JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With the motto, “Protect the real Florida – for working people!” Russell Pelle is running hard for the Soil and Water Conservation Board in Duval County, hammering Republican Gov. Jeb Bush for coddling corporate polluters and real estate developers.

Pelle is calling for protection of Florida’s fragile environment. “Everywhere I go, I tell voters I am running against Jeb Bush,” Pelle told the World. “The Soil and Water Board is pretty low on the electoral totem pole but Bush’s policies have been a disaster for the Florida environment. If I am elected, I will fight urban sprawl, fight to protect the people from toxic wastes.”

Recently, environmentalists discovered a layer of toxic ash a few inches below the surface of the soil in the Black community of Jacksonville, fallout from a trash incinerator that has been pouring out smoke and ash for decades. Pelle issued a statement blasting this environmental racism, which he and his canvassers distributed at a protest rally in the community.

Pelle has been endorsed by the North Florida Central Labor Council (NFCLC), Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) and by Tony Hill, a community organizer for the Service Employees International Union who won the Democratic nomination for State Senate from Jacksonville in Florida’s Sept. 10 primary.

Pelle played a sparkplug role in winning recognition of AFT Local 2397 at Florida Community College at Jacksonville (FCCJ) last April 4. A popular 15-year professor of English as a Second Language at FCCJ, Pelle helped unite the faculty in the face of a unionbashing campaign. Despite heavy anti-labor propaganda, 91 percent of the faculty cast ballots and 65 percent voted in favor of union recognition, a smashing victory in this Right to Work (for less) state.

In a clear case of reprisal, the FCCJ administration refused to renew Pelle’s contract and he is now fighting to win reinstatement to his job. Scores of Pelle’s students signed a letter to FCCJ President Steven Wallace, which states, “As students of Prof. Pelle, we thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to participate in his class. His open-minded informative, multi-cultural, detailed approach to education serves as an inspiration to all. Failure to retain Prof. Pelle as faculty at FCCJ would not only be a tragic loss for the student body, but also serve as a cruel example of the administration’s total lack of concern for the continuation of quality education.”

His popularity was on display during a Labor Day banquet here when the emcee introduced candidates in the Nov. 5 election “including one of our own, Russell Pelle.” The crowd applauded warmly. Many in the crowd later came up to Pelle and his wife, Michlove, to support both his election campaign and his battle to get his job back.