North Country unions took advantage of Massena's annual Labor Day parade, using it to publicize some of the issues they have been facing. YNN's Barry Wygel spoke with union leaders to see what action they hope the public takes after hearing their message.
MASSENA, N.Y. -- For the kids, the parade is all about candy. But parade participants hope the adults pick up on a deeper message.
"We are also here to highlight the proposed changes for the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center," said Virginia Davey, division leader of PEF local #249.
"Save S.L.P.C." signs were seen throughout the parade, but that was just one of the issues being raised. Supporters of the so-called Rooftop Highway sponsored a float and members of the nursing union were on hand, strongly opposing the potential privatization of Massena Memorial Hospital.
"We are just worried about the effect on patient care and services that we may lose if we privatize," said Valarie Skomsky, a nurse at Massena Memorial Hospital.
Parade participants say this venue allows them to get their message out to a large number of people and hopefully spur them into action.
"If there are local people who have received services from the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center we would like them to get out and tell their story to the governor," said Davey.
"I think we have to let the governor know strongly that we can't be bullied into making a decision that you're going to close this facility," said Massena Mayor James Hidy.
The state's plan calls for halting inpatient services at the center and while promising no jobs lost, opponents of the plan say it could have devastating effects.
"We certainly aren't about bricks and motor, but we are about services and continuing good services," said Ed Snow, division leaver of PEF local #242.
Union members say they hope parade goers will go home and remember their efforts and get involved in the cause.
Community leaders have created an online petition to protests the governor's plans to reduce services at the psych center, which employs about 500 people and is the only state psych center north of the Thruway.