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New Massena memorial honoring local labor possible

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MASSENA - A new memorial honoring local union workers could be built in Springs Park by Labor Day, according to Town Councilman Robert J. Cunningham.

Mr. Cunningham, a former United Auto Workers Local 465 shop chairman, proposed a “worker’s memorial” at a recent village Board of Trustees meeting.

The board unanimously authorized Mr. Cunningham to work with Department of Public Works Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad to find a suitable place in Springs Park for it.

Local unions may pitch in to fund the project, Mr. Cunningham told the village board.

“This is no cost to the village. We’re just looking to utilize the piece of ground,” he said. “It’s a beautiful area as it is, and this would be a nice monument for generations of people to see. The constituency of Massena and the surrounding area is going to have a much better grasp of what a worker’s memorial is.”

A small stone memorial already stands at the corner of Main and Andrews streets, dedicated “in memory of our brothers and sisters who dedicated their labor to preserve and promote the advancement of the union cause.”

But there isn’t much surrounding space for the public to view it, Mr. Cunningham said.

A Worker’s Memorial Day ceremony honoring laborers killed or injured on the job on April 28 attracted 11 people to Main and Andrews, Mr. Cunningham said.

The downtown corner could not likely have accommodated more visitors than that, he said.

“It’s a beautiful area; it’s a beautiful monument,” he said. “It’s a good thing we didn’t get a lot of people, because it would have been a traffic hazard.”

“Why don’t we have an area that represents workers where we could gather and make it a new area, a new generation?” he said of the Springs Park location.

The memorial would feature space for each of Massena’s unions to place their own plaques. The unions’ skilled laborers would construct the handicap accessible, concrete memorial, he said.

Mr. Cunningham’s goal was to have the memorial in place by this year’s Solidarity Parade on Labor Day.

“We’ll do it collectively as a union would. We’ll fund it. We’ll build it,” he said. “It’s going to enhance Springs Park.”

Christopher W. Baldwin, business agent for United Steelworkers Local 420-A, praised Mr. Cunningham’s idea. His union is currently trying to compile a comprehensive list of workers killed at the Alcoa Massena West Plant in its over century-long existence.

“Labor built this town,” Mr. Baldwin said. “It’s about time this is recognized somewhere.”

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