Dec. 11, 2017

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Kowal honored with Kate Mullany Medal

uupdate 12-11-17

The examples of early labor activists such as Kate Mullany – marked by heroism, struggle and ultimately triumph – stand as a lesson and an inspiration for the modern labor movement.

UUP President Fred Kowal touched on the debt that today’s unionists owe to those pioneers in his remarks Dec. 11 as he accepted the Kate Mullany Medal from the American Labor Studies Center. More than 100 of the Capital Region’s labor, business and political leaders attended the ceremony at the NYSUT building in Latham.

The Latham-based center is affiliated with the family home of Mullany, now a national historic site in Troy, NY. The award recognizes significant contributions for social good by leaders in labor, politics and community organizations.

“We need to think about our movement’s roots, and those who came before us,” said Kowal, above with center Executive Director Paul Cole. “They faced great violence and terror, and because they did, it is nowhere near as bad for us who inherit that legacy. As much as we may have to still fight for the right of unions to survive, we also remember those who came before us, we bear witness to their struggle, and we must continue to make progress."

A heroic legacy

Mullany’s legacy honored four other recipients of the medal at Monday’s ceremony, including U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who was unable to attend but who sent a letter of thanks that commemorated Mullany.

The other recipients were Alisa Cahill Henderson, president of Duncan & Cahill, the Troy-based construction company that restored the Kate Mullany House; Fred Pazmino, president of Titan Roofing Inc., which installed a new roof on the structure; Michael Rossi, business manager for Roofers Local 241; and the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 83. Both unions worked with Titan Roofing on the restoration.

Kate Mullany was a young Irish immigrant who co-founded the Troy Collar Laundry Union, the first women’s union in the United States. She was later the first woman to hold office in a national union, the National Labor Congress. Mullany is remembered for successfully leading a strike for higher wages shortly after the union formed.

The nonprofit American Labor Studies Center was founded Cole, a well-known New York labor leader and secretary-treasurer emeritus of the New York State AFL-CIO. NYSUT Second Vice President Paul Pecorale chairs the center, and former UUP President William Scheuerman is treasurer.

The Kate Mullany House is located at 350 8th St. in Troy. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1998, and a National Historic Site in 2004. The American Labor Studies Center will be located at the Mullany House; the center is funded by contributions and government grants.

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