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Organzed labor prepares for Monday Solidarity Day Parade in Massena

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MASSENA - Monday’s annual Solidarity Day Parade in Massena will feature about 47 units marching from the Center and Willow street through the downtown corridor and to Springs Park for a picnic for organized labor members celebrating union solidarity.

“It’s 34 (parades) in a row. This is number 34,” said Ronald P. McDougall, president of the Central Trades and Labor Council, and co-chair of the Solidarity Day Parade Committee with Randy Woodside, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2032.

The theme of this year’s parade, which steps off at 11 a.m. is “Unions: United We are One - Divided We are Done: Solidarity.”

Mr. McDougall said they expect “quite a number” of elected officials and candidates seeking office to participate in this year’s parade. Among the elected officials expected to march with union members are Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, Sen. Joseph A. Griffo and, for the final time, Rep. William Owens, who did not seek reelection to his Congressional seat this year.

The number of participating units is about the same as years past, according to Mr. McDougall. They expect around 2,000 marchers.

“Some (units) are out; some are in,” he said.

The only question that remains is the weather. Forecasters have predicted a 50 percent chance of scattered thunderstorm on Monday.

That won’t impact the parade though or the issues facing the community. Among them is the fate of Massena Memorial Hospital and its more than 400 employees, many of whom are members of the Civil Service Employees Association and New York State Nurses Association. That was also on their minds as they gathered for the 2013 parade and a study of potential privatization had just started.

Unionized members at the hospital continue to share their concerns over the potential privatization of the facility, fearing that they will lose the benefits many of them have spent years accruing. They have suggested several cost-saving alternatives, but ultimately the Massena Town Council will make the decision on the hospital’s status.

While the hospital’s Board of Managers has recommended that the hospital convert to a non-profit facility rather than its current municipal hospital status, councilmen aren’t ready to pull the trigger on that move. Rather, they agreed this week to hire Newpoint Health Care, a consultant firm from Phoenix, Ariz., on a five-month contract to explore the future of the hospital.

Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray has said that Newpoint Health Care will look at whether Massena Memorial Hospital would be a feasible critical access hospital, whether the hospital is eligible for IGT (intergovernmental transfer) money and what the hospital’s pension liabilities would be should the hospital privatize.

Mr. McDougall said the hospital’s status is a concern for organized labor.

“The real concern now locally is Massena hospital and how that affects the employees. Technically right now they’re public employees. It certain is an issue among others locally,” he said.

There also remains a concern about education, he said, as school districts, facing tight budgets, are often times forced to look at eliminating positions.

Monday will be a day to recognize the issues, but also a time to gather and acknowledge the benefits that workers have been provided thanks to the efforts of organized labor. The day will include a picnic for parade participants and invited guests at Springs Park, where the winner of a $10,000 raffle will be announced. The second prize is $5,000, with $1,000 for third, $500 for fourth, $400 for fifth, $300 for sixth, $200 for seventh and $100 for eighth. Tickets are $10 U.S. or $12 Canadian. Money raised helps fund future Solidarity Day celebrations.

“We’re trying to raise money for underwriting the cost associated with this, which is substantial,” Mr. McDougall said.

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