Labour Day Menu & History

“June 19, Sir, is a day which, in the minds of the workers, marks a landmark in the history of the working class movement.” – Adrian Cola Rienzi

June 19 is Labour Day in Trinidad and Tobago, a public holiday

Labour Day marks the labour uprising on 19th June 1937 which is generally recognised as the start of the modern trade union movement in Trinidad and Tobago.


Labour Day in Trinidad and Tobago is held annually on June 19th, the anniversary of the day of protest in 1937. This effectively led to the recognition of the modern trade union movement.

Although some Trinbagonians actively take part in small local celebrations, many simply take the day as an extra day for recreational and leisure activities.

In keeping with the no-frills activist spirit of this day I have put together a simple yet flavourful menu.



• Wholewheat Bake (recipe)
• Grated Carrot and Raisin Salad (recipe)
• Pan Fried Snapper with Tomato Salsa (recipe)
• Sarina’s Spicy Ochro/Okra Melee (recipe)
• Coconut Rock Buns (recipe)


rienzi-8422428ADRIAN COLA RIENZI

From Wikipedia:
Adrian Cola Rienzi (born Krishna Deonarine in 1905, died Desh Bandu (National Patriot) on July 21, 1972) was a Trinidad and Tobago trade unionist, politician and lawyer. He founded both the Oilfields Workers Trade Union and the All Trinidad Sugar Estates and Factory Workers Union, and was involved in the establishment of three other trade unions. He was also the first president of the Trinidad and Tobago Trades Union Council, from its foundation in 1938 until 1944. In addition to working for workers rights, Rienzi also worked hard for the rights of Indo-Trinidadians. He helped secure more employment of Indo-Trinidadians in the public service, the right to cremation, the recognition of Hindu and Muslim marriages and the establishment of schools by non-Christian religious groups. Rienzi also served four terms on the San Fernando Borough Council (three as Mayor of San Fernando) and represented Victoria on the Legislative Council from 1937-1944. He then worked in the public service as a Crown Counsel.

The Rienzi-Kirton Highway in San Fernando is named partly in honour of him and the Rienzi Complex in Couva also bears his name.

• EAST INDIAN – WEST INDIAN: The Public Career of Adrian Cola Rienzi by Dr. Brinsley Samaroo
• Adrian Cola Rienzi (National Library Bio)


Trinidad and Tobago’s national labour hero wanted to see what he termed “a better and a brighter day.” Butler was born in 1895 in Grenada. He was a tremendous fighter for human rights and he wanted to educate the workers about their rights. On 19th June 1937, Butler was involved in a major riot at Fyzabad Junction. His dream was to see an independent Trinidad and Tobago, and that came through in 1962. He is remembered for his struggles and was honoured on Independence Day 1976 with the Trinity Cross. Since 1973 Labour Day has been celebrated on 19th June. Butler died at age 80. He is remembered today as a charismatic leader of genuine working class background. He is honoured with a statue in Fyzabad and awarded Trinidad’s highest honour, the Trinity Cross, in 1970. In 1988 the Princess Margaret Highway was renamed the Uriah “Buzz” Butler Highway.

• Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler on Wikipedia
• Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler portal site (


From National Heroes (site now defunct):
Arthur Andrew Cipriani was born in Port of Spain in 1875, the son of white creole landowners of Corsican descent. When the First World War broke out, Cipriani was one of the first West Indians to enlist in the British army; he was also active in recruiting new soldiers to the cause. Cipriani rose to the rank of Captain and Commander of the British West Indian Regiment. Throughout his military career his concern for the welfare of the soldiers under his command never flagged. He campaigned for them to be paid for their services and defended them against the racism of the War Office. He was idolized by his men; on his return home in 1919, he was elected president of the Soldiers and Sailors Union. He was also prevailed upon to accept the presidency of the Trinidad Workingmen’s Association (TWA), the most important working class organization of the time.

This marked Cipriani’s entry into politics. Realizing that the fate of the workers depended on who comprised the government, he began his lengthy struggle for adult franchise. Between 1919 and 1937, the TWA was the main vehicle for leftwing ideology in the Caribbean; under Cipriani’s leadership it metamorphosed into the Trinidad Labour Party (TLP), with close links to the British Labour Party. Cipriani’s battle for the vote was partly responsible for the British government’s decision in 1921 to investigate the question of representative government in the colony; the head of the Royal Commission of Enquiry, Major E.F.L. Wood, recommended partial franchise.

In Trinidad’s first national election, on February 07, 1925, Cipriani won the Port of Spain seat on the Legislative Council, a position which he retained until 1945. Upholding the interests of the “unwashed and unsoaped barefoot man” against those of big business and government, Cipriani fought tirelessly for workman’s compensation, old age pensions, an eight-hour day, minimum wage laws and compulsory education. He defended legislation to protect trade unions and in 1932 was successful in getting a Trade Union Ordnance enacted by the British government.

Cipriani was also active at the municipal level. He was a member of the Port of Spain City Council continuously from 1926-1941, serving as mayor a record eight times. In the City Council, he fought for state ownership of the electricity and telephone companies, and for the election of women to the City Council. Cipriani did not live quite long enough to see his dream of representative government become a reality; he died in 1945, one year before adult suffrage was instituted.


Listen to “Captain Cipriani”

, recorded by Lord Beginner (Egbert Moore) in 1935

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In the Legislative, this is what he do,
Got shorter working hours for I and you,
Compulsory education, he fought it on,
That children should be proud of the land they born,
If you get damage on work,
They can’t say is through tack,
For he has got the Compensation Act,
Let’s wish him long life, health and prosperity,
Honourable Captain Cipriani

A memorial to Captain Cipriani lies in the heart of the capital’s Independence Square (as shown below) and is dubbed the Cipriani Roundabout. His name is also carried on through the Cipriani Labour College. (There is also a Cipriani Boulevard but I’m not sure if this was named after this Cipriani or another 🙂 )


Image Credit: Cipriani Boulevard shots unknown.

This post was originally published June 19, 2007. It has been updated three times since then