28 0010 Contract Day Bill ( Sen. Nelson)


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28 0010 Contract Day Bill ( Sen. Nelson)

  1. 1. COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION YOUTH AND CULTURE BILL NO. 28-0010 Twenty-Eighth Legislature of the Virgin Islands March 3, 2009 An Act amending title 1 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 11, section 117 commemorating laborers on Contract Day or Fireburn as a day to be revered and remembered in the Virgin Islands PROPOSED BY: Senator Terrence “Positive” Nelson Co-Sponsor: Craig W. Barshinger 1 WHEREAS, after the emancipation of enslaved Africans within the Virgin 2 Islands, work continued on the plantations; and 3 WHEREAS, competition from European sugar-beet growers and other sugar 4 producing countries had a negative impact on the Virgin Islands' plantation-based 5 economy during the nineteenth century; and 6 WHEREAS, after the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of the slaves, 7 plantation growers employed indentured servants and former slaves. To reduce operating 8 expenses and gain the competitive edge, employers began to exploit their workers; and 9 WHEREAS, poor living conditions, low wages prevailed; and 10 11
  2. 2. 2 1 WHEREAS, October 1st of each year ended a plantation laborer’s contract, and 2 this gave the laborer the ability to contract on a neighboring plantation for the following 3 year; and 4 WHEREAS, on July 3, 1848, and every year after, employers promised increased 5 wages and better living and working conditions; and 6 WHEREAS, every year, the employers failed on all promises; and 7 WHEREAS, in 1878, after all peaceable attempts to demand a better quality of 8 life failed, women on St. Croix, known as Queens, Queen Mary Thomas, Queen Mathilde 9 Macbean, Susanna “Bottom Belly” Abrahamson and Axeline “Queen Agnes” Salomon 10 among others, organized a revolt to demand comparable wages to that of St. Croix 11 Central Factory workers; and 12 WHEREAS, when their demands were not met, they burned down towns and 13 sugar cane plantations. By the end of the “Fireburn”, which lasted one week, eight 14 hundred seventy-nine acres from Estate Prosperity to Peters Rest on St. Croix were 15 burned, including 43 sugar plantations; and 16 WHEREAS, the 1878 labor revolt was a struggle to achieve fair labor standards, 17 equal pay, a higher standard of living and quality of life for laborers on St. Croix; and 18 WHEREAS, it is befitting to commemorate the struggles and sacrifices of early 19 laborers and labor leaders by designating October 1 as Contract Day or Fireburn; Now, 20 Therefore, 21 Be it enacted by the Legislature of the Virgin Islands: 22 SECTION 1. Title 1 Virgin Islands Code, chapter11, section 171, is amended in 23 subsection (a) after “(Labor Day)” by inserting “October 1 (Contract Day or Fireburn)”. 24 25 26
  3. 3. 3 1 BILL SUMMARY 2 The bill amends title 1, section 117 of the Virgin Islands Code to designate 3 October 1 of each year as Contract Day or Fireburn in commemoration of the sacrifices 4 and struggles made in the field of labor relations. 5 6 7 8 BR09-0125/February 4, 2009/ 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26