ALTONA — The common thread among speakers at the 15th-annual Salute to Labor event was young people.
“We’ve got to look at different ways (to approach the future),” said Jack Duffy, one of two people recognized at the dinner for outstanding contributions to unions. “We need the trades. We need young people to continue to the cause ... to maintain the middle class.”
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In 1980, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force and went to work for the U.S. Postal Service in Worcester, Mass. He retired in 1987 and moved to Plattsburgh to work at the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base.
There, he joined the American Federation of Government Employees and was elected local vice president in 1989 and president in 1991 and 1993.
“We need to continue to fight the good fight ... and stand up for what we believe in,” he told those gathered at the Rainbow Wedding and Banquet Hall for the annual event, sponsored by the Clinton County Democratic Party. “We need to be vigilant.”
The other awardee, Thomas Donahue, offered advice to young people entering the workforce.
“Get involved. Don’t be afraid,” he said after the ceremony. “We need new leaders.”
Proof of that, he said, was the undeniable truth that many of the ceremony’s attendees were getting older.
Donahue began working for the State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in 1984 as a vocational drafting instructor at Altona Correctional Facility.
About two years later, he was elected to the Public Employees Federation Statewide Labor Management Committee as a representative for Department of Corrections employees in the North Country.
He was later elected to the Public Employees Federation Executive Board as a Department of Corrections representative for Clinton, Essex, Franklin and St. Lawrence counties.
Donahue is the statewide chairperson for the DOC Labor Management Committee.