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Politicians meet and greet at Massena parade

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MASSENA - At first glance, they blended in with the union workers they were supporting, wearing local labor shirts as they marched in the Solidarity Day Parade.

But these participants were different than most in Monday’s parade; they are seeking elected office this fall.

Politicians are a part of every Solidarity Day Parade in Massena, and this year was no different. Sens. Joseph A. Griffo (R-Rome) and Patricia A. Ritchie (R-Heuvelton) were both there. Amy M. Tresidder, an Oswego County legislator challenging Ms. Ritchie, also marched.

Rep. William L. Owens waved to parade-goers downtown, while his Green Party challenger, Donald Hassig, greeted labor supporters in Springs Park and danced to classic rock music blaring on the loudspeakers. Mr. Owens Republican challenger, Matthew Doheny, was absent from Monday’s parade.

The Solidarity Day Parade presents an opportunity for elected officials to meet and greet in one of the north country’s largest communities several weeks before Election Day. Some unionized workers held up campaign signs for various politicians as they marched down Main Street.

While everyone who marched in Monday’s parade said they supported organized labor, officials differed on how to best help working men and women moving forward. Ms. Tresidder and Ms. Russell advocated for an increase for the state’s minimum wage, while Mr. Griffo said he wasn’t sure that was the best option for creating jobs and reducing unemployment.

Mr. Griffo said he would need more hard data to convince him that raising the minimum wage would be a wise decision.

“You don’t want it to negatively impact any possibility of reinvigorating the economy,” he said. ““I’m not convinced at this point in time.”

But Ms. Tresidder and Ms. Russell said the wage increase was necessary to help ensure a better standard of living for the region’s residents.

“Unions are in support of this minimum wage increase,” Ms. Tresidder said. “They know what it takes to work hard for a living,”

“My support for the minimum wage increase is unwavering,” Ms. Russell said. “The cost of everything has risen in the last couple of years.”

Ms. Russell and Mr. Griffo said they have marched in the parade each year they have held office, whether they were up for re-election or not. Both are running unchallenged this year.

“I work for the working men and women of the north country,” Ms. Russell said.

Mr. Griffo said the Labor Day event presents an opportunity to reach the other side of his district, which stretches downward to the Utica area.

“Labor Day is a special event up here,” Mr. Griffo said. “This is a celebration of the American workforce.”

Ms. Tresidder and Mr. Hassig also praised the role organized labor played in the country’s history.

“This is the rock of our middle class,” Ms. Tresidder said. “If unions start to deteriorate, the rest of our middle class is next.”

“Unions are the best thing that ever happened in America. They are the people who deal with corporations up close and personal,” Mr. Hassig said. “They are so cool.”

Village and town officials also turned out for Monday’s event. Supervisor Joseph D. Gray watched from the steps of Massena Town Hall, while Mayor James F. Hidy marched with the retired United Auto Workers. Councilman Charles A. Raiti, a retired educator, marched with the New York State United Teachers, while Village Trustee Albert C. “Herb” Deshaies sat on an elevated platform on Main Street.

Mr. Deshaies confirmed Monday he would seek another term as trustee in November. He praised the role organized labor played in Massena’s history.

“I was a man of labor. My family came from labor. This is why all these people have got benefits today, is because of the unions,” Mr. Deshaies said. “This is a union town. Massena has always been a union town.”

Ms. Ritchie could not be reached for comment following Monday’s parade.

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