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Labor Artist Mike Connor's Show Ousted
From Cornell Manhattan ILR Campus

May 7, 2005
By Steve Zeltzer
lvpsf@labornet.org

A NEW LABOR art show recently installed at the Cornell University ILR Manhattan campus has been ordered to be taken down as result of pressure by the management professors at the university. The turmoil at the school revolves around labor artist and IBEW/IATSE union electrician Mike Connor and some of his pieces. One titled "Boss Greed" revolves around the murder of US-Salvadoran Teamster Gilberto Soto. Soto was assasinated while visiting El Salvador. He had been a leading organizer for IBT port organizing in San Francisco and the Los Angeles area.

Michael Connor who has exhibited at Laborfest.org and other festivals around the country was told that "They (the university) didn't like the bloody images in the boss greed painting". The painting was dedicated to Gilberto Soto. Management of the school demanded that show be taken down this May 6  but there is a forum planned at the school on Wednesday with Connor speaking and they relented and said it could be taken down on Thursday May 12, 2005. A number of NY unions are planning to take some direct action if the show is forced to close.

The growing attacks on labor and labor rights has now been extended to the censoring of labor artists.

Biography of Jose Gilberto Soto
1954 - 2004

Teamsters Headline News

JOSE GILBERTO SOTO was born on November 6, 1954 in Usulutan, El Salvador. Gilberto was devoted to his family and leaves his children (Blanca, Rosalva, and Edson), his wife (Alva "Maritza"), his mother (Blanca Rivas), his siblings (Henry, Julio, Francisco, Yolanda, Araly and Mayra), and his extended family of port drivers and Teamsters.

In 1975, Gilberto came to the U.S. from El Salvador, where he had been working as a bank teller. In New Jersey, he worked as a trash collector, waiter, cook, factory worker, general maintenance, and landscaper until he settled at CEFCO, an electrical fuse manufacturer, in North Bergen, NJ. It was at CEFCO that Gilberto first joined the Teamsters and served as a union shop steward until 1985. In April of 1985, Gilberto was appointed as a Business Representative for Local 11 and in this capacity he developed his organizing skills and recruited new members into the Local. Gilberto quickly rose through the ranks and became President of Local 11 in 1993, the first Latino president of a Teamsters local union in New Jersey. At the same time, Gilberto was committed to fulfilling his life dream of obtaining a college degree. He attended Hudson County Community College and then transferred to Kean University, where he received his Bachelor's degree in Political Science in May of 1994.

After attaining his degree, Gilberto continued organizing workers with the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees from 1994-2000, and then served as a Business Agent for Teamsters Local 723 until he was hired by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters as Port Division Representative for the New York-New Jersey and New England regions.

Gilberto was an ardent supporter of the FMLN and the New York chapter of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador.

In early 2004, Governor James E. McGreevey appointed Gilberto to the New Jersey Clean Air Council and to the New Jersey Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

In addition to Gilberto's union activities, Gilberto organized and managed El Sirpo soccer team. He also convinced Hudson County to build a soccer field in North Bergen's Hudson Park. Gilberto was a founder of CEUS, an organization that sends financial aid and computers to El Salvador. Gilberto also wrote poetry, played the guitar, and was an elegant salsa dancer.

On October 30, 2004, Gilberto traveled to Central America to meet with port truck drivers and labor officials in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras to better understand working conditions for port drivers there and to create a solidarity network between Teamsters and their Central American counterparts. Gilberto was assassinated Friday evening, November 5, at 6:00 p.m., outside of his mother's house in the city of Usulutan, El Salvador. Witnesses say he was shot in the back by three men, who waited outside his house and fled in a getaway car. He died immediately.


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