MASSENA — Massena’s traditional Labor Day Solidarity Parade and Field Day festivities have become another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, the first time the celebration has been canceled since its inception in 1981.
Citing COVID-19 concerns, Massena Solidarity Day Committee Co-chairs Ronald McDougall and Randy Woodside gave the news this week to delegates of the Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties Central Trades and Labor Council.
“As you are all aware, COVID-19 has taken a toll on the north country. We are fortunate for our progress as we continue to reopen our region. The COVID-19 threat is still very real, and despite that progress, we remain cognizant of the need to continue social distancing as a means of keeping our families, our members and our neighbors safe in the months ahead,” Mr. McDougall and Mr. Woodside said in a statement to their membership.
“It is with that understanding that we have made the laborious decision to cancel this year’s Solidarity Parade and Field Day that would have taken place on Labor Day in Massena. This was not a decision that was made lightly. The Solidarity Parade and Field Day has been held every year since 1981. In 40 years, this is the first time that our tribute to our local union labor force has been canceled,” they said.
Mr. McDougall and Mr. Woodside said they hope that the COVID-19 threat “will be tamed over the next several months” and they can bring the event back in 2021.
“Worker safety is one of the hallmarks of the labor movement and we believe that our decision will help achieve that goal,” they said.
Forty-eight units were scheduled to participate in the 2019 parade, which in normal fashion stepped off in the Center and Willow street area and marched down to Springs Park, where union members, their families and guests enjoyed a picnic.
Among the unions represented were the United Steelworkers, who had just announced days earlier that they had reached a tentative agreement with Alcoa on a new contract, after already ratifying a contract with Arconic.
It was also a time when a vote was upcoming to sell what was then Massena Memorial Hospital to St. Lawrence Health System. That transaction officially took place at midnight Dec. 31 after voters approved the sale on Nov. 5.
The Civil Service Employees Association at Massena Memorial Hospital had shared a message while marching in the parade — “Save Our Hospital! Vote Yes on November 5th Massena Memorial Hospital Referendum.”
The parade typically includes special guests who march with selected units. In 2019, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2032, representing the New York Power Authority, were joined by a number of officials including state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon and Assembly members Billy Jones and Mark Walczyk.
Other guests joined United Steelworkers Local 420-A and United Auto Workers Local 465 Retirees.