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Walking Tour Shows the History of the Convention’s Host City

Photos by Pete Levine
By AFSCME Staff ·
Walking Tour Shows the History of the Convention’s Host City
Veronica Contigians, Local 3104, AFSCME Florida

AFSCME members with a thirst for labor history participated Sunday in a walking tour through downtown Boston that revealed major historical sites and told the story of how Boston’s labor movement has been intertwined with the city’s African-American, women’s and immigrant communities throughout history.

On a balmy, sunny Sunday, more than 100 participants learned about some of the city’s historic neighborhoods – South End, Chinatown, West End, Beacon Hill, Back Bay and North End – and became immersed in the city’s diverse communities as they visited historic landmarks like the Massachusetts State House, the former Boston Trade Union College, the Garment District and Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

The tour shined a spotlight on the city’s long labor history.

For Veronica Contigians, of Local 3104 (AFSCME Florida), her first visit to Boston was an opportunity to connect not only with this week’s host city but with her sisters and brothers. 

“I’ve never been here and I wanted to see the city while hanging making new friends,” said Contigians. “It’s been super overwhelming since arriving, but this has been a great opportunity to learn more about labor history.”

Carrie Caffrey, Local 3845, Council 2, poses with Nick Caffrey

Participants learned that the Boston Trade Union College was the first labor college in the United States, and that it was founded in 1919 after the “working people of Boston and the public school committee of Boston argued repeatedly in the early 20th century that working people had a right to free, publicly accessible higher education.”

They also learned that the Garment District was the birthplace of the earliest women’s labor unions in this country as the workers at clothing businesses – mostly immigrants from Italy and Russia – and joined together in solidarity.

University of Massachusetts-Boston history graduate students were the guides for this three-mile tour.

“I’m a history buff,” said Carrie Caffrey of Local 3845 (Council 2), whose journey from Washington State to a city so rich in history quenched her desire to always be learning more. The labor history tour taught her “not just about American history but about how important our labor history” is to this country.

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