Leadership of Save WNYCPC puts PEF in Labor Day spotlight
By SHERRY HALBROOK
Being named the “Grand Marshal” of a parade is quite an honor and very rare. That’s why all of PEF is celebrating this first for the union that was earned by the tireless work and skills of both a member and a retired activist who led the community of Buffalo to an unlikely victory this year.
The Western NY Area Labor Federation would not take no for an answer when it picked PEF member Stephanie McLean-Beathley and retiree Dave Chudy to be grand marshals of the city’s annual Labor Day Parade this year.
“We tried to tell them other people deserved this honor more than we did, but they were determined it should be Dave and I,” McLean-Beathley said.
They were chosen because of the key roles they played in organizing the entire community in a campaign calling for the state Office of Mental Health to cancel its plans to close Western NY Children’s Psychiatric Center. OMH resisted those calls for nearly 5 years, but finally this spring Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the WNYCPC will remain open and continue to treat the area’s children.
It was a huge victory for many employees, families of patients, community activists and civic and political leaders who had lent their support, hope and skills to this collaborative effort. The PEF activists, working with the leaders and members of the other state employee unions, were at the core of the campaign, even though OMH had said it did not intend to lay off any PEF members when the facility closed.
The motivation was to preserve the best possible services for the region’s children, and that is what the parade’s organizers wanted to honor, along with the obvious leadership PEF and the other unions provided to the community in achieving this goal.
The holiday and the parade turned out to be a great experience, McLean-Beathley said.
“It was just a really wonderful experience because of all the people we met,” she said. “It must have been 90 degrees in Buffalo and it was a really beautiful day. For several years, PEF Region 1 has rented a firetruck for our members to ride in the parades and this year it was up front.”
Even before the parade started, McLean-Beathley said she and Chudy joined the WNYALF leaders at a press conference to call attention to the contract and safety struggles being experienced by a group of metal workers in the area. The workers, she said, are employing tactics of community mobilization, letter writing and social media that the Save WNYCPC used so effectively.
“After the parade, we enjoyed a picnic catered by a local union caterer,” she said. “It was just a wonderful day of honoring labor and union members.”