rowland, ‘the champion of millionaires.’

Welcoming the enthusiastic crowd, Joelle Fishman, chair of the Connecticut Communist Party, greeted the ‘great people’s movement coming forward in our country that we are part of and helping to build.’

The feeling of strength and unity was heightened as each honoree accepted their award from event co-chairs Patricia Highsmith and Brian Steinberg.

Rev. Scott Marks, accepting an award for the Connecticut Center for a New Economy in New Haven, hailed the unity and mutual support of the union-community movement being built across color, ethnic and gender lines to win good jobs at Yale and improved public education and affordable housing. ‘This is not a Black thing, or a white thing, this is a people’s movement,’ he exclaimed to loud applause.

Awards were presented to the Coalition to Stop Fast Track and FTAA, which organized thousands of phone calls to Congress, and to Mothers for Justice, which is organizing women to demand an end to poverty in the current welfare reauthorization debate.

Young people were recognized with two awards. The Student-Labor Summit, initiated by the Central Labor Councils, is involving student activists in supporting union struggles. The National Youth and Student Peace Coalition – Wesleyan University played an initiating role in the April 20 March on Washington to End the War at Home and Abroad. As the Wesleyan students came forward, a big applause greeted them, and all those in the room who were part of this great demonstration which gave rise to a new national peace movement.

New Haven school bus drivers received a standing ovation when they accepted an award for their recent victory in a union representation election at First Student. The company is contesting the results. The workers thanked the New Haven Board of Aldermen for their support, initiated by Alderwoman Dolores Colon, who was in the audience.

The rally concluded with a call to action from George Springer, North East Regional Director of the American Federation of Teachers. He presented a unity statement for the 2002 elections that will be circulated to labor and community organizations throughout the state, pledging ‘a single-minded effort to mobilize an historic voter turnout in the 5th and 2nd Congressional Districts’ to defeat Johnson, Simmons and Rowland, which will ‘strengthen the year-round fighting capacity of labor and people’s movements.’

A brief presentation of May Day rallies around the world in 2002 and the history of May Day and Cinco de Mayo opened the rally. Participants enjoyed Mexican food and music. Over $1,600 was raised for the People’s Weekly World.