" If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." Matthew 17:20
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The Bahamas Federation of Labour
"During my studies for the Bar, I found it helpful to form a mental picture of the type of man I wanted to be. Always five years hence in my imagination, I pictured a man that is my future self asking me, my present self, 'What kind of life will you hand up to me? Will it be one whose past has been wasted in pursuing trifles, or one dedicated to the attainment of some lofty purpose' "
Sir Randol Fawkes "The Faith That Moved The Mountain"
Sir Randol is often referred to as "The Father of Labour" for the work that he did in establishing the trade union movement in The Bahamas. Sir Randol Fawkes, elder statesman, attorney-at-law, free trade unionist, civil rights activist, sportsman, author and musician, changed the course of Bahamian history.
Fawkes was born in Nassau on March 20th, 1924 and was the second son of Edward R. Fawkes and Mildred Fawkes. He was educated in the public schools in The Bahamas and in the U.S.A.
Three months after his graduation from high school in December 1942, Sir Randol’s father indentured him to Mr. T. Augustus Toote, a Barrister-at-Law. Afterwards, he was called to the Bahamas Bar in April 1948.
On June 3rd, 1951, Sir Randol married Jacqueline Rosalie nee Bethel of West End, Grand Bahama. This marriage produced three sons: Francis, Douglas, David and one daughter, Rosalie.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Sir Randol was in the vanguard of almost every progressive movement: - the Citizens’ Committee (1949), The Bahamas Federation of Labour (1955).
After his first election to the House of Assembly in 1956, Sir Randol consistently served on the Select Committees for Labour Relations and Constitutional Reforms. Association of The Bahamaswith the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Court of Appeal also bear his mark.
In January, 1958, as President of B.F. of L., he led the General Strike, which resulted in major constitutional and labor reforms.
In was in 1957 that the Taxi-Cab Union under the leadership of Sir Clifford Darling blocked all traffic to and from Nassau International Airport in an attempt to halt the Government of the day from granting to the white tour companies “the exclusive franchise to operate transportation services between the new Nassau International Airport and the city.”
In 1958, Sir Clifford determined that the efforts of the Taxi Cab Union to satisfactorily resolve the matter were not meeting with success and he contacted Sir Randol who at the time was the President of The Bahamas Federation of Labour which was the umbrella union for the several craft and trade unions that were in existence.
Sir Randol responded with the urgency that the situation required and at a meeting of The Bahamas Federation of Labour presented a motion that stated that the B.F.of L. “should call a General Strike to aid the Taxi Union and to dramatize the plight of all Bahamians for greater dignity and self-respect on the jobsite through decent wages and better working conditions.” The motion was unanimously carried.
The situation relating to the Taxi Cab Union in 1958 can best be explained by Sir Randol who as early as 1955 started to use his scholarship, oratorical and writing skills to educate the workers. In 1955, in an article written in the Nassau Herald titled "An Appeal to Reason", he stated, “A local union may be able to cope with a small business firm, but what can it do with a large monopoly? The answer lies in the tying together of all unions into one big Bahamas Federation of Labour. In this way a local union, like the boatmen, the taxicab driver, the electrician, will have the added strength that comes from unity. The Federation will match size for size. A big industrial corporation like the Grand Bahamas Port Authority will meet the Federation, not a tiny union, at the bargaining table.”
In March, 1958 while on a lecture tour of New York City, he was cited by the Caribbean League of America and the Abyssinia Baptist Church “in recognition of his outstanding civic contribution to Bahamian life and times.” Later in the same year, the National League of Beauty Culturists similarly honored him in Nassau.
Although Labor Day was marked and celebrated in 1956, the first official Labor Day was in 1962. Legislation was necessary to make Labor Day a public holiday and this meant piloting a bill through the House of Assembly.
In 1961, he successful piloted through the House of Assembly, the Bill which established Labour Day as a public holiday. Why did Sir Randol think that it was necessary to have an official Labor Day Holiday? He thought that a day should be set aside and designated as “Labor Day as a fitting memorial to the contributions made by the working people to the progress of the Colony.”
When Sir Randol spoke to laboring masses on the first official Labor Day in 1962, he reflected on the first of June morning in 1942 when men and women went on a rampage on Bay Street and demanded better working conditions on the jobsite. Labor Day also was to be a day to commemorate the Burma Road Riot of 1942. “Thanks to them,” said Sir Randol, “we now have learned how to substitute the Conference Table for the Riot Act!”
He was re-elected to the House of Assembly in 1962 and in 1963, Sir Randol represented the Labour Party at the Constitutional Conference in London, England.
He was the first representative to raise the question of independence for The Bahamas on the floor of the House of Assembly. In September, 1966, he pleaded the case before the United Nations urging its assistance for the Bahamian people in their stride towards self-determination.
In 1967, his was the decisive vote that broke the 18-18 deadlock between the two major parties: the United Bahamian Party and the Progressive Liberal Party. As a consequence, Majority Rule was then ushered into the country with formation of a PLP-Labour Coalition government. From January, 1967 to April, 1968, Sir Randol served as Minister of Labour and Commerce in the first PLP-Labour Government.
In 1972, he returned to the private practice of Law. In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the trade union movement and to the country, knighthood was conferred on Sir Randol by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth in 1978.
Sir Randol documented his memoirs in a book titled: The Faith That Moved The Mountain.
Click on picture above to view "A Chronology of the Life Achievements of a National Hero".
Click on photograph above for an interivew with the Father of Labour