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An outstanding performance with music, singing, and speeches was presented prior to the 2008 annual Debs banquet at the Scottish Rite Hippodrome (built in 1915 and the oldest standing vaudeville theater in the United states) in Terre Haute on October 4, 2008. We would like to thank Voces Novae (Bloomington, Indiana) and Artistic Director Susan Swaney for bringing her show to Terre Haute. 

Everyone who attended the performance had nothing but great compliments and were completely impressed by the professional, entertaining, and intriguing story told.  Thank You!

And thank you to the following local unions who assisted in the funding for the show and helped to allow the showing to be free and open to the public with their generous financial support:  IBEW Local 725, Pipefitters UA Local 157, Laborers' Local 204,  Unite-Here Midwest Region, Wabash Valley Building Trades, and the Central Wabash Valley Central Labor Council.  Below you will find video clips, pictures, and reviews. 

Later in the evening, the Debs Banquet was held at Hulman Center.  This year's awards recipient was Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers.  Mr. Roberts received the award from past award recipient AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Richard Trumka.   Michael Sullivan, president of the Sheet Metal Workers International, also spoke at the banquet.  Pictures, video clips, and a review are included below also.


  Click on image to see larger poster.

              Video Clips:                   

RIGHT click on either image above and click "play."

RIGHT click again and uncheck "play" to stop.



Published: October 04, 2008 10:43 pm    

Narrative, music help tell Debs tale

By Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star - Terre Haute

TERRE HAUTE A mix of narrative and music helped tell the life story of union leader and political activist Eugene V. Debs as more than 80 people joined in song Saturday with the Voces Novae Chamber Choir of Bloomington at the Scottish Rite Hippodrome Theater at 727 Ohio St.

The choir sang songs such as “Once to Ev’ry Man and Nation,” “What a Weapon is the Ballot” or “Voting for Labor.”

The afternoon program was a preclude to the annual Eugene V. Debs Award banquet at Hulman Center, on the campus of Indiana State University.

Debs was born in Terre Haute in 1855 and is considered one of America’s strongest advocates for workers’ rights. In 1893, he organized the American Railway Union, the first industrial union to recognize both skilled and unskilled labors. He ran five times for U.S. president on the Socialist party ticket.

“I think it is important that people have a good historical understanding of labor unions and what it means for people. I thought the program was wonderfully done,” said John Lepley, 27, who graduated in May from Indiana State University where he said he was a recipient of the Gertrude and Theodore Debs memorial fellowship to study the history of American labor and reform movements.

Charles King, secretary of the Eugene V. Debs Foundation in Terre Haute, said the program demonstrates “the labor heritage of this area and of Indiana, which runs very deep, a heritage of Indiana such as the sports of basketball and auto racing. Many people don’t realize and think that Debs was just a radical socialist … which was not the case. He helped organize the first chapters of many [union] locals here in Terre Haute,” King said.

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

Video Clips:

RIGHT click on either image above and click "play."

RIGHT click again and uncheck "play" to stop.


Noel Beasley of Unite-Here & Debs Foundation Exec. V-P.

Michael Sullivan - Pres. SMWIA & Debs Foundation president

Richard Trumka - AFL-CIO sec-treas.

Cecil Roberts - UMWA president

Sullivan & Beasley applaud as Trumka announces award to Roberts.


IBEW 6th District V.P. Jeff Lohman attended.

Roberts gives awesome speech.

Roberts continues to fire up the crowd.

Trumka - another great speaker!

Roberts & Trumka sign programs

Singing Solidarity Forever

  As did our B.M. R. Todd Thacker and members

Cecil Roberts, IBEW 725 Representative Tom Szymanski, & Richard Trumka.

Published: October 04, 2008 10:45 pm     

United Mine Workers chief wins Debs award

Union offials urge voters to elect Obama

By Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star - Terre Haute

TERRE HAUTE With nearly 300 union supporters on hand, national union officials urged the support of Democrat presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama “to move forward by hope” and not “backward by fear.”

The past eight years has “been a time of privatizing profits, yet socializing debt,” said Michael Sullivan, president of the Eugene V. Debs Foundation and president of Sheet Metal Workers.

Sullivan and Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO and former president UMWA, spoke to introduce Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, as this year’s recipient of the Eugene V. Debs Award during a Saturday banquet at Hulman Center on the campus of Indiana State University.

Trumka said the U.S. needs the ideals of Debs that supports working people “and we need them now.”

“We are one month away from working people having a chance to replace the most reactionary president of our generation with someone who could be the most progressive president in our lifetime,” he said, referring to Obama.

Trumka said there is no reason not to vote for Obama, other than “someone bringing up the color of his skin. We can put a real dent in racism in this country,” Trumka said, of electing Obama. He said racism has been used in the past to separate workers, as big business pits one group of workers against another.

“Trade unionists like Cecil Roberts have never been more important to the future of the labor movement and to the future of this country than they are right now,” Trumka said.

Roberts grew up in West Virginia and was a sixth generation coal miner. Both of his grandfathers were killed in mines. He graduated from West Virginia Technical College and in 1997, received an honorary doctorate of humanities from West Virginia University of Technology.

After college and military service in Vietnam, he started to work in the mines. In 1977, he was elected vice president of District 17 and re-elected in 1981. He was elected vice president of the UMWA in 1982, running on a slate headed by Richard Trumka and John Banovic as secretary/treasurer.

In 1995, Roberts became WMWA president and in 2004, became the first president in UMWA history to be elected by acclamation for three consecutive terms.

“I think Debs would be amazed that it takes millions and millions of dollars to run for even governor of a state or Congress, much less president of the United States,” he said.

Roberts added to Trumka’s comment about electing a black person as president.

“Why not? Eight years ago we were ready for a stupid man. He [President Bush] happens to be the worse president in the history of the United States of America,” Roberts said.

“You think about this, for eight years, the very rich and very powerful have had a party. We watched 3 million jobs just shipped out of this country to communist China, and to Mexico and all around the world. They had regulations tore down and coal miners got killed in coal mines in record numbers,” he said.

“Two million more people became in poverty, but they partied on. I say let those who had this damn party pay for this party,” in reference to a $700 billion economic bailout plan signed by Bush.

The Debs Award has been awarded annually since 1965.


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