SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A local union is honoring its history of advocacy in the community on a day when they typically are off work.
Local 2426 was organized back in the 1940s and serves a majority of Black employees for the Planters Peanut factory, according to member Keasha Davis.
Union members, both active and retired, gathered in the parking lot Monday behind their union hall on Washington Street.
“The building was able to get us where we are,” said Melvin Ross, who is a trustee for the union. “We had a lot of praying people to keep us abreast back in those years and tough times.”
Ross has been with the union for 42 years and says he helped everyone in the union from 1978 to 2010 retire.
The building is meaningful to them because it’s full of history and was built in 1908.
Unfortunately, they weren’t able to celebrate the day inside because of the weekend’s rain.
“There was some water damage in it. We weren’t able to get in. We were locked out because of that and this is where we are now,” he said standing in the parking lot. “We wanted to carry this legacy on and this is why we’re here at this part.”
Belinda Evans, who is the financial secretary for Local 2426 and has worked for the union since the 1970s, says they were also gathered today to teach the younger generation about their history.
“We’re proud of our union. We want to keep our union. The people are coming together to keep the entire rights of this union,” she said.
Evans says this gathering might be a first for the organization but they’ve honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. each year, who Evans says was a strong advocate of unions.
“He’s been here many times. This is what this picture is. It’s for the celebration we had with Dr. King up here. They were giving him a reception,” she said.
Evans says Carver Day was a day off the union helped negotiate so they wanted to use this time to not only teach, but plan to work toward the future. It’s not the official nationwide day for George Washington Carver, but it’s one designated locally by the union to celebrate its history.
That’s by planting seeds to help grow another generation with a strong legacy of advocacy and Ross wants the younger employees to know it takes focus.
“We stay at the table till we get what the members want and need and it takes hard work and dedication,” he said.